There are many potential reasons to celebrate the arrival of Emma Pizzeria in the center of Rome. It’s open every day. It’s spacious, so the chances of snagging an unreserved seat are high. It’s possible to dine outside in good weather. They’re open at lunch, when most pizzerias are shuttered. The quality of wine and deli products is excellent, as one can expect from a place with links to Roscioli. However, the product that’s central to their mission – thin crust Roman style pizza – is disastrously and consistently bad.
In five visits over the course of a year, whether lightly or heavily adorned, at both lunch and dinner services, the pizzas have been disappointing. Notably, shockingly soggy. Spongy wet dough that’s dripping wet beneath a blanket of wasted toppings. Does it really matter if the ingredients are superior when they all slide off?
It should by all accounts be delicious. The dough was developed by Pierluigi Roscioli, the celebrated baker behind the life-changing pizza al taglio down the street. He demonstrates, in the video at bottom, how a properly crispy Roman pizza should stand straight out, not flop wetly when raised aloft. I have never seen this happen at Emma, no matter how few toppings I order.
I had a theory that perhaps Emma might still be worth a visit if we completely ignored the pizza. We could treat it like a Roscioli sequel, sample greedily from the selection of salumi and cheese, add some tasty supplì and salads, and drink a lot of good wine. Doesn’t that sound great? Sadly, even this modest proposal is undermined by Emma’s atmosphere and service. The space feels airy at lunch but strangely like a cafeteria at night. The staff are often snarling and rude, except for the friendly server featured in the video at bottom. I once watched a waiter taunt a Japanese tourist to the point of tears for leaving a soggy uneaten pizza on her plate. Girlfriend had the right idea. Unfortunately, the staff at Emma seem to consider her, and perhaps all of the foreigners who’ve arrived on a wave of positive press, to be super lucky to be here.
I’ve heard it argued that Emma is good if you go at night because the pizza ovens are hotter… if you only go with Romans… if you only order certain things. I wanted to believe and returned four times too many – satisfying all of these preposterous conditions – in order to see if my initial impression was wrong. Emma is simply bad, and it’s diminishing the name and reputation of the Roscioli family whose bakery and restaurant I dearly love.
Emma in pictures
Photos by Meg Zimbeck © Rome by Mouth
What people are saying
- Eater (2018) Katie Parla removed Emma from this update of her 38 Essential Rome Restaurants, but Emma is included in Eater’s list of 20 Best Pizzas in Rome by Giancarlo Buonomo, who says “Emma serves what might be the best Roman-style pie in the city. Still cracker-thin, the crust has a much more developed flavor than most: It’s a distinct component, rather than a mere vehicle for toppings.”
- “Roma nel Piatto” by La Pecora Nera gives them a score of 5 out of 5 points in 2018.
- Katie Parla (2014) tells us that the thin crust Roman-style pizza crust has been engineered by fourth generation baker Pierluigi Roscioli and that toppings are sourced from the deli counter at Salumeria Roscioli. However, “not everything at Emma is perfect,” she warns. “On three out of four visits, starters arrived after an excruciatingly long time or during the pizza course.”
- Puntarella Rossa (2014) call Emma, after it’s been open only a few days, the “new temple of Roman pizza.” They praise the wine list, in particular Emma’s selection of bubbles, and suggest a daytime visit to enjoy the skylight .
Emma in video
This segment about Emma from Vice’s “The Pizza Show” shows Pierluigi Roscioli demonstrating what the texture of Roman style pizza should be.
Skip Emma & go instead to these Roscioli outposts