The first thing I noticed about the Roman pizza at Marta was the crust—thin, but a bit crisp, not pull-apart doughy like the city's countless Neapolitan-style pies.
Then there was the sauce, the lightest slick of super simple tomato purée across the Macellaio ($16), topped with chewy slices of soppressata and sausage, crunchy flecks of guanciale and small discs of melted mozzarella.
At the new Flatiron restaurant, chef Nick Anderer (also of Maialino; Danny Meyer's got his hands in both) is pulling nine red and white pizzas from two massive wood-fired ovens that anchor the mostly unadorned, high-ceilinged room. There's other stuff there, too, such as arancini-like cheesy, gooey pasta-stuffed fried "meatballs" ($8) and smoky fire-roasted eggplant ($15), much of it coming off an insane, four-level Grillworks grill specially designed for the restaurant. Great cocktails, too, like a refreshing bottle-aged Negroni ($14).
But back to those pizzas. We chatted with Anderer to understand what makes the Eternal City's versions so special—and if they trump the Neapolitan pie.
TT: So when you say a pizza is Roman, what exactly does that mean?
Nick Anderer: There are two kinds of Roman pizza out there: pizza tonda, which is round and thin-crust and cooked in a wood-fired oven, and pizza al taglia, which has a thicker, more Sicilian-like dough that's normally served at takeaway spots. Our style of the tonda has a very thin crust. It's thinner than Neapolitan, which is cooked in a hotter oven, blistered, puffier and left a little soupy inside. Ours is lighter; we use almost 100 percent live yeast, which also helps to give it that crunch.
TT: So why not just go Neapolitan?
NA: Everybody has riffed on Neapolitan. It's time we saw a different kind of pizza. Also, because ours are pretty light, the pizzas are just part of the meal. There's plenty more to eat. It's how we treat pasta at Maialino—as part of the larger experience.
The restaurant's bottle-aged Negroni ($14) is one of six cocktails.
TT: Tell me about that simple tomato sauce. What's the secret?
NA: I'm a firm believer that tomato sauce should be as unadulterated as possible, so we just purée some San Marzano-style tomatoes and heat it up, and that's it. That whole New York style of tomato sauce getting cooked down with lots of garlic can make it pasty. We rarely even add salt, because, on the pizzas, there's salt coming from the cheese and other ingredients.
TT: Are you willing to go on the record and say that Roman pizza is better than Neapolitan?
NA: [Laughs] You're not going to back me into that corner! They're totally different. But to touch on Roman pizza again, even though it's served at sit-down restaurants, tonda isn't usually considered elevated food. We make our mozzarella in-house, which no one would do in Rome, and import buffalo mozzarella from Italy. Basically, we're making a fancy hot dog.