We’ve all had a lot more time to watch TV over the last few months. In an expected turn of events, I did a deep-dive into some foodie shows, including Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. His Rome episode includes a stop at Pizzeria Ostiense, which is just a short walk from my house.
In the episode, Zimmern goes to the Mercato di Testaccio and Pizzeria Ostiense with Katie Parla, an Italian American food writer and cookbook author. She brought him to the pizzeria for one reason: their house-made fritti.
Once the lockdown restrictions were lifted, I decided I had to try them for myself. They are stellar, and I loved the pizza too, so Pizzeria Ostiense made its way onto my list of Roman restaurant recommendations.
Read on for all the delicious details!
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Pizzeria Ostiense in Rome
I called ahead to book us a table for our visit to Pizzeria Ostiense and was told that they don’t take reservations. When we arrived, I got nervous because there was a huge crowd outside. As we got closer to the door, I realized that it was all just people milling around out front waiting for takeaway pizzas. Phew!
We got a table for two right away. I immediately liked the lively atmosphere inside. The pizzaioli were doing their thing, cranking out fresh, hot pizzas and calling out names for pizza pickup.
The menu at Pizzeria Ostiense
Pizzeria Ostiense’s website clearly states that they pride themselves on using high-quality, fresh, local ingredients. For this reason, some items (especially the puntarelle and artichokes) aren’t available year-round.
The waiter brought a paper menu and a pen, and we wrote down what we wanted.
The pizza at Pizzeria Ostiense is typically Roman, meaning that it’s thin and crispy. They’ve got a big selection of pizzas both with and without sauce, as well as a calzone, and a special pizza del mese (pizza of the month).
In the Bizarre Foods episode, Zimmern tries a pizza/calzone hybrid with multiple toppings known as il polpo, or the octopus. It’s a non-traditional pizza, and Zimmern states that it’s off the menu. If you want to try it, you’ll have to ask to see if it’s available.
Il polpo is divided into sections: a cheese calzone topped with zucchini flowers and eggplant, puntarelle with their traditional anchovy, garlic, oil and vinegar dressing, buffalo mozzarella on tomato sauce, and then the Ostiense, which is cheese, mushrooms, peas and sausage. Keep in mind that puntarelle are available from winter into spring, so if you decide to ask for this pizza outside of that time period, they might be substituted with something else.
Fritti are standard appetizers at Roman pizzerias. They’re essentially various fried things – little balls of mozzarella (mozzarelline), breaded olives stuffed with meat (olive ascolane), salted cod (baccalà), zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca) and rice balls (supplì) are the typical fritti. If you want a sampling of different kinds of fritti, get a fritto misto.
Pasta and meat
There’s also a “trattoria” menu at Pizzeria Ostiense, which includes traditional Roman pastas and a few meat dishes like sausage and steak.
Every Thursday, you can get house-made gnocchi.
What to order at Pizzeria Ostiense
We primarily wanted to try the fritti. As Parla says on Bizarre Foods, most Roman pizzerias serve fritti that are frozen, but several of those at Pizzeria Ostiense are made in-house.
We decided to try three of the fritti that are house-made: supplì, fiore di zucca, and the filetto di baccalà. They also make their crocchette, which I have yet to try. I guess that means I just have to go back again!
We also got an order of olive ascolane, which are not house-made. They were fine, but I’d say to skip the fritti that aren’t made at Pizzeria Ostiense and load up on the ones that are.
There are variations of supplì, but the most common version of them is rice mixed with a meaty tomato sauce, wrapped around a core of mozzarella. The rice ball is then breaded and fried, which gives it a nice crunchy texture and melts the mozzarella inside.
I don’t often order supplì because they’re heavy, and I wanted to
eat as much as humanly possible taste the other fritti, so we split one between the two of us.
The supplì at Pizzeria Ostiense are great. They’re not oily, the rice is firm, and the outer crust had a very satisfying crunch.
Filetto di baccalà
Served with a wedge of lemon, the filetto di baccalà at Pizzeria Ostiense is excellent. Again, it wasn’t oily or soggy, and the thick fried batter was perfectly crunchy. The tender fish inside was salty and flaky.
My sweetheart somehow loves sushi but generally hates cooked fish, and this filetto di baccalà was a game-changer for him. He liked it so much that he ordered his own the next time we went back.
Fiore di zucca
I love, love, loooooved, the fiore di zucca at Pizzeria Ostiense. The delicate sweetness of the flower held its own against the creamy cheese, crispy batter, and salty anchovy. I could have eaten 10 of them.
I don’t get too adventurous when it comes to pizza, so I’ve only tried the Margherita and the Margherita con bufala. My sweetheart has tried a few with more toppings (sausage and mushroom) and has enjoyed both.
I preferred the standard Margherita to the Margherita con bufala, because the latter was very sparsely cheesed, and I am not about that life. That said, the tangy tomato and slightly burnt bits from the oven made both of the pizzas delicious.
Address, opening hours, and booking details
Via Ostiense 56 – open daily from 6:30pm – 1am
Phone number: +39 06 5730 5081 – be advised that Pizzeria Ostiense does not accept bookings. If you’re in a big group, it’s best to show up early.
Want more more food tips?
Want some Rome guides?
Here’s my self-guided walking tour of Rome, with a free map included.
Interested in something more non-traditional? Here’s my guide to Rome off the beaten path.