What Makes Rome's Pizza Bianca Unique?

When you think of "good food," there's probably a good chance that Italy is one of the first destinations that comes to mind. It's fitting, then, that pizza — one of the most well-loved foods in the U.S. — comes from Italy. According to a study by Cici's Pizza via Food Network, roughly 30% of U.S. foodies enjoy pizza once a week. February 9 is even celebrated as National Pizza Day.

Today, we're talking about one perhaps lesser-known type of pizza unique to Rome, the region that has brought foodies such culinary delights as castagnole and cacio e pepe. Introducing: Pizza bianca. According to Rome-based food and travel blog Local Aromas, that pizza bianca might have been created as a way for Roman bakers to test the temperature of their ovens before putting an actual pizza in. It's so beloved by locals that a slice of pizza bianca and a cup of espresso aren't an uncommon breakfast, explains Italian cooking blog La Cucina Italiana. If you don't immediately spot a pizza bianca behind the glass at a Roman bakery (a.k.a. a "forno," via The Guardian), that means there's a chance that one is actively baking in the oven — and locals literally line up to catch it when it comes out. In fact, per the outlet, pizza bianca is typically sold by weight rather than by the slice. In other words, it's kind of a big deal. So, what makes Rome's pizza bianca so unique?

Are you bready for this pizza?

Pizza bianca translates to "white pizza" in Italian, per Local Aromas. But we're talking about a "mootz" slice here. Despite its name, pizza bianca is more comparable to focaccia bread than to the saucy, cheesy pie that comes to mind when you hear "pizza." The dish is essentially a slab of light, chewy flatbread brushed with olive oil, sea salt, and sometimes rosemary. Occasionally, it's topped with seasonal ingredients from sweet to savory, including figs, prosciutto, broccoli rabe, chard, and mozzarella. But toppings are at most minimal, if present at all. As Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats, writes, "[P]izza bianca is not made to be topped with mozzarella cheese and sauce. It just doesn't work. It's like putting mayonnaise on a hot dog." 

In Rome, pizza bianca is often enjoyed as a pre-dinner aperitif with wine. Sometimes, the slab is halved and filled with mortadella to make a "Panino" sandwich. The most important feature of pizza bianca, however, is that it's served hot — as in, five minutes after coming out of the oven, your window has passed.

If a trip to Rome isn't in the cards for you this week, rest assured: There are other places to get your hands on a slice of pizza bianca stateside. The James Beard Award-winning chain Pizzeria Bianco has locations in Los Angeles and Phoenix, AZ. In Manhattan's Lower East Side, Trapizzino serves up trapizzini sandwiches in with pizza bianca as the bread, via Eater.