Roman Breakfast Quest

By Brian Hart Hoffman

Pizza for breakfast? Yes, it’s a thing. When I visited Roma (Rome) to produce this issue, I was amazed by the number of people lined up for a slice of pizza to start their day. Pizza was only part of the reason I wanted to go on the ultimate Roman breakfast quest. When the Rome episode of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy aired, I learned about maritozzo and knew I had to discover it for myself. I turned to author Katie Parla as a trusted source of food in Rome and asked her to show me around her home city. Those of you who know me know I don’t get up early for much, but the bakeries we visited made the early alarm worth it.

photogrpahy by Joann Pai

First up was a trip to Panifi cio Bonci in the Prati neighborhood for its famed pizza bianca. Gabriele Bonci, owner and master baker, is one of Italy’s most important baking figures, and he’s essentially re-engineered Roman pizza, from the grain up. At first sight, you might think this flatbread is focaccia, but it’s not. I learned that pizza bianca isn’t enriched and doesn’t have a second rise. You can enjoy it on its own as an incredible piece of bread or have it split and stuffed with mortadella before getting a generous douse of olive oil. Bonci has plenty of other sweet and savory items that will tempt you, including its supplì, the Roman version of arancini, a cheesy fried rice ball, and, of course, maritozzo. But that will have to wait.

roman breakfast
photogrpahy by Joann Pai

With pizza on my mind, we continued to Antico Forno Roscioli near the Campo de’ Fiori, where I queued with Romans headed to school and work for a savory slice of pizza rossa. While this bustling bakery was founded in 1972, the building itself was established as a bakery in 1824. Today, it’s a hot spot for this traditional breakfast pizza, among other things. An extra-virgin olive oil-enriched tomato sauce tops the raw dough of the rossa before being baked. There’s no cheese. No toppings. Just sauce and the crispiest crust I’ve ever eaten.

roman breakfast
photogrpahy by Joann Pai

Extremely happy from my two pizza adventures, I took in the incredible history around me as we walked past the Foro Romano (Roman Forum) and Colosseo (Colosseum). By the time I reached Pasticceria Regoli, I was practically giddy thinking about tasting my first maritozzo. But before I tell you about that experience, let me tell you about Regoli, which has been a family business for more than 100 years. The Regolis originally hailed from Tuscany, where they were charcoal makers. Today, the bakery cases are full of delightful items, from cannoli to some of the most beautiful cakes I saw in Italy. They even have a coffee shop next door, where I immediately spotted the pass-through window where pastries are delivered to guests standing at the counter for coffee. My kind of place!

But now, for my first taste of maritozzo . . . This old-school Roman brioche-style bun is split and loaded with whipped cream. I mean loaded. After my first bite, I can declare it my favorite breakfast. Ever. There’s no denying a soft bun filled with cream. It was truly transformational.

photogrpahy by Joann Pai

Don’t worry! There was still another breakfast pastry to try: the cornetto. I stopped in the relatively new Casa Manfredi, where all the pastries are made in-house, including this Italian staple. The cornetto, named for its shape featuring two “horns,” is made from Italian brioche laminated with layers of butter, which gives it a denser texture when compared to its French cousin, the croissant. Casa Manfredi has plenty of café tables out front where you can laze about and plan your next stop.

After a full morning—literally—we needed coffee. Katie and I popped into Faro Caff è, the first independent specialty coffee shop in Rome, where you’ll find more
than espresso and cappuccino. Here, at a funky coffee shop that breaks all the proverbial rules, I learned that there’s basic coffee etiquette visitors should follow.
Cappuccino shouldn’t be taken after lunch, only espresso, and espresso should be taken in one sip. Caffeinated and energized, I was ready for my next discovery. That’s the incredible thing about Rome: surprise, beauty, and history is around every corner.

Visiting Roma? Book a walking food tour with Katie, and she will work with you to customize an itinerary. Connect with her at or on Instagram (@katieparla).

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