Pizza in Rome can best be divided into two categories: pizza by the slice and round, whole pizza. I do a lot of taste testing of both kinds and have compiled (or rather, am constantly compiling), my lists of best pizza by the slice, and of best pizza for dinner in Rome.
Don't miss the section about the fried appetizers to eat before your pizza! It's almost the most important part! OK, well not most important but it's definitely up there. At least for me.
Romans do love their pizza and are very proud of the way it’s made here (different than in other parts of Italy. In Naples, the pizza is breadier, softer and has a slightly thicker crust, with edges that puff up. Click here to find out more about pizza Napoletana, and where to get it in Rome.
In Rome, pizza by the slice, or pizza a taglio (which literally means, “cut pizza”) is usually something to have for a quick lunch. But some Pizza a Taglio in Rome are open late.
Pizza by the slice places are almost always stand-up only, or take-out. The pizza is either made in a large rectangular pan, in an electric oven, or, like long flat “tongues”, hand-formed, in a wood-burning oven.
The ingredients are usually simple, as the pizzas themselves are so thin-crust. Often you will find pizza without cheese, or without tomato. And many pizza by the slice places in Rome are now offering some sort of dessert in the form of pizza stuffed with Nutella and ricotta. It’s really almost impossible to resist this!
In either case, you will see what is available behind a glass counter. The pizza is then cut with a scissors or a knife, and weighed. If you want, you can get it reheated (many Romans like their pizza at room temperature, I love mine piping hot, especially if it is newly made!)
Not all pizza in Rome is created equal. Some places are wonderful and some just average (I am not sure I’ve ever had bad pizza but why waste calories on mediocre?) And while I don’t have a list of every single fabulous pizza in Rome by the slice (there are hundreds if not thousands), here is my short list:
Top favourite pizza in Rome by the slice is Quelli di via Nizza. This place is open day and night and is always packed, for a good reason. The pizza is fantastic. I love their pizza with sun-dried tomatoes (no cheese, just very juicy tomatoes and parsley); their pizza with mushrooms and creamy cheese (no tomato sauce, creamy but not too heavy); their caprese pizza (fresh mozzarella strips, fresh diced tomatoes, parsley and a light slather of mayo - yes I know!! Mayo! But it’s awesome!). Even their plain cheese and tomato (Margherita) pizza is one of the best of its kind. Via Nizza, 16. Open daily.
Not far away from Piazza Fiume, and from Quelli di via Nizza (above), on Corso d’Italia, is Pizzeria Italia, another very local favorite. Especially delicious and impossible to resist is their pizza stuffed with Nutella and ricotta. Corso d’Italia 103, open lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.
Another of my favorites for pizza in Rome by the slice is Cerulli. It’s hard to pick between this one and Quelli di via Nizza. The reason it’s hard to pick is because they are very different pizza a taglio places in every way. Cerulli is only open during the day, closing around 2:30-3pm, or when they run out of pizza and customers. They form the pizza into long “tongues”, and then it goes into a wood-burning oven. It comes out with those long wooden palettes we have come to think of as classic pizza palettes. The flavors here are very classic Roman (you won’t find tuna, mayo, salmon etc on these pizzas.) The ladies behind the counter have been there for ages, and know their customers well (how do they always know I want more than I asked for?) At lunchtime, the pace is very brisk, quick-lunch Roman style (this is a paradox, usually things happen in Rome veeeery sloooowly.)
You step to the counter, and start telling the server what you want, and she starts cutting. You try to say, wait, not that much! But she says, it’s ok, you’ll eat it. Next flavor? And so you happily get a bunch of flavors on a tray, and then take it to some spot you find during the packed lunch hour, so you can enjoy your well-earned lunch.
It is also hard for me to pick a favorite flavor here, as they are all amazing: funghi porcini, zucchini flower and anchovies, white mozzarella and anchovies, even just the margherita is divine. Via S.Nicola Da Tolentino, 53. Open from 8am until the food is gone, about 3pm. Closed Sundays.
This out of the way pizza stop is worth a visit for its scrumptious crust and unusual and savoury toppings. Sautéed onions, herbs and ricotta? Roman broccoli with pecorino? Bring it on! This may be some of the best pizza in Rome (by the slice.)
For me, it's worth the visit just to sample the also unusual supplì (fried rice balls.) Normally, supplì are made with a tomato-y rice that is stuffed with mozzarella and breaded and fried.
At Pizzarium, they have taken the rice ball to a higher art form: On recent visits I've tried the supplì with gorgonzola (a kind of sharp Italian blue cheese) and radicchio (swoon!), and zucchini flowers with pecorino (less savoury than you might think but still divine.) A friend also had their lasagne bolognese supplì which was literally lasagne (no rice involved) that had been breaded and fried. I believe his exact words were "omg."
How to get there: Via della Meloria, 43. I've actually decided they are not so out of the way after all. Take the metro line A to Cipro, and it's half a block from there. You can either walk to the Vatican from there (so a (sort of) perfect pre-Vatican lunch stop, or, get back on the metro. Easy.
You can’t go wrong with Alice. This is a sort of mini-chain (at this writing, there are about 20 Alice pizza in Rome.) Their pizza is cooked in rectangular pans, in an electric oven and is very high quality, with excellent flavors. My go-to pizzas at Alice are the zucchini flowers with anchovies (can you tell I like anchovies?), the eggplant parmesan, the potato, and the zucchini (delicate but flavorful.)
The other kind of pizza in Rome is round, very thin-crust, cooked in a wood-burning oven. The bottom usually has little burnt, charcoaly bits but otherwise should be nice and crisp and never soggy. These pizzas are topped with cheese or not, and with tomato or not. The other toppings vary but again, owing to the thin crust, the tradition is to have very few toppings. So the pizza has to be fabulous because it cannot hide behind/under the toppings!
Typically, Romans have round pizza like this for dinner, almost never lunch (for lunch, there is pizza by the slice.) They will go out to either a pizzeria (where only pizza and related items are served…not pasta or other dishes), or to a restaurant that also serves pizza. The tradition is to get a few fried appetizers and some beer, and then each person orders the pizza they want. Each pizza is meant to be a meal for one person. The pizza comes out whole, and you eat it with a knife and fork.
Note I said that the tradition is to have beer with pizza in Rome. I learned this from my Italian friends. I always used to order wine, as I thought, we are in Italy, there is wine. But oddly, it does not actually go that well with pizza. In fact, most Rome pizzerias don’t have a very good wine selection and instead focus on having a good beer selection. I have never been a big beer drinker, but when it comes to pizza, it works!
What makes a pizzeria great? Of course there must be excellent pizza, with fresh, flavorful toppings. The crust must be perfectly crisp, and easy to digest. But it’s also important to have fabulous fritti (fried appetizers), which are a standard for any pizza dinner. Fritti that are overdone, not flavorful, dry, or rubbery, is something that can turn me (and most Romans) away from a pizzeria. Classic appetizers to have before you get your pizza in Rome:
Supplì are a Roman specialty: a ball (actually oval) of rice and tomato sauce, with a soft mozzarella middle, that's breaded and fried. Arancini originally come from Sicily, and when you get them in Rome, they are round, and don't have the tomato sauce. In Rome, you will more commonly find supplì than arancini.
Zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and an anchovy, then battered and fried. When these are done right, they are almost like tempura and the cheese should be nice and gooey.
Sometimes when I go for pizza in Rome, I get fried zucchini flowers followed by a pizza topped with zucchini flowers! It's zucchini flower/anchovy heaven!
Battered cod. Heaven on a plate.
Green olives, stuffed with minced pork, then breaded and deep fried. These must absolutely be tender and juicy!
So when I think of where I love to have pizza in Rome, I also think of where I love the fritti. (So yes, I must do an awful lot of fritti and pizza tasting in order to form an educated opinion.)
There are a lot of websites and blogs with opinions all over the map (literally) about where the best pizza in Rome can be found. I keep changing my mind about it for myself. But here is my round-up for pizza places I love:
San Marco is a spacious, modernly decorate restaurant serving mostly local, Roman fare. Located just off the via Veneto, in the quiet Ludovisi district, they have an immense pizza menu but also have plenty of other things to enjoy. Their pizza is perfectly made in a wood-burning oven, with just that right amount of underneath burnt crispiness. Their fritti are also fantastic and we often go here just for the fried appetizers and pizza.
But I can highly recommend it for their other food as well. One thing to note is that the ambiance is very modern, with soft tones and high ceilings…but the food is very local. It also seems a bit empty if you go early, because it’s a Roman hangout spot and the Romans don’t get there until after 9, and then it gets really busy, especially on weekends. Via Sardegna 38. Open daily lunch and dinner.
Located in the Celio neighborhood to the side of the Coliseum, Li Rioni is another local favorite for pizza in Rome. One reason it's so fun to eat there is the interior decor, which is made to look like an old Roman neighbourhood (hence its name.) If you go after 8, you won’t find a table, so book ahead. Their fritti are delicious and their pizza is just right. My only complaint is that they don’t have pizza with zucchini flowers…but hey, there are lots of other flavors to try! Via Dei Santi Quattro, 24. Closed Tuesday.
This one is starting to be my go-to spots for pizza in Rome, when I don't mind going a bit further from the center. In the Tuscolano neighbourhood, it is worth the little trip out there.
Pizzeria Moma has it all: awesome fried appetizers, a nice, relaxing ambiance but above all, just amazing pizza.
Their fried zucchini flowers are divine, and we recently tried an upside down endive/anchovy torte (typically Roman) which was phenomenal..
But what also sets Moma apart is that they get their supplì from L'Arcangelo, one of my other go-to restaurants in Rome, which is on the other side of the city. Good chefs know each other and this is the example.
The suppli here are not your ordinary suppli: other than just rice and tomato and cheese, these are mixed with chicken innards and fat (the old-fashioned way to make supplì in Rome), to give them a super-textured, super-flavored yumminess. (They are actually called supplizi on the menu.)
I love a thin Roman crust and this one is ideal: thin yet chewy and crispy at the same time. So light you digest it while you eat it.
How to get there: via Calpurnio Fiamma, 40-44. Take the red metro line A, getting off at the Lucio Sestio stop. It's about 2 blocks over from there. Maybe 20 minutes total from Rome center. Open daily for dinner only.
Not far from Moma, Fermentum pizzeria will be out of the way for most people but it’s a special pizzeria for a few reasons: One, it’s sitting inside of the “Parco degli Acquedotti”, or Aqueduct Park. So if you sit on the veranda, you will have lovely views. Two, they make their pizza from a 70-year old starter of sourdough (“lievito madre”), mixed with other whole wheat flours, which gives their pizza a very light, digestible crust.
This pizza, above, called "margherita DOC" is outrageously good. The buffalo mozzarella just melts into the fresh tomatoes, creating a kind of creamy tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil is very present, making this seemingly simply pizza a burst of very complex and delectable flavours in one bite. It's 10€ but oh so worth it.
(The also have on the menu, a selection of anticrisi, or "anti-crisis" pizzas. the basic Margherita, with regular mozzarella and tomato sauce, is a very anti-crisis price of only 4€!)
And their fritti! My zucchini flower came out in its own little paper bag, piping hot and perfectly melted mozzarella and just the right touch of anchovy inside. Heaven! And their fried baccalà, as they say, like butter!!
Third, they specialize in microbrews and Belgian beers so if you are really into beer, and I am trying to be, when I go for pizza in Rome, this is also part of the fun.
How to get there: Take the red metro line A to Subaugusto. It's about a 4 minute walk from there. Via Lemonia, 214. Closed Monday.
Sforno is is nearly impossible to get into. Ever since they appeared on the Tuscolana pizza scene (along with Moma and Fermentum, above), they have become the hot spot for pizza in Rome, and with good reason. Their pizza crust is divine: thicker than Roman crust, yet light and incredibly digestible. Their toppings are mostly typically Roman, but some are more special. One in particular, their "cacio e pepe" pizza, is an inspired creation in which the classic toppings for Roman pasta sit delectably on the pizza, with black cracklings of fresh-ground pepper dotting the fluffy cheese.
But in case you didn't get enough of that black pepper, there is a pepper mill right in the middle of the pizza. I didn't need it but it's a cute touch.
How to get there: Via Statilio Ottato, 110/116. Take the Metro line A to Subaugusto. It's a 5-6 minute walk from there. Closed Sunday.
This very local, Roman trattoria and pizzeria is packed into a larger Roman night-life area behind Piazza Navona. The place is very homey, and you may find yourself sharing a table with others, particularly if you eat outside on the wooden picnic-like tables. Their pizza is simple and has that perfectly thin crust, just the way it should be. But they also have a lovely veggie antipasto bar, and other trattoria food such as pasta and meat dishes. Piazza del Fico, 29. Closed Tuesdays.
I love Al Leoncino for a couple of reasons: it’s one of the few places to get pizza in Rome anywhere near the Spanish Steps (the shopping zone.) They have delicious, cheap pizza, made in a giant open-space kitchen with wood-burning ovens. These things make Al Leoncino a great post-shopping stop to plop down for a quick, very casual, inexpensive meal. Oddly enough, they do not have any fritti (although they do have salads. They also have bruschetta but no other type of food.) So this is my only complaint, but I do include them here despite what I said earlier about fritti being a must. Go early because there is always a line out the door. Via del Leoncino, 28. Closed Wednesday.
Friends of mine live near the Coliseum, so I eat at Pizzeria alle Carrette very often. It is a very local go-to spot for Pizza in Rome, just off via Cavour near the Forum. This is another one of those just-pizza places (also with bruschetta, salads and calzones.) Their fritti are indeed wonderful. I always get the fried artichokes when in season (these are not the Roman artichokes alla giudia, Jewish-style. These are small pieces of artichokes that have been battered and fried. Mmmmm. Add some salt and a squeeze of lemon…and it’s worth going here just for these!) I also love their fried veggie strips.
I go for the overall experience: it's right in the centre so easy to get to; in summer, you can eat outside, and in winter I like to get a table that has a wall between my table and the ovens, which is nice and toasty; their fritti are great and their pizza is simple and good. Via della Madonna dei Monti, 95. Open daily for dinner only.
Well, pizza was invented in Naples, so they do have a right to have a claim to fame when it comes to pizza. Some Romans will even tell you they prefer pizza Napoletana. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone I said that!)
This type of pizza has a thicker dough and crust. But the ingredients on top are always still simple. The classic pizza Napoletana is a plain margherita, which has a light slather of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves (the colors of the Italian flag.)
There are a quite few places where you can get authentic Napoletana pizza in Rome. Here are only a few that I've tried:
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