Celebrate National Pizza Day in Roman style at Bonci

Bonci Pizza invited the Local Tourist to stop in and sample their unique Roman-style pizza.

Chicago is a pizza-centric city. The endless debate of “deep dish” vs. “thin crust” will likely never be resolved and everyone has an opinion. In advance of February 9 – National Pizza Day – it was a struggle to figure out just what to feature. Ultimately, I decided to focus not on either of the hotly-debated styles in Chicago. Instead, I opted to respond to an invitation from Bonci Pizza which produces an entirely different style of pizza.

Bonci is the brainchild of Founder and Executive Chef, Gabriele Bonci – often referred to as the “Michaelangelo of Pizza.” The original location in Rome is called Pizzarium. Since opening in 2003 Pizzarium has developed a reputation as one of the most popular casual restaurants in that city serving up the Roman style of pizza.  The first location outside of Italy opened in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood in 2017 with a second Chicago location following in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in 2018 and a third in New Orleans, LA which in July 2019. A fourth location will be opening soon in Miami’s trendy Wynwood neighborhood.

Various styles of pizza available at Bonci
Photo courtesy of Bonci and Soda Fountain Photo.

The pizzeria specializes in Roman-style al taglio pizza – literally “by the cut.” The pizza is baked in large rectangular portions, then sliced with scissors and sold by the weight. One of the hallmarks of this style is a light, bubbly crumb to the crust with a delicately crisp bottom. The dough is made with heirloom wheat flour and takes 72 hours to create. No cutting of corners at Bonci.

Part of the Bonci brand is the use of inventive ingredients. Pizza toppings often change hourly during the day, depending on what is seasonal and fresh – as well as the imagination of the chefs. To date, Gabriele Bonci has created over 1,500 different recipes! You never know just what you will find, so it’s a good idea to go back frequently.

One important note – Bonci does not accept cash. They accept all major credit and debit cards, but it is currently a ‘no cash’ establishment.

The light, airy dough at Bonci Pizza
Photo courtesy of Bonci and Soda Fountain Photo.

On my recent visit, I had the opportunity to sample one of the most popular Roman varieties – the Potato Mozzarella pizza. Who knew that potato on a pizza could be so tasty? I also checked out some intriguing varieties including Fried Onion Parmigiana and Zucchini-Ricotta-Lemon Zest-Black Pepper. For more traditional taste, I opted to sample the Soppressata Mozzarella. Other fascinating options for possible future sampling are Cacio e Pepe, Rossa Bell Pepper, Spicy Arrabbiata, Bianca Salmon Burrata, and Spicy Eggplant.

As you can see, these are not your average pizza recipes.

Various styles of pizza at Bonci
Photo courtesy of Bonci.

One of the signature items on the Bonci menus is Suppli – the quintessential Roman street food. These are rice and pasta balls stuffed with cheeses and meats. One of my friends in Rome verified that one of the signs of a great Suppli is the string of melted mozzarella you get when you break it in half. The Bonci version has a perfect string of melted cheese when I pulled it in half. Like Chicago has a battle between “deep dish” and “thin crust,” in Italy there’s a battle between “arancini” and “Suppli.” For my money, the Suppli wins.

If you are looking for something different on National Pizza Day – or any day when a pizza craving kicks in – you may want to consider giving Roman-style pizza a try. The two Chicago locations for Bonci Pizza are located at 1566 N Damen Ave. in Wicker Park and 161 North Sangamon St. in the West Loop.

Various styles of pizza at Bonci
Photo courtesy of Bonci and Soda Fountain Photo.