At this point, we’re all familiar with Neapolitan pizzas. The flop. The toppings. The 400-degree ovens and the 60-second cook times. Luigi Esposito, pizzaiolo and owner of Via Napoli and Pizza Fritta 180, has done more work than most to preach the gospel of Naples around Sydney. Now, with 170 Grammi, he wants to spread the good word about Roman pizza.

And it’s not al taglio, the by-the-slice, lunch-hour-friendly style that’s been hovering around the edges of the Sydney pizza conversation for the last few years. At 170 Grammi, which has moved into the corner spot that housed Pizza Fritta (now next to Via Napoli, just down the street), it’s all about the other Roman pizza – the thing you’ll get if you order pizza at any restaurant in Rome, or indeed in most cities in Italy not called Naples.

“To call yourself a pizzaiolo you have to be capable of doing more than just one pizza style,” Esposito tells Broadsheet. Before moving Down Under he worked in Rome, where his wife is from.

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“I’ve been cooking Roman pizza since I was a young boy. So I thought, ‘we have this beautiful corner space, a lot of people love the Neapolitan style of pizza now’ – which I’m very proud of – ‘so why not give them a chance to try a pizza style which is really new for Sydney?’”

What makes pizza Romana different from Neapolitan slices? Or the New York-esque styles that have rolled into town recently? The crunch. It’s all about the crunch. So much so that the adjective most commonly used to describe the style is “scrocchiarella”, an onomatopoeia like the “croque” in croque monsieur, which mimics the sound the food makes when it’s being eaten.

That signature crunch is achieved in three ways. Firstly, the dough has less water than a Neapolitan style. There’s also a little less of it: one 170-gram dough ball is stretched out to a 13-inch pizza (hence the name 170 Grammi). Finally, that pizza spends more time in the oven at a lower temperature: three minutes at 330 degrees Celsius compared to the pizzas at Via Napoli, which go in a 450-degree oven for 60 seconds.

“And that’s what makes the pizzas crispy-crunchy,” says Esposito. “Scrocchiarella.”

But it’s not just the techniques that make the pizzas at 170 Grammi Roman. Although your usual pizzeria suspects are on the menu – a margherita here, some San Daniele prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella there – the stars of the show take their inspiration from iconic Roman dishes. There’s a cacio e pepe pizza, an amatriciana, and a carbonara option (funky hunks of guanciale and lashings of egg yolk included), all tasting uncannily like their namesakes.

It’s almost shocking you don’t see these toppings on more menus around town – they’re a huge no-brainer. Special shout-out to the porchetta pizza, loaded with woodfired potatoes, smoked scamorza and liberal shavings of roast porchetta alla Romana.

The rest of the menu also leans to the Italian capital, from suppli (the Roman answer to arancini) to trippa alla Romana – tripe in a lightly spiced tomato sauce. Pecorino is, of course, everywhere. And there’s a range of pastas to try as well. Desserts are sweet and simple, with options including plump maritozzi – cream-filled brioche buns – and angioletti, fried pizza dough sticks with Nutella and strawberries.

Best of all, the prices on the menu aren’t terrifying. Portions are ample, and nothing’s over $26. A great incentive for repeat visits to work your way through the scrocchiarella-packed pizzas.

“About 15, 20 years ago, me and a lot of other beautiful pizzerias came to this beautiful beach city and showed it what real Naples pizza should taste like,” Esposito says. “And now I’m very excited to let Sydney try Roman pizza and show them that Rome is about a lot more than just pasta.”

170 Grammi
428 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Hours:
Wed to Sun 5pm–10pm

170grammi.com.au
@170grammi_pizzeria