Pizzaria Romano in da House

We love pizza. The traditional, wood oven baked type with that crispy bottom but chewy center and that semi-charred flavor that Dominoes just couldn’t ever deliver. Mmmhmm. I used to work at a very nice authentic pizza and pasta place in Columbus Ohio, Figlio. I would love it when , at the end of the night, the doors were closed, all the customers had been served, and the chef would throw together an excellent spread pizzas, pastas, and salads. My favorite was “Peter and Laurie’s” featuring caramelized onion, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and gorgonzola and blue cheeses. For me, what really makes the pizza, is the cheese.

Just over a year ago when I first moved to Guatemala we were working at one end of the city, but living with the in-laws in the other while we searching for a more conveniently located apartment. To avoid the rush hour traffic (which I believe I mentioned in the last post), we would eat an early dinner and hang out someplace until 7:30 or 8pm until the traffic had died down. One of these places was Romano Pizza, a new pizza place advertising authentic wood ovens. Skeptical as I was, I had been dying to try it, and avoiding traffic had been a perfect excuse.

Romano's - MotosWe made the short drive from the University to Boulevard Los Proceres, where the little Italian joint is located. The parking situation did not fill me with confidence, as the restaurant is located on busy, therefore high crime zone. Generally we avoid parking on the side streets in this area. A nice restaurant or business will have a small lot with a garita (guard) to keep your cars safe. Instead, there there were only a few orange cones reserving 3 or 4 spaces in front of the restaurant. However, an entourage of motorists were standing in front of Romano by half a dozen delivery bikes, apparently waiting for the next delivery order. As we slowed in front of the entrance one of the guards/motorists pull a pair of cones out of our way encouraging our stay, although after considering our laptops in the trunk we almost didn’t stop. But I’m glad we did.

We were greeted by René, a short stocky man, who seated us in a cozy little corner window, next to a inactive fireplace. He presented us with an enticing menu and a wine list with prices not matched in the entire city. I ordered a glass of wine for 14Q (just under 2USD). We would have gotten the bottle for 36Q (4.50USD) if it hadn’t been that Héc was sick. I’m sure you’re thinking how terrible that wine must be…so I’ll make the note now that the wine is better than merely drinkable — we love it. We tend to leave the restaurant with a few extra bottles to keep around the apartment. Even in the grocery stores you cannot find these prices paired with the quality.

Enough about the wine…the pizza is absolutely delicious (wouldn’t say as good as Figlio, but the best I’ve had in Guatemala by far). The crust is just how I like it…fairly thin but with a slightly chewy texture, and those gorgeous bubbles that leave a soft hollow cavity. The toppings are typical Italian, my favorite being the veggetali a la brasa (grilled veggies), and Modena (buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, parmasean, and requesón –which is a Guatemalan type of ricotta that is slightly more dense and not as creamy).

Romano’s became so frequent in our lives (nearly every Thursday around 7pm), that we would arrive to see a bottle of our favorite wine sitting at our table. I live for stuff like that. Just puts a smile on my face…

So, long story to simply say that…since I am not currently working, we are saving money by trying to eat out less and less. But boy do we crave pizza. So we tried to recreate some in our minimalist kitchen. I made a 100% whole wheat dough (recipe to follow) topped with caramelized red onions, requesón, crisp-roasted garlic cloves (3 whole heads), and thinly shaved zucchini. We opted out of pizza sauce on this one despite my love for it (Elmer, our waiter at Romanos, knows how much I like it and always brings extra to the table). I baked it in our little toaster oven for about 15-20 minutes, and it was heavenly. The juicy caramelized onions were a perfect substitute for tomato sauce, and Héc and I both decided that next time we would up the roasted garlic to 5 heads (not cloves, heads) because of how delicious it was.

Pizza Dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup water
2.25 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Its thin, crisp, chewy, and healthy. Most people don’t like using 100% whole wheat flour, but I do. So I did.

Mix all together, and knead for 5 minutes. Let rise in warm place, covered with plastic wrap, for an hour. Punch down, and knead for a minute, and let rest for 20 more minutes, or until ready to use. For one 12-inch pizza, use half the dough. I like to freeze the rest. It keeps up to a month.

The Crispy Roasted Garlic:
-Peel the garlic cloves completely. Some people like to roast it in its skin, but I find I loose a lot that way. I want every bit of every clove, so I peel them, place them in a foil pouch, give it a glug of olive oil, and into the oven (or toaster oven if you too are in a less than fully functioning kitchen) for 50 minutes to an hour. It will be slightly toasty on some pieces, while others are a soft as butter.

Do you see those crispy brown pieces of heaven there on the creamy requesón? Heaven.