Pizza di New York
A little slice of New York City on State Street
By John Motoviloff
The hustle and bustle inside Pizza di Roma on State Street brings to mind a real New York City pizzeria. Heavy oven doors are opened and shut. Pizza paddles glide by. Orders are noisily announced. But it’s the pizza itself that really says New York—hearty crust dusted in cornmeal, the right balance of sauce and cheese, and that telltale pool of shiny stuff (let’s call it pizza grease) floating on top. And the smell—Mama mia!
But if you guessed Pizza di Roma to be an East Coast, Italian American venture migrated west, you’d be wrong. Owner Jimmy Pashaj hails from Albania, a tiny mountainous country to the northeast of Italy. He immigrated to New York in 1999, learned the pizza trade and then came to Madison the following year. He soon became owner of already established Pizza di Roma and has been tantalizing students and State Streeters ever since. Delivery is an option if you live close to downtown.
While the cheese pizza is first rate, other offerings stand out as well. The Caprese Speciale pizza is a salad in itself with chunks of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. The salty feta and cheese pizza feels Greek or Balkan. And the Meat Lover pizza—studded with ham, bacon, pepperoni and sausage—fairly collapses on itself. Pashaj’s recipe for success? He keeps the cheese and veggies fresh and sticks with the recipe he learned in New York. “Cooking on a stone keeps the crust crisp,” he says. “We try to compete on State Street. We’re surviving.”