Giulietta, Rome, the newest pizza place in Testaccio, is fermenting a bit of a stir, and for good reason. First of all, it’s one third of the vast and ambitious new food empire launched recently in Rome’s Testaccio district by one of the city’s most exciting chefs, Cristina Bowerman, taking over a motorbike and car showroom buried in the side of Aventino Hill, and transforming it into three different foodie offerings.
At the far left of the structure, Bowerman has transferred Romeo, her experimental bistro and food lab, formerly located in Prati, offering seasonal food, pizza, bread, cheese and and charcuterie and generally pushing the envelope with prime Italian ingredients. It’s also the location for a cocktail bar I’m looking forward to checking out. Then, in the middle, there’s pizzeria Giulietta, offering thin and crispy Roman pizzas as well as deep-crust Neapolitan ones. The final, seperate project is Frigo, an artisan gelateria, already renowned in Rome for its food truck version found in selected Roman local markets.
I can’t comment on Romeo or Frigo yet, as I haven’t visited, but I really enjoyed my first taste of Giulietta’s pizza last week, reserving a table with a couple of friends to find out what the fuss was all about. Fuss, because Testaccio – one of the city’s most robust foodie districts, already has a pizzeria or ten ranging from the spit and sawdust classics of Da Remo and Nuovo Mondo (I’m a Da Remo girl, in case you ask), as well as the artisan pizza pockets of Stefano Calligari’s Trapizzino, plus the consistently quality pizzas of Portofluviale, offered in both Roman and Neapolitan varieties. There’s also, of course, half a dozen other local trattorias firing up wood-burning ovens in the evening to slap out crisp discs of Roman pizza onto scratched plates or into corrugated boxes at keen prices. Did Testaccio need another pizzeria? Well, on the evidence of this, yes it did.
The interiors are out of this world – the formerly low-ceilinged car showroom has been hollowed upwards to make the most of this unique, cavernous space, which remains intimate and maintains pleasant acoustics due to low-hanging modular structures. In the middle of the hall, a long, L-shaped counter demarcates the pizza chefs’ working area, in front of two handsome, domed wood-fired ovens, designed to bring out the best in both Roman and Neapolitan pizzas. There’s plenty of room, but the tables are also pleasantly spaced (as one is accustomed to in upscale restaurants), adding to the fresh intimacy of the experience and the sensation that this is a special occasion dinner.
The staff were pleasant and non-intrusive, responding with the right pace and leaving us time at the end to chat and finish our beers. So what was the food like, and perhaps even more importantly, the bill?
I couldn’t find a lot of information about the prices before booking, so I was pleasantly surprised on opening the menu to see a price list just a shade above average. Starting with the fritti, those mouthwatering fried and lightly breaded snacks that characterise Roman pizzerias, I was pleased to discover that the classic zucchini flower stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy as well as Roman-style suppli were keenly priced under €5.
There are ten Roman-style pizzas on the menu, plus a fried calzone, while the Neapolitan menu offers 10 pizzas plus that Napoli classic, the fried pizza, which I vowed to return to try. My party ordered two Roman pizzas – the Amatriciana, with San Marzano tomatoes and guanciale from Fracassi, priced at €10. We also ordered a light, fresh Roman-style ‘smoked aubergine, stracciata cheese and pomegranate seed’ pizza, which was subtle and less overwhelming in taste than it might have seemed. To balance things out, we also ordered a Neapolitan-style ‘cime, prosciutto e fichi’, with broccoli rabe (very popular in the Lazio region), cured ham, figs and flakes of caciocavallo cheese, costing €11.
The pizzas were delicious – while the Amatriciana was the closest to ordinary, the toppings on the other two pizzas proved complex and contrasting. The pomegranate seed and stracciata pizza hadn’t quite been rendered a dry, Roman-style pizza but was left with just enough doughy bite to not fragment, but set off the gooey, uncooked cheese, while the smoked aubergine brought a wonderful depth and aroma to the pizza.
Giulietta has a deal with Birra del Borgo on the beer front, one of Italy’s oldest craft beer enterprises which was bought out last year by Ab Inbev, the Belgian colossus of industrial beer (which makes and distributes, amongst others, Stella Artois). Greater craft beer experts than myself are still weighing up the complexities of this takeover and will be able to tell you if their beers have changed, but what I can say for now is that its special creation for Giulietta, a draft, hopsy beer called Testaccio, proved a perfect pairing with the pizza. You can also order from a range of Birra del Borgo’s bottled beers on the premises, or drink wine.
My pals had dessert, and we all opted for an amaro or dessert wine, bringing the final bill to just a shade over €25 a head. More than acceptable, and with the staff leaving us to our own devices to enjoy the tail end of the evening as the pizzeria emptied, thumbs up too for a pleasant and professional experience.
Giulietta, Rome | Piazza del Emporio 28 | Mon-Sun 19.00 – 00.00, Sat & Sun 12.00 – 15.00 | Tel. (+39) 06 45229022