Day Three in Rome and Mrs. Pie and I were still winging it about what things to do on our tourist list and when to do them. After spending some time seeing the sites of the Roman Capitale and shopping along the Via del Corso, it was time for lunch. Mrs. Pie suggested we try the Campo de’ Fiori area which she heard was a good place to find something good to eat.
Still figuring out how the Rome buses worked, for the second day in a row we took the right bus in the wrong direction! In general the buses are great, but the street signs displaying the routes offer no help as to which side of the street you need to be on. Bus drivers are there to drive and don’t offer much help —maybe a “Yes” or “No” to your question if you are lucky.
And paying for buses is way too strange. You can only buy your single-fare ticket (€1.50) in advance at a Tabacchi (tobacco) shop or at a machine if you can find one. You are supposed to time-stamp your ticket when you board, but I rarely saw anyone do this. I assume that the locals who were doing nothing had passes of some sort. We paid most of the time, but there were times when we needed to get on the bus and there was no ticket vendor in sight. Get caught by a random inspector and it’s a €50.00 fine. Fortunately the odds were in our favor and we didn’t get caught.
We eventually got our bearings straight and found the Campo de’ Fiori open air market in a large open square. The covered booths looked spectacular with individual specialty vendors offering vastly wide selections of cheese, pasta, olive oil, jars of olives, fresh vegetables and cooking supplies. Unfortunately, they were starting to close shop since it was approaching early afternoon.
While walking through the square, we came across a modest-looking outdoor café called Virgilio, a combination Ristorante/Pizzeria/Wine Bar that we decided to give a try. The indoor seating area seemed rather limited, but we were able to dine al fresco in the more spacious outdoor area in front. They even had free Wi-Fi which seemed to be a challenge to find in Rome.
Not sure of the size portions we would be getting, we ordered one green salad and one Margherita pizza (£8.00) which turned out to be plenty for both of us to share. The pie, which they cooked in a conventional pizza oven, looked to be about 14 inches in diameter, and surprising to our Italian experience thus far, came pre-cut into eight slices. What struck me most though was if you took away the few basil leaves scattered on top and made it a little thicker, it would look just like something you’d get in Manhattan.
But, oh boy! Virgilio’s pizza was just over-the-top amazing. We found Roman-style pizza at its best.
The cheese and sauce were evenly mixed into a delicious tasting blend atop an ultra-thin crust. This enticing crust was crisp and crunchy and blackened-on-the-bottom with a freckly char. The flour on the end crust was snow white. The oil coming off of the cheese was bountiful and delightfully delicious.
I really think that we discovered the New York-style pizza’s Italian ancestor! It was so light and easy going down, and I was lucky that Mrs. Pie let me eat 5/8s of this fantastic pizza.
I can’t believe the surprise of finding this place. While this pie seems to be quite different from what we saw around Rome, it is truly one that I don’t think you should miss. Combined with a visit to the market it made for a fabulous Roman afternoon adventure.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Piazza Campo de’ Fiori 10/a
00186 Roma, ITALY