The oldest reference to the word “pizza” dates back to 987 AD in Gaeta, a village in Southern Lazio. It is thought the the term comes from the Latin word “pinsa”, meaning flatbread. Thus, the modern-day pizza we all know and love started from simply adding tomato to the top of focaccia (a type of flatbread) in Naples in the 18th century.
A good 200 years after the creation Neapolitan pizza, the Roman style made its debut. Pizza didn’t catch on in Rome until the World War II era when American soldiers came looking for it. Thanks to high-protein flour being sent to Italy from America, Roman bakers were able to create a thinner, crispier version of its Neapolitan counterpart.
Whereas large brick ovens were being used in Naples, Romans favored smaller, stone-lined deck ovens. This was due partly to the fact that natural gas was extremely expensive in Rome, making bakers opt for electric ovens instead. Because of the oven’s evenly-heated rectangular shape, larger and longer pizzas made more sense than small round ones. Thus, the Roman style was born around the 1960s.
WHAT’S IN THE NAME?
Roman pizza comes by many names, but you’ll most often see it called pizza al metro (pizza by the meter) and pizza al taglio (pizza by the cut). But both names indicate a long, rectangular pizza with a length of about 1 meter (3 feet). In many Roman shops, pizza al taglio is sold by the slice from the oiled rectangular pans in which they are cooked.
One type of Roman pizza that is rarely found outside the city is the pizza bianca, a white pizza that is oblong in shape. It has no tomatoes, but is instead drizzled with fresh olive oil immediately after coming out of the oven.