The Snob’s First Roman-Style Pizza Experience—Li Rioni in Rome, Italy

RESIZE 1It was a Sunday and our first full day in Rome. Mrs. Pie and I had no specific pizza plans so I thought we might follow some Facebook advice we received from an American friend. So I made a mental note to locate the place she said was her favorite when she lived in our current port of Trastevere. Since it was on the main street our bus travelled, I thought we could spot it while we were coming or going. I soon realized that my naive attempt at following the numbers on buildings was producing no favorable result. I later became educated that not only do Rome streets change names at the drop of a hat, but there are also two concurrently-running sets of numbers on every street: one for residences and one for businesses. Suffice to say, we never found our desired destination.

Needing another plan for the evening’s dinner, I surfed my way to an article written by an Italian food critic who picked her ten fave pizzas in Rome. Wanting to experience some crispy, thin-crust Roman-style, I chose Li Roni from her list.

Still trying to familiarize ourselves with the Roma Capitale area, I thought Li Rioni might be easy to find since the review said it was only three blocks from the Colosseum. However, wandering about with a hopeful sense of confidence through the bumpy stone streets of Rome, the street I had written down as the address was nowhere to be found despite its presence on our map. It was now getting late, dark and we were weary, tired and hungry. This misadventure taught us two things: (1) asking Italian locals for directions most times finds them indifferent and (2) Rome tourist maps don’t always accurately capture all of the city’s little nooks and crannies. Finally finding the street, Li Rioni was nowhere to be found.

Well, I eventually discovered (by asking at a hotel) that I had mistakenly written down a similar, but incorrect street name. After more and more walking on our very tired feet, we finally found the correct street.

I should note at this point that we later became much more confident in our Rome bus-riding skills. We stayed away from the expensive taxis for which the taxi stands are also hard to find, and I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to carry my iPhone with all the talk of Roman pickpockets.

Finding the street was at first bittersweet. The long and narrow expanse was dark and looked vacant of anything resembling a restaurant. After Mr. Pie sent me solo down the lonely street to explore, I was excited to find Li Roni at the end of the block looking quite lively and elegant.

RESIZE 3It was now about ninety minutes after their 7pm opening. All of the outdoor seating was taken, and the large inside area was crowded as well. Nonetheless, we were immediately seated at a small table near the front door. I spotted a manned wood-burning brick pizza oven in the rear.

As would be standard fare for our entire Italian journey, to eat plain and cheese in Italy means to order a Margherita pizza (€5.50) which we did here. (Mrs. Pie got her own: the Napoli which was the same plus anchovy.) In addition, we also ordered some delightful side dishes from the Li Rioni menu which included much more than pizza.

RESIZE 4The joint was really jumping. But there looked to be only two waiters covering the whole place, and as a result, service was quite slow. We watched our busy waiter take orders, serve food and prepare drinks at the bar. Mrs. Pie wondered if he was also making the dough! It was tonight that I learned the essential knack in Rome of acting fast when ordering and paying to cut out as many steps as possible. Don’t let the waiter out of your sight until you finish your business!

The pizza took a while to come at the end of our meal and was served uncut on a plate along with a knife and a fork. Ultra-thin and covered with a messy-looking swirl of cheese and sauce, there were blackened char spots scattered about its surface and on its end crust. It was about 10 inches in diameter from which I made four slices that I folded and ate by hand like a true American. While my slice technique is usually the “Fold and Rip,” this pie required instead a knife-assisted “Rip and Fold” process to eat.

RESIZE 5Assessing the crust, there was little if any char on the bottom despite the blackened pizza bubbles and end crust on top, making it more chewy than crisp. The dough was tasty and fresh. Otherwise there was really not all that much to this pie since it was very skimpy on top in terms of tomato sauce and cheese.

For me, the flavorful taste of the tomato sauce was the best part of this somewhat tasty, but simply-stated, rather unsensational pizza. Overall while it was flavorful, it surely was not anything worth travelling across an ocean for. We actually enjoyed our dessert more than we did the pizza! Trying to be objective in that this was a new style of pizza for the Snob, I disagree with the local food critic and do not see Li Rioni as being a required destination on a trip to Rome.

The Pizza Snob’s first attempt at Roman-style pizza was a little disappointing. Fortunately, that would soon change.

PIZZA SNOB RATING  **** Near Perfect

Li Rioni
Via dei Quattro, 24
00184 Roma, ITALY
www.lirioni.it

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