Pizza Roma (New York City)


We're fortunate in New York that many of the city's storied food institutions have survived. It's particularly true for pizza. Gennaro Lombardi began making pizza in a bakery oven before opening his eponymous pizzeria in 1905. After a hiatus, it's still around. Other institutions haven't been as fortunate. Take for example, Anthony Zito's bakery on Bleecker. When Zito's closed in 2004 after 80 years in business, I cringed in anticipation of yet another Neapolitan pizzeria or Subway sandwich shop. I breathed a sigh of relief when Pizza Roma, a Roman-style pizzeria and bakery chain also offering fresh focaccia, took on the labor of love of renovating the Zito's space.

They couldn't salvage the ovens, but Zito's has been turned into a lovely space. It will eventually have an outdoor deck. They even restored the graffiti desecrated storefront, and hung a photo bearing the old Zito's sign in the window.

In the Roman style (though the owners' original shop is in Barcelona), the pizza is square, displayed under glass and sold by length after being snipped with a scissors. The dough is allowed to rise for 96 hours resulting in an airy multi-layered crust that is incredibly light, greaseless and satisfying. Toppings range from classic tomato with cheese, tomato sans cheese, potato sans tomato, artichoke, and even truffles.

The local, fascist Department of Health has supposedly forbidden meat covered pizzas to sit on the counter, so sausage needs to be ordered by the pie. As if anticipating my disappointment, soppressata is offered for reheated slices. The beautiful Roman girl behind the counter explained that it was similar to what we Americans called "pepperoni". I nicely pointed to Faicco's across the street where I've been buying their homemade hot soppressata for 30 years, and explained that we New Yorkers have been enlightened with respect to all things Italian courtesy of Mario Batali's unfortunately named superstore, Eataly.

Besides pizza and focaccia, Pizza Roma offers salads, affettati misti (assorted salumi), suppli (Roman style fried stuffed rice balls), and even lasagna. The owner told me that because of the 96 hours they allow for the dough to rise, the pizza and bread freeze and reheat particularly well. While we certainly don't need another Subway sandwich shop, another pizzeria/bakery on Bleecker would have made both Gennaro Lombardi and Anthony Zito feel right at home.