Neapolitan-style pizza is the sexy cover model of the pizza world, tempting restaurateurs around the world to add domed, wood-burning ovens to their kitchens. In Italy, the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana has been guiding pizzaiolos in the art and science of the perfect crust, sauce and cooking technique since 1984. Meanwhile, other traditional Italian styles have received little attention.
That is, points out Liberati Restaurant & Brewery founder Alex Liberati, until the Roman Pizza Academy came along. While thick Roman-style pizza has been a street-food standard for decades, it has only been since 2016 that the techniques and ingredients have been codified — but doing so has created an explosion of interest in the style stateside.
Liberati just rolled out a new winter menu, and Roman-style pizza takes up a fair amount of its real estate. The style can be confusing to first-timers, since it goes by different names that sound very similar to English speakers. Liberati calls the new pie "pizza in teglio," which means "pan pizza," whereas Pizzeria Coperta, which started selling the dish at Broadway Market last spring, calls it "pizza al taglio," which translates to "pizza by the cut." In either case, you're getting rectangular slices cut (often with specially designed scissors) from a large pie baked on a shallow steel pan.
Liberati explains that the dough for his restaurant's new pizza contains a very high percentage of water compared to standard pizza or bread dough, so it is slowly proofed over three days and folded multiple times at regular intervals to build a light, airy structure of bubbles. When baked, the result has "alveolatura," a porous honeycomb-like structure, but with a thin, crunchy crust. Many of the toppings are added after baking, keeping the crust from getting weighed down or soggy.
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The Italian eatery/brewery offers ten different topping combos: three white, three red, three with potato as the primary ingredient (which is common in Rome), and one "stuffed" pie. A standard order is four by eight inches, cut into four smaller squares, making it easy to share multiple plates between several people. So you can sample a classic pepperoni margherita; go crazy with a newfangled Campari, topped with Campari-marinated mozzarella, prosciutto and paper-thin orange slices; or indulge in some serious comfort with the Arrosto, topped with potatoes, roast pork, mozzarella spinach and an apple-based sauce, a combination that chef Marta Biasotti has used in a previous entree.
The remainder of the menu has been pared back a little but includes several handmade pasta dishes and other returning favorites such as meatball sliders, spumante wings and Italian nachos built on crispy-fried pasta chips. Also returning is the Tiramistout, a dreamy tiramisu made with Liberati's grape-based stout.
Liberati Restaurant & Brewery is located at 2403 Champa Street, with new winter hours from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Come in from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for a happy hour that includes a slice of pizza in teglia alla Romana and a select beer for $10. Call 888-844-5280 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.