The smell of freshly baked pizza dough wafted through the kitchen and hit me as soon as I opened the glass door. Tray upon tray of vibrantly topped rectangular slices were lined up behind hand–drawn signs, while the whistles of a soccer match drifted from the flat screen hiding behind the corner. Gluten intolerance, step aside — mama’s home.
Rione, Rittenhouse’s newest authentic pizza joint, is inspired by all things Italian and specifically, Roman. Black and white pictures of landmarks like the Colosseum line the walls, looking down on the clean wooden tables and minimalist seating that’s reminiscent of an alfresco pizzeria a Roma. Bottles of Pellegrino and Italian sodas bring a pop of color to the otherwise white space. Slices are served “al taglio,” which means by the cut, in the traditional way of serving pizza in Rome. Both the “flavors” of the pizza slices and the fried croquettes, or “fritti,” rotate based on what produce is in season, in honor of the Italian tradition of eating locally. All other ingredients are imported from the motherland itself.
The main star of Rione is the crust (I would eat it by itself if it was an option, tbh). Made with authentic Italian 00 flour, the fresh dough is allowed to rise and set for 72 hours before it’s topped and pan–baked. The result is an airy, thin focaccia bread–like crust that becomes golden brown when reheated and absorbs the flavors of its toppings like a sponge.
Rione boasts both traditional and slightly unusual pizza options, taking inspiration from both the usual pizza suspects and classic dishes like pasta alla carbonara, roasted potato and rosemary bake, and prosciutto e melone (ham and melon, don’t knock it ‘til you try it).
Determined to be as adventurous as my vegetarian self would allow, I started with a Pellegrino limonata soda (because the bottle is cute and why not indulge your inner Eurotrash) and slice of the tricolore pizza ($3.50), a tri–colored pairing of cherry tomatoes, fresh pesto, fresh fior di latte mozzarella (mozzarella made with cow’s milk), and extra virgin olive oil. After warming to golden–brown perfection in the oven, the toppings are perfectly roasted and melted on top of the crust, which is toasted on the outside while retaining the perfect chewiness on the inside. The olive oil and juice from the fresh tomatoes trickled into the nooks of the dough—and down my face. Fresh pizza is not for the faint of heart, or the proper.
I followed up the tricolore with our favorite kind of marg, a traditional margherita DOC. (an acronym used as a label for authentic, Italian important goods). The margherita—my favorite and probably the most quintessentially Italian option on the menu—is made with a thin layer of homemade tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. While the flavor combo is similar to the tricolore, the sauce brings an unexpected savoriness and punch with its fresh spices and herbs that perfectly supplement the cleanness of the crust.
After two slices of mozzarella goodness, my lactose intolerant–induced guilt kicked in and I went for the vegan marinara ($2.50), which is basically the gourmet version of my Italian grandma’s bread–and–sauce combo. Tomato fans and carb lovers beware—this simple pairing is unexpectedly delicious and full of flavor. It's perfect for a second (or third) slice or as a palate cleanser in between stronger flavors like the carbonara ($4) or the salsiccia e rapini ($3.75)
In addition to their pizza, Rione also makes fresh tiramisu in house. Every. Single. Day. The dessert is made with layers of espresso–soaked lady finger cookies, whipped mascarpone cheese, and (surprisingly) with sponge cake, which brings an unconventional fluffiness to the otherwise rich dish.
My only regret after four slices of pizza and dessert at three in the afternoon? Getting two slices of the same flavor.