Pizza Bianca

Every corner of Italy — including its myriad islands — has a local bread.

One of the joys of Italian travel is celebrating the variety.

Sardegna’s paper-thin carta da musica, Puglia’s taralli, Liguria’s focaccia, Tuscany’s schiacciata, Piedmont’s grissiniwe are happy to share with travelers our archives of the best flour, olive oil, yeast and water-based delicacies.

Our children — who have tasted artisanal carbohydrates from every corner of the peninsula — are lucky to live in Rome.  They have immediate access to what they consider Italy’s single best bread.

Rome’s Campo de’Fiori is where I grew up.  The colors of the Campo, like those in Piazza Navona — tones of ochre, pink, apricot, peach, burnt siena, orange — are especially lovely.   Visit the Campo early in the morning when its Monday to Saturday morning market is just setting itself up.  You’ll have the added advantage of seeing the best of that day’s seasonal vegetables and fruit.

The great gastronomic destination of the Piazza, however, is on the square’s northwest corner.  At the Forno or bread shop, the white pizza (pizza bianca), a specialty of Rome, is served unceremoniously in a piece of brown paper.

It wins the Insider’s 2010 Pizza Bianca Prize.

The Forno’s crowds are formidable, but you will be in a smaller one if you join the queue to the right as you come which is principally for pizza only.  “Un etto di pizza bianca, calda se c’e” (“100 grams of warm pizza bianca”) will provide a reasonable first sampling, and you will be handed a gleaming squares of bread, possibly folded in half, wrapped in paper. The pizza bianca is crisp but also chewy – at the window beside the store (below) you can see the bakers indenting the dough repeatedly with their fingertips – with delicious, scratchy, and slightly charred crust on the underside. The smell itself makes us swoon.  (Sweet, fresh wheat; high calcium water and Italian extra virgin oil, plus a very special yeast each play a role in achieving this perfection.)  Just as good is the very, very thin pizza rossa here, with the thinnest spreading of tomato sauce.  Like pizza bianca, at its best when just hot from the oven.  (Constant turnover here means that this is quite probable, and you really do want to eat it warm or hot.)  Also on offer are variants of pizza rossa : with zucchine flowers and slivers of anchovy, with julienned zucchine, with julienned potatoes and cherry tomatoes.

August-time travelers will find an additional delight : the Forno is open all month long, a time when many bread stores are closed.


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Filed under Marjorie Shaw

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