The Early Word: Pizza Roma

Pizza Roma is the new kid on the Bleecker Street block.
Pizza Roma is the new kid on the Bleecker Street block.
Lauren Shockey

Opening a pizzeria in New York City is a challenge, given that a decent slice is basically within arm's reach anywhere. But opening up shop on Bleecker Street -- already home to Keste and John's Pizzeria -- well, you've gotta have balls. And not just the dough kind. So we checked out Pizza Roma (259 Bleecker Street, 212-924-1970), a new restaurant offering Roman-style pizza.

Occupying the former Zito's Bakery (all that remains of the former space is a portion of the old tile floor), Pizza Roma (which has branches in Rome and Barcelona) functions both as a casual, sit-down restaurant and as a takeaway slice joint with several pre-made options resting behind the glass counter. The restaurant prides itself on its dough, which rises for 96 hours, which it claims makes it "lighter, healthier, and very digestible."

Pizza by the slice.
Pizza by the slice.
Lauren Shockey

Unlike in Rome, where pizza can be ordered by the inch (or centimeter, to be metrically correct), the pizza here is available by the slice. Two slices are enough to satisfy one person, though they don't run cheap -- they are $3.50 to $6 each and come in flavors like four cheese, mixed vegetables, margherita, mushroom, potato, white pizza, and zucchini flower. Larger pizzas are cooked to order and average from $12 to $18 for a medium (enough for two) and $21 to $30 for a large.

Margherita Special
Margherita Special
Lauren Shockey

We opted for the special margherita, made with buffalo mozzarella. It came a little overly sauced for our liking, but the ingredients were fresh and it had a nutty, almost whole-grain-tasting crust. The rectangular-shaped pizza is far different than the floppy Neapolitan pies pervading the city, lacking that carbonized, puffy chew we've come to love.

Potato pizza by the slice.
Potato pizza by the slice.
Lauren Shockey

To further carbo-load, we tucked into a square covered with thinly sliced potato, a layer of mozzarella, and a sprinkling of rosemary. We wished it could have been a little hotter as the cheese had a slight gumminess, but the flavor profile was spot-on.

Zucchini blossom slices.
Zucchini blossom slices.
Lauren Shockey

Finally, we ordered a slice topped with zucchini flowers -- not quite the season for them, but it's hard to resist those bright orange blossoms. This was probably the least successful of the three, since it was rather dry.

All in all, Pizza Roma didn't convert us from worshipping at the John's/Keste altar, but the ambiance in the simply decorated back seating area (formerly the Zito family living quarters) was pleasant and filled with many solo diners reading and nibbling. It's a decent alternative when lines at its Bleecker neighbors snake down the block. For now, there's no liquor license (it's expected to arrive in a few days), but we were allowed to bring in our own wine at no extra charge. The menu also includes calzones, antipasti, arancini, and salads, and we'd be willing to come back to give them a shot -- particularly come springtime, when the restaurant will have outdoor seating in the back courtyard. Because what, if anything, goes better with pizza than the great outdoors?

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