Funny thing pizza is in the South. Chances are you know a pizza snob from up north who, when you mention to them that you ate and liked a pizza recently, they look at you like you are from another planet.
Scrunched nose, raised eyebrow. You know the look. Something along the lines of "Yeah, I took my muddah there last Sunday, you know, and it was OK."
Truth is, they don't have the heart to tell you they hated it. Either that or they've been in the South long enough to know they shouldn't beat you over the head with their opinions of things in the South. I've seen it all in my time here. Of course, Vinnie Van Go Go's is the gold standard in Savannah by which all things are measured when it comes to pizza.
Some people turn their nose up at that. Some people wouldn't dare venture downtown long enough to try it. For the record, I love Vinnie's. When they are busy, they can be a bit inconsistent with undercooked pizzas, but overall, it is good. There are other New York-style pizza spots all over town. Some are good. Some a little better than good.
If you travel over the bridge to the Lowcountry, you are likely to find a few more very good pizza spots, if for no other reason there are a larger number of transplants in that area. (Can't forget the license plate I saw at the The Heritage a few years ago. It was a stylish Mercedes Benz. License plate? "Bada Bing.") Fuhgheddaboutit.
Imagine, then, my surprise when I hear a guy from Brooklyn and another from Jersey (not sure what exit) raving about a pizza they found here in town that they both love.
"It's the best pizza in Savannah, by far," they say. "It sure is."
"Really?" I ask.
"Everybody around here likes to talk about New Yawk dis and New Yawk dat. But this really is the best pizza in town."
"Where is this slice of heaven you speak of?"
"Georgia?" I ask.
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"Yes, Bloomingdale! Right out there on Highway 80 in a little tiny shopping strip."
"It's called Roma. The guy moved down here from Jersey and is making the best pies around."
Naturally, I'm intrigued. Bloomingdale is 15 short minutes on I-16 from downtown Savannah, so I am going to research this spot and enjoy doing so.
But I deliberately waited, because I was in New York City last week. Of course, I enjoyed some of New York's finest Pizza at Patsy's. I waited because I wanted to compare this latest greatest Brooklyn/Jersey-endorsed pizza immediately following some of the best I ever had. The comparisons were two days apart. Saturday afternoon, I was enjoying pizza in East Harlem, and Monday afternoon, I was sitting in a little shopping strip in Bloomingdale.
Pie? Oh my! Roma Pizza in Bloomingdale is a find.
Nothing special about the space. Just a few tables, a giant TV tuned to Shepard Smith and a kitchen. The pizzas made for re-heated slices looked like they'd seen better days, but we ordered fresh. Pepperoni, sausage and mushroom. Extra-large pie and two drinks came in at less than $20.
A few minutes later, the pizza rolls out and immediately looks like it belongs in the big leagues. The crust? Perfect. The cheese and toppings? Same thing.
The pizza was a little thin in the middle. Too thin, in fact, to stand up to a couple of toppings. We pulled slices off the pan and had to immediately move the plate to avoid toppings and cheese all over the place.
Yes, it was piping hot, and yes, that will happen until it cools off, but the middle of the pizza was too thin. It was my only complaint, and judging by other pizzas I've seen from Roma, it was just mine. The crust was the best I've had in Savannah. I had been told that Roma shipped water in from up north to give its crust the unique flavor. Not true.
Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right. The sauce had just the right amount of sweet. The toppings were the real deal. For the record, not all slices of pepperoni are created equally.
"We get our cheese from Wisconsin and a lot of our products from up north," says Anthony Acosta, owner of Roma's and a former pie guy at Screamin' Mimi's until he opened up Roma about 3 Â½ years ago.
He's seen steady growth and is expanding his menu.
"Pooler is becoming oversaturated," he says. "We wanted something we could slow grow here. The people of Bloomingdale have supported us. We also get people who find out about us from Pooler and even Savannah.
"Now they are regulars, as well."
Someone is doing something right, wouldn't you say? Fuhgheddaboutit.
Do yourself a favor: Next time your travels take you to west Chatham County, drive the extra five minutes to Roma. Even some of the self-proclaimed pizza snobs are sold on this place. Definitely worth a try. Closed on Sundays, but any other day and You'll Eat It and Like It.
See you on TV!