Pizzeria Da Baffetto may be one of the most reviewed restaurants in Rome, perhaps even in Italy. Though it’s tucked away on Via del Governo Vecchio, one of the narrow, winding streets characteristic of Rome, Da Baffetto always has a line. Open from 6pm-1am, the trattoria is a family-style restaurant packed to the brim with tourists and locals alike, and the noise bursting from this little restaurant can be heard from down the street.
There are two different ways to be served at Da Baffetto’s – as an Italian, or otherwise. No, you don’t actually have to be a native of Italy, but even a small attempt at the language usually grants you a taste of respect from Baffetto’s owner and mascot, known simply as Baffetto. If you manage to pass his brief inspection at the door, you are led upstairs to your own small table, and offered a carafe of wine. If, for example, you forget this little tidbit of information as I did upon my return, and only speak English, you will most likely be seated at a table right next to the ovens. Luckily for me, the kitchen was exactly where I wanted to be.
Baffetto is a squat, burly man now in his 60’s, constantly flushed and darting from place to place. The tables are situated so closely together that waiters, chefs, and Baffetto dance around each other with grace and ease, sidestepping into free space whenever possible. The chefs have a small corner with a 3-tiered pizza oven and wide counters for optimal pizza topping. (One chef, I suspect, saw my frantic expression and transfixed camera, and added a little flair to the way he piled moist mozzarella onto the dough.)
I discovered Baffetto, surprisingly, on my own. As a California exchange student in Rome, I believed myself far too adventurous to simply follow the guidebooks. No, I thought, I will find the best food in Rome on my own, and Rick Steves can go to hell. (Sorry, Rick.) Of course, I stumbled upon one of the most popular spots to review. Just down the street from my Rome Study Center, a few minutes from Piazza Navona, Baffetto waited for me for months. After a particularly booze-fueled study session at Abbey Pub just across the street, my roommate and I decided pizza was the missing ingredient to a Tuesday evening.
Though the menu boasts typical Roman antipasti such as prosciutto and melon, bruschette with artichoke, salmon, tomatoes, or olives, Baffetto’s pride and joy is his pizza. The original Pizza Baffetto defies logic, taste, or consistency. Both soft and crispy, piled with tomatoes, mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, artichokes, sausage, green peppers, onions and olives, its key ingredient is an egg cracked over it just before serving. I know, really, I do – it sounds disgusting. Egg on a pizza? Try this baby on for size.
The yolk swims and bubbles over the other toppings to create a lush, wet center surrounded by the crispier outer crust. The combination is a collision of taste - salty artichoke hearts, a sweet red sauce and the blackened crunch of the thinnest pizza dough. This is the sort of taste that haunts you once it’s gone. Eat it slowly, savor it, and be sure to tell Baffetto as he whirls by, “Buonissimo!”
Pizzeria Da Baffetto
Via del Governo Vecchio 114