Roman Holiday: The Story Behind The Pie

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Last spring, I went to Rome over spring break with my family, back to the city I used to live in when I taught history at the Marymount International School. We planned to eat, to soak in the timeless beauty of the eternal city, and buy some Italian movie posters to hang in the Pagliacci stores. What I didn’t expect was to bring home a whole new pizza for Pagliacci!

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We rented an apartment in bustling Campo de’ Fiori for the six of us. The square, located right in the heart of the city, is a food lovers dream. Surrounded by romantically faded buildings, bakeries and cafés, the Campo de’ Fiori hosts one of Rome's best-known markets every day but Sunday. Vegetable and fruit stands overflow with temptations, and tourists and locals jostle for the best produce. The tantalizing smells of the bakeries blow onto the sidewalks.

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Every morning, before the tourists filled the Campo, my daughter and I got up early and went to one of the many excellent forni (bakeries) to get breakfast and scout out lunch options. One, Antico Forno Roscioli, stood out. We returned with the whole family for lunch. Throngs stood in line waiting for square slices of their famous Pizza Bianca—fresh out of the oven and sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary—or the famous Pizza Rosso. Behind the counters, men slid big stainless steel trays steaming with fresh-from-the-oven pizzas in and out of racks, yelling back and forth in that melodic rush of vowels that is the Italian language. We ordered slices of every kind we could see. We ate pizza by the kilogram. All were great, but one pizza with sausage, artichokes, mushrooms and parmesan was so full of flavor our eyes widened. We braved the line the next day for more of that particular pizza. We knew we had to bring this one to life at Pagliacci.

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Besides eating, the rest of our Roman holiday was spent admiring the city’s many attractions. One surprise was that everywhere we went, including the Vatican, my three boys got cheers. Almost just off the plane, they’d bought Roma jerseys, and the city’s celebrated soccer team had just beaten Barcelona in a Champions League quarterfinal game. Roma may be a puzzle of astonishing complexity, but nothing unites this city of four million like i Lupi, as the Roma soccer team is often called. Sometimes we even got pushed to the front of lines at restaurants—all because of my boys’ Roma jerseys.

We walked miles every day, overwhelming the kids with museums, tours and galleries. The cacophonous city overflowed with beauty, whizzing mopeds, and walls tagged with graffiti right next to ceaselessly flowing fountains teeming with great marble gods and nymphs. Each day left us exhilarated for more.

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When we booked our apartment, we knew it would be near Hollywood Tutto Sul Cinema, the store where Dorene Centioli-McTigue, Pagliacci’s founder, began buying our iconic movie posters in 1979. I hadn’t realized it would be right above it! Before leaving, we all trundled down to pick up our movie posters from Marco, the movie-loving owner of our favorite poster store.

Our trip ended as every Roman holiday should: with full bellies and a dream of returning. We took with us three soccer jerseys, 12 new movie posters, hundreds of vivid memories and one new pizza idea.

Back in Seattle, our food committee convened for a tasting. The pizza sailed through on its first test with no modifications, a first.

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All we needed was a name. We looked no further than the wall where the Vacanze Romane (Roman Holiday) movie poster was hanging. Perfetto.

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While I can’t promise it doesn’t taste better standing elbow-to-elbow in Campo de’ Fiori, Pagliacci’s newest pizza, Roman Holiday, can now be found on our regular menu and rotating through our slice bar. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.

Matt