At first glance, the rectangular slices of pizza that are displayed like colorful bunting within a prominent display area look like standard-issue Sicilian or “Grandma” style pie. But all it takes is one bite of the light, airy and crispy-crackly creations to recognize that Roman-style – aka pizza al taglio
– is no conventional construction.
A complex and unique dough preparation process is combined with special baking equipment to create this singular style of pizza that originated in Rome but has spread like so much melted mozzarella across the globe. And the only place in Ohio to bite into a slice of the real McCoy is at Citizen Pie Roman Café
(2057 E. 4th St., 216-394-0155) downtown.
The process begins with super-hydrated dough that is cold-fermented for 48 to 96 hours, producing a low-gluten crust. The pizza is baked in long rectangular pans in special dual-temperature ovens that treat the tops and bottoms of the pie differently, resulting in a thin, crispy bottom and gossamer, honeycomb-like interior.
“It’s light as a cloud and you can eat a ton of it,” says chef Vytauras Sasnauskas, who also operates the wood-fired Neapolitan-style Citizen Pie pizzerias.
Walk into Roman Café and you’ll see a dozen different types of pie, all of them composed with various combinations of base and toppings, prebaked and ready for the final step. That step – a quick blast in a hot oven – can take place in the shop, at the office or back home. And because the entire process is designed around that procedure, the results are predictable and outstanding. Either in, out or at home, the pizza needs just one to two minutes in a 500-degree oven to achieve perfection.
Despite the lighter-than-air base, these slices are sturdy enough, thanks to a thin but rigid bottom, to support considerable toppings. Unlike the typically austerely-topped Neapolitan pizzas, Roman slices often are piled high.
A Veggie slice ($4.50) features a zucchini base, mozzarella, tomato, ricotta and pesto. A post-bake sprinkle and splash of fresh greens and lemon vinaigrette wake it up. The Spicy Salami ($4.50) is layered with paper-thin slices of eggplant, mozzarella, spicy salami and touch of blue cheese sauce. Others have potato, bacon egg, cheese and truffle, or mushroom, ham, cheese and burrata.
While the grab-and-go process is well suited to the current dining environment, the process requires steady foot traffic to survive. The pre-baked pizzas are only permitted to be on display for a couple hours before they are binned. And if you experience a twinge of sticker shock, know that Sasnauskas uses only the best ingredients, including large amounts extra-virgin olive oil that goes into each batch of dough.
The shop, formerly Erie Island Coffee, also serves as a satellite outpost for Bigmouth Donuts
and Six Shooter Coffee