Okay, I admit it. Although I had been to Italy about a dozen times through the years, I had never heard of Roman-style pizza.
Neapolitan-style, of course, but Roman-style? Who was this guy kidding?
The “guy” in question is Chef David DiGregorio, who oversees
Osteria Via Stato
and Pizzeria Via Stato on State Street in between Ontario and Ohio in downtown Chicago.
I was in my hometown to film a segment of my television show, “Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert,” and Pizzeria Via Stato intrigued me.
They made all their pizzas from scratch. They had only the best, freshest ingredients. They had a wood-fired oven.
So, they made a Neapolitan-style, thin crust pizza, right? Wrong.
I was quickly corrected by DiGregorio when I made such an assertion.
“We do Roman-style pizzas, which actually have a thinner crust than the Neapolitans,” he said. “Oh, and they’re smaller, too.”
Sure enough, during our filming, then later during lunch — and even later during more lunches, and I believe, a dinner or two — DiGregorio turned out wonderful pies that were thin, yet not too thin, layered with just the right amount of ingredients so as not to overwhelm the crust, which is the real star.
They were amazingly well-balanced, and have become, hands down, my favorite pizzas in the world.
But, are they really Roman-style, and is there such a thing? Or, God forbid, did DeGregorio and his parent company, Lettuce Entertain You, invent the term to help market the restaurants and sell more pies?
Call me a cynic, but it’s cynicism well-earned over a lifetime of reporting.
So, off to the web I went. After all, if it’s on the Internet, it
be true. I Googled Roman-style pizza expecting to find something like “made-up term by chef David DeGregorio” or some such stuff.
Instead, I found this from a website touting Italian recipes: “Roman-style pizza is traditionally thin and crisp.”
There were dozens of similar postings from other websites, so I figured I was onto something.
But, are they thinner and crisper, not to mention smaller, than Neapolitan-style pizza?
In a word, the answer is, “Yes.” But it’s so much more complicated than that.
It turns out, not only are they two distinctly different styles, there’s actually a battle over which style pie is the most authentic.
As Frances Kennedy writes in The Independent, “There is a lively dispute over which is the best and most authentic pizza — the deeper, softer base with a rim, originating in Naples, or the thinner, crunchier Roman variety.
“Neapolitan pizza kings are pushing for a special DOC seal of approval for outlets wishing to claim they sell ‘real Neapolitan pizza’ — they must guarantee to use buffalo mozzarella, local olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes. Their Roman opponents accuse them of being pretentious.”
Fortunately, no such debate rages in the U.S., certainly not on my palate.
In Chicago, I prefer David DiGregorio’s Roman-style pies, while here in Kansas City I’ll opt for the Neapolitan offerings of Spin.
There debate settled.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado.