Tag Archives: pizza al taglio

Bonci, Baladin and cats

Look for this sign - Pizzarium

The past few weeks we’ve been increasingly scombussolati (“de-compassed”, discombobulated, unsettled). Moving house is always a bit of a whirlwind, and we’re on our third move in less than three years. Moving internationally is even more complicated – especially when we can’t actually move back into our own house in England just yet.

While our clobber went off in 11 hefty boxes last week, yesterday was even worse – we said goodbye to our beloved cats. Now, if you’re not an animal person, look away, as you probably won’t understand.

If you are an animal person, and you’re childless like us, you may well understand how important pets are. They’re not exactly surrogate kids, as it’s not like they’ll ever become stroppy teenagers, threaten to leave, then actually do leave, then come back again with dirty laundry. But you do invest a lot of time, money and affection in them.

We didn’t have an easy transition to living in Rome in August 2011, and it was only when our cats arrived in May 2012 that the apartment we were inhabiting here actually took on some of the qualities of a home.

Cats

They went off yesterday, chauffeured by a nice lady called Den and accompanied by three other cats, also making their way from Italy, specifically Naples, to south London, with their owners. It was all very emotional, so we had to get out of the flat, which felt oddly dead without them. To paraphrase something Jean Cocteau reportedly said, cats become the soul of the home, and that soul had just left in a cage in the back of a people carrier.

It seemed like the ideal opportunity to go and indulge ourselves in some of the greatest grain-related goodies available in Rome: specifically Gabriele Bonci’s hole-in-the-wall pizza takeaway Pizzarium, and Rome’s best beer bar, Open Baladin. I’ve been meaning to write more about the latter for ages, as Baladin really is the most important brewery in Italy’s craft beer scene, but I seem to have accidentally deleted most of my photos (ecco: scombussolato) so that’ll have to wait.

Counter at Pizzarium, Rome

Instead: Pizzarium. We heard about this place pretty soon after we arrived in Rome. It’s an institution and Bonci himself is a celebrated pizzaiolo and TV celebrity. When we went there first, I wasn’t entirely convinced, as I was hung up on the thin, crispy, slightly burned Roman pizzas of places like Ai Marmi in Trastevere and Da Remo in Testaccio. I still love those pizzas, but I’m totally a Bonci convert now.

Bonci’s principles were of course more in line with mine – he uses stoneground flours made from older wheat varieties, natural leavens and long fermentation, and tops the pizza with local and seasonal ingredients, along Slow Food lines. But I wasn’t entirely sold on the thick bases and felt the toppings tended towards overload. The latter can still arguably be the case, but they’re delicious nonetheless. I’m tired of the over-quoted Vogue soundbite about him that draws parallels with a certain Renaissance man and is included on his upcoming English book* but he’s certainly a master craftsman of the pizza and great ambassador for real food.

Pizzarium pizza bianca

I have mentioned Bonci before, as we did a pizza-making class with him last year. And he’s a big part of the scene I really enjoy here in Rome. Along with Baladin brewery’s Theo Musso and Leonardo di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo, he’s a co-founder of Open Baladin bar. The same trio is also behind the more recently opened bistro No.Au (another place we need to go before we leave). Bonci baked goods are available at both venues.

Pizzarium pizza

After a half hour walk in the hot October sun, along the Aurelian wall, then around the south and north Vatican walls, we reached Pizzarium, which is in the Trionfale quartiere. We were sold the moment we walked into Pizzarium and asked about one particular pizza. Or at least Fran was sold, as the pizza was cavolini di Bruxelles (Brussels sprouts, the first of the season) e mortadella, two of her favourite things. And seriously, who’d have ever thought of combining these on a pizza? That’s Bonci right there – he’s innovative and got a surprising sense of what will work.

We also had a pizza farcita  (filled pizza), a kind of sandwich with two layers of dough and a layer of primo sale (“first salt”, a young sheep’s milk cheese), rocket and tomato pesto between. It was delicious, with a lovely balance between the slight pepperiness of the rocket, the sharpness of the pesto and the smoothness of the cheese, itself an interesting alternative to mozzarella.

The other we had was the classic potato pizza. People may think, Hey – carb and carb? Really? But it’s delicious and quite possibly my favourite type of pizza, especially when there’s a bit of rosemary in play too. It was surprisingly light, with a good crunch where the dough and potato have caught slightly in the oven, with a pleasing, simple saltiness.

'Nduja suppli at Pizzarium

We also had some suppli – a classic and one made with primo sale and ʼnduja, soft spicy sausage from Calabria. Both delicious, but I’d still say the best suppli I’ve had yet in Rome was at La Gatta Mangiona. Though Bonci’s pizza pips theirs.

We ate all this sitting outside on the one bench, luckily having avoided the lunchtime rush, when we had been busy coercing the poor cats into the back of the people carrier and feeling mighty guilty and sad about it.

Most of the rest of the Pizzarium punters were foreigners, proving how Bonci’s reputation has made this small pizza al taglio hole in the wall a key stop of the tourist schedule for discerning food enthusiasts visiting Rome. I just wish we’d been a few more times, but it’s in a slightly awkward location up behind the Vatican. Well, awkward for us, as it’s not on a handy bus route, we’re not on Metro line A, and we don’t contribute to Rome’s excessive population of polluting cars and scooters.

Flour for sale at Pizzarium, Rome

Afterwards, not wanting to go back to a house that was like Tony Makarios without his daemon, we continued our long head-straightening walk. We headed back into town, and down to Open Baladin, near Campo deʼ Fiori. And drank much-needed restorative ales.

The sharp, firm hoppiness of my Hopbleoem, a special from Extraomnes brewery in Lombardy, with its notes of salty sweat, citrus and tomato plants, provided a good slap in the face though it was still sad going home, via another fight with our mobile phone provider (what does it take to cancel this account? Blood!? Si, certo), to an empty flat.

Open Baladin, Rome

Info
Pizzarium, Via della Meloria 43, 00136 Rome.
Metro Line A; station: Cipro
bonci.it

 

 

* ‘Pizza – Seasonal Recipes from Rome’s Legendary Pizzarium’, due out this month. It’s a slightly more modest title than that of his Italian book: ‘Il gioco della pizza – Le magnifiche ricette del re della pizza’, ‘The Game of Pizza – The Magnificent Recipes of the King of Pizza’. I’m guessing the former is an English translation of the latter, but I’ve not seen it yet, so can’t be sure.

Oh, and PS, when we did our course, we met a half-English, half-Italian guy called David who talked about opening a place called Pizzarium Sutton, in Sutton, south London. I’m not sure this ever happened. If I find out, I’ll of course post about it.

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Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori, Monteverde, Rome

Fine selection of pizzas at Eligio Fattori, Monteverde, Rome

Although it’s Gabriele Bonci that gets much of the acclaim in the Roman (and wider Italian) pizza scene for his Pizzarium outlet, in every neighbourhood in the city there are a gazillion other pizza al taglio (“pizza by the slice”) places quietly going about their business. Many of these are mediocre – though even then, they’re better than the majority of pizza to be found internationally. And some of them are even pretty good. Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori is one of them.

It’s found in the hinterlands between Monteverde Vecchio and Monteverde Nuovo, not that far from the Gianicolo (Janiculum) and the splendid open space that Villa Doria Pamphili park. For a long time, we’ve been giving our patronage to a pizza a taglio place closer to home (Da Simone on Via G Carini), but when a friend and fellow baker mentioned Eligio Fattori, and its famed long fermentation dough, we had to check it out. And we’re very glad we did too.

Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili, Rome

Sometimes, I meet Fran after work, and walk up from Trastevere railway station, up Viale dei Quattro Venti, paying a visit to the beer shop that’s recently opened up there (number 265; it’s a branch of Gradi Plato), before turning off the main drag and up onto Viale di Villa Pamphili.

Pizza a taglio on Viale di Villa Pamphil Rome, Irish pub beyond

Located just past an unexpected “Irish pub” called Finn MacCumhal, Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori looks very ordinary. It doesn’t even have a name, just a little symbol with two illegible letters in the style of the General Electric logo (are they “E” & “F”? Dunno) and “Pizza a taglio” in large green letters. In the summer and fair weather, there are some plastic benches outside. When we were arrived an old couple and some mums and kids were there, finishing feasting on boards of pizza slices.

If you want pizza, ring the bell

Inside, it’s pretty small (Siamo un piccolo negozio con un grande prodotto – “We’re a small shop with a grand product”), but has some character. There’s a bell on the wall with a sign saying “If you want pizza, ring the bell” and there’s a framed quote by John Ruskin (in Italian). This is a nice touch for us, as we lived just off Herne Hill in south London for several years – and Ruskin used to live just up the road (before our time of course….). Here’s an English translation of the quote. Whether this Common law of business balance was even authored by Ruskin is debated, but clearly they’re saying if you feel you’re paying a little more for the Eligio Fattori pizza, it’s because you’re paying for better quality, though prize-wise it seems pretty on a par to other a taglio places.

Ruskin

I’ve got their business card here and it says they have “200 types of pizza” – though not all at the same time. They change seasonally. It also lists their accomplishments, including Pizza campione nel mondo – pizza world champion – 1991 and 2011. I’m not sure it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had, but for a neighbourhood a taglio place it’s great. This is in part because, where many places apparently use factory made frozen dough (Marco Farchioni, of Farchioni olive oil, recently told me), Eligio Fattori make their own – and even boast on their card that they make: L’unico impasto al mondo realizzato metà acqua metà farina, 1 gr di lievito ogni chilo di farina. Senza aggiunto di grassi animali con olio extravergine e soia. 72 ore di lievitazione naturale. That is, “The only dough in the world made with half water, half flour, 1g of yeast for every kilo of flour. Without added animal fats, with extravirgin olive oil and soya oil. 72 hours of natural  leavening.” This isn’t exactly a recipe, and 72 hours seems a little long – surely the yeast would exhaust itself? – but the results are very good.

Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili, Rome

On our visit a few days ago, we had suppli (which were tasty, but not a patch on home-made), and a couple of different pizzas from their extensive choice, which includes many  stuffed styles. I had a one with cherry tomatoes and some chili – and it was delicious. Basic, without too many toppings, is often best as there’s no conflict among the flavours. Fran had speck with a gorgonzola sauce. I didn’t try it, but she said it was “creamy, lovely, with wood-smoky speck, and the sauce over the top, so the dough didn’t get soggy.”

Our platter

I kinda wish we’d got more. I’m making myself hungry just writing about it.

Info:
Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili 46A, Monteverde, Rome
Tel 06 581 2208

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