Have you ever eaten 150-year-old pizza? I tried it on my recent food tour in Trastevere in Rome. It’s light and crispy and with sooo much flavour. La Renella is probably the most authentic pizza you will ever eat – and the oldest. Their secret is in the oven. The oven at this traditional pizzeria happens to be just as old as Italy itself, baking dough since 1870 which only means pizza from here is as traditional as it gets.
This oven is not your typical wood or coal-burning oven. Instead, the oven at La Renella is fuelled by hazelnut shells from a farm 85 kilometres outside of Rome in a town called Viterbo. Years ago it was forbidden to burn anything other than hazelnut shells in Italy and this pizzaiolo has kept the tradition going. They toss hazelnut shell into the oven for roasting throughout the day, to spark the perfect heat intensity. The result? A pizza with a hazelnut scent that’s crunchy on the outside, but juicy and savoury in the middle. After so many years, it’s impressive that an oven like this one could still turn out a damn good dish. This spot is the only place in Rome that makes pizza this way.
Having opened up only a few years ago, La Renella is all about maintaining tradition. Pizza is ordered in the old-fashioned way known as pizza al taglio (pizza by the size, not slice). It’s cut and weighed-to-order so all you have to do is tell them how big you want it! They also serve up original styles like pizza bianca or white pizza. It’s made with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and dried herbs like rosemary or oregano. The Roman-style pizza rosso, which means red pizza, has an added touch of homemade tomato sauce. That’s it! Basta! Not even a sprinkle of cheese! Contrary to what a lot of pizza-eaters think, authentic Italian pizza is actually very simple. In fact, the earliest kind of pizza was made with very few toppings. In the late 1880s, pizza was eaten mostly by the poor – they would use up all their left over food and ingredients so it wouldn’t go to waste.
La Renella is also a panetteria where they bake fresh bread. Their baking room is a dust of white flour from wall-to-wall and pink baskets lined up with ready-to-crunch-on, hazelnut-scented bread sticks. We got to go backstage where 2,600 loaves of bread and 130 pounds of pizza are rolled out everyday.
La Renella felt like a true neighbourhood eatery where the owner invites you into their kitchen and the pizzaiolo still bakes dough in a 150-year-old traditional way.
How to Get Here: via Del Moro, 15
La Renella is one of the stops on the Eating Europe food tour in Rome. As always, all opinions are my own.