Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For Your Consideration: My Tournament of Pizza Write-in, Roma(n) Pizza in Latham

Under the red neon light of Roman Pizza's window
When All Over Albany announced their extensive ballot for the 2012 Tournament of Pizza, I scrolled through, only recognizing a handful of names.  As a newcomer to the area, I hadn't actually tried any of these places yet (though I have tried DeFazio's in Troy, one of last year's finalists, and concur with much of the acclaim).  The pizza joint I do know and love didn't make the list: Roman Pizza in Latham.

I've certainly enjoyed exploring for restaurants all throughout the region in the two months I've lived here.  But when it comes to pizza, the best thing is having a neighborhood spot you know and trust, and I think I've discovered that with Roman.

Or Roma.  It's confusing.  The sign says Roman.  The front of the menu says Roman.  But inside the menu they refer to themselves, and a dish, as Roma.  And a trusted local food source, derryX, has informed me that the owners think of it as Roma.  But for the purposes of this review, because it's known as Roman Pizza throughout the interwebs, I'll go with the N.

With that out of the way, it's time to talk about why I like Roman Pizza, and it's not just the location.  And it's not because I've struggled to find good pizza--other than on a couple jaunts to New York City--for the past four years.

Torpedo.  Boom.
I like my pizza thin, New York-style, even though that's not the pizza I grew up on.  As a kid in California I ate a lot of Round Table Pizza and take-and-bake Monday Night Football specials from a now-defunct Italian diner--but after I discovered real New York-style while in college (in, of all places, Los Angeles), I knew that everything I'd had before was second-rate.  I found some excellent New York-style pizza in Springfield, MO, while K was living there (and she, being a native of northern New Jersey, is an authority in the style), so I knew it was possible to find good stuff outside NYC.

The pizza in Springfield was proof that good New York pizza isn't dependent on some mythical, miracle water.  It's about letting the dough rise.  It's about good sauce.  It's about a nice balance of cheese.  And on these fronts, Roman Pizza delivers.

There are maybe a half-dozen tables or so inside Roman, with a TV in the corner that seems to be perpetually showing baseball, though I suppose this will change in a month.  The guys behind the counter are always ready to toss a couple oversize slices in the oven.  These slices are foldable but not floppy, the crust chewy and not bland.  The sauce?  Seasoned up nicely, not too sweet, and not slapped on too heavily.  It nicely complements the cheese, which seems like such a basic thing, but we all know places that even screw that up.  Too much, too little, too chewy (once you're past the age of ten you probably don't want to pull all of the cheese off in one bite).

The antipasta at Roman
I've always liked doctoring up my cheese slices with red pepper flakes, but I've never been one for tossing grated parmesan on top, too.  At Roman, I noticed the cheese in the shaker looked a little different than your typical grated parmesan; for one, there were actual chunks in the cheese.  So I tried it.  Turns out this wasn't Kraft or some shelf-stable parmesan that tastes like eraser shavings.  This cheese was salty and added a sharp, nutty flavor to the pizza.  According to the intrepid derryX, this cheese is actually Locatelli Romano, freshly grated in-house.  So many restaurants don't pay much attention to small details like this; as a customer, it is noticeable at Roman and appreciated.

That attention to detail doesn't just show up with the pizza.  The tossed salad, full of a nice array of mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, black olives, croutons, pepperoncini, and mozzarella, was a pleasant surprise for a pizza place (though the antipasta isn't particularly interesting or inspired), better than what you get at many finer dining establishments.

K also tried one of Roman's hot torpedoes, the Eggplant Parmigiana.  As with any sub or hoagie-type sandwich, the roll itself has to be good or the entire thing will fall flat.  And Roman's torpedo roll is very good: crunchy outside, chewy inside, full of a nice yeasty flavor.  It proved to be a fine vessel for the homemade fresh eggplant, tomato sauce, and heaping topping of melted mozzarella.

Roman also features an array of Italian dinners and cold subs.  One of these days I'll branch out and try something from this side of the menu.  The Locatelli Romano would certainly be a nice touch on the ravioli or veal parmesan.  But for now I'm stuck on the pizza.  As a new guy, I'm not going to tell you this is better than your favorite pizza in the area (which I likely haven't even tried yet).  But I do feel very safe recommending Roman as a worthwhile pit stop to anyone driving along Troy-Schenectady Road.  And maybe by next year we'll at least get it on the ballot in the Tournament of Pizza.

Roman Pizza is located at 200 Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham, NY


  1. I'm looking forward to trying this on my own time. For the future, if you are taking pics of slices, I'd love to also see one of the all important but often neglected bottom crust.

    1. Good point with the pics (I was trying to be pretty surreptitious this time around, trying to not draw attention to myself with my digital camera out, but should be getting a hand-me-down iPhone soon...).

      I was back there yesterday and was really enjoying the crust, both end and bottom. This might have been the best I'd had it cooked there--the end was perfect, good yeasty rise with a bit of crunch and a lot of chew, but not burnt at all. The bottom had that little bit of crunch to keep it from being floppy or soggy.

      Hopefully your experience matches up. I think all those TOP photos broke me and had me scurrying for pizza. Can't wait to try some of these other places.