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Traditional Roman pizza at Ciao Bello

The salame pizza at Da Baffetto
The salame pizza at Da Baffetto
Tempus Fugit Press

I finally had my first pizza in Rome last week. I had been to the city once before, very briefly over a decade ago for enough time to see a number of sites, and our quick tour of the Eternal City included just a single meal at a forgettable tourist trap of a trattoria near the Vatican. This time with a little more time, though not nearly enough, I felt the need for at least one pizza stop. A Roman, a friend of friend, recommended Da Baffetto, a famed, seemingly touristy, and crowded spot in the heart of central Rome, which we visited for lunch one day. A stop for pizza by slice (pizza al taglio) was also part of busy day of seeing the sites later.

The salame pizza at Da Baffetto in central Rome a week ago
Tempus Fugit Press

The pizzas at Da Baffetto were excellent, featuring a fresh-tasting, cracker-thin crust and a judicious use of mozzarella and sauce and good-quality salame on mine, not unlike good-old American pepperoni. The additional grease from sliced pork product seems to complement cheese and tomato sauce so well. Or, maybe that I what I expect with most pizzas. It was very tasty, yet not at all heavy.

You can find Roman-style pizzas in Houston. Many years ago at Grotto, Tony Vallone introduced the concept of serving quality Italian-style pizzas in an exciting and somewhat serious Italian restaurant. Long-since sold to the Landry’s group, along with La Griglia, which also became known for pizza, Vallone brought the concept to his Galleria-area Ciao Bello where the pies are served with what is called a “Thin Roman Style Crust.” Available in several types of topping combinations that you might find in Italy, and with a crust that is thin and crisp as in Rome, their version of the classic margherita even features the richer, more expensive buffalo milk mozzarella. The sausage and roasted red pepper pizza might be the most popular, and enjoyable, with just-enough of the savory fennel-spiked sausage mixing well with the sweet notes of the pepper and the charred cracker-thin crust providing a necessary base and a pleasant textural contrast. These are good pizzas, if maybe not quite as good as those at Osteria Mazzantini or the original Carrabba’s, but closer to an Italian original.

Here are the Roman-style pizzas offered at Ciao Bello:

  • Margherita – San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil – $14.95
  • Sausage & Peppers – Crumbled Vallone sausage and sweet peppers – $15.95
  • Pepperoni e Polpette – Pepperoni, crumbled meatballs and ricotta – $17.95
  • Caprino – Goat cheese, Bosc pear, roasted garlic, arugula, truffle oil – $16.95
  • All’Orto – Arugula, basil, San Daniele prosciutto – $18.95

These serve one quite aptly, usually with leftovers, or two with a salad. Pizzas at Ciao Bello are a good idea for takeout, too.

Ciao Bello
5161 San Felipe (between Post Oak and Sage), 77056, (713) 960-0333

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