It’s the last thing you’d expect to find tucked between two Peachland Promenade fast-food franchises.
After taking her first-ever bite of authentic Roman pizza, Port Charlotte’s Alicia Wilson cried, “Oh my God! Fantastic!”
Even before an official opening date, word was out that you could get pizza samples there like you’d never experienced before.
Step through the door of Taglio (pronounced TAH-lee-oh) Cucina & Pizzeria Romana, and you’ll be hit with an intoxicating waft of toasty aroma, as if you were teleported to a Roman street pizzeria.
This is a 59-seat, 1,800-square-foot slice of Roman pizza heaven — the first such restaurant to open between Sarasota and Naples.
Vitangelo “Vito” and Theresa Recchia, owners of Port Charlotte’s Bella Napoli and, now, Taglio, are pursuing the Roman spin on pizza that’s taking the nation by storm, driven by pizzaiolos in major cities, including Gabriele Bonci of Rome and Chicago, and Massimiliano Saieva in Miami.
One of the international pizzaiolo pantheon with whom Vito has apprenticed, Saieva launched Miami’s Pizzarium before becoming master instructor of his own Roman Pizza Academy, a school dedicated to turning out chefs trained to make Roman pizza the right way. Hundreds of his students are launching Roman pizzerias from Chicago to Arizona, North Carolina and, now, Port Charlotte, where he trained Taglio’s staff for four days.
Oddly enough, Americans in Rome sometimes shy away from eating pizza as the Romans do.
Some say it looks bubbly and burnt.
In fact, that puffed-up, crispy honeycomb of air bubbles is what makes Roman pizza so desirable that Chef Anthony Bourdain tracked it down to Rome’s bustling Pizzarium Bonci.
It’s also what puts Taglio’s pizza outside the local box.
Made through cold fermentation, or proofing dough for 96 hours (four days) in the fridge, Taglio uses Molino Polselli 00 artisanal flour, non-GMO, unbleached and unbromated, imported from Italy.
“After two days,” Vito explained, “the yeast has consumed all the sugars, broken down the gluten and released gas bubbles throughout the dough. It’s healthier because, the longer you proof it, the easier it is to digest.”
Each finished 2-pound, rectangular pizza slab is called pizza al taglio (literally, “pizza by the slice”). Cut with special scissors, it’s pliable yet airy, crispy on the outside, softly chewy inside.
At Taglio, double Moretti Forni stainless-steel ovens hold whole sheets of Roman pizza-by-the-slice, cooked for 10 minutes at 610 degrees.
A big, lipstick-red Moretti Forni is used for round personal pies flash-cooked at 700 degrees for under two minutes. This gives them the texture of thin Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, with crispy bubbles around the outside crust and no hint of doughiness.
“I call the entire menu ‘gourmet meets casual,’” said Theresa. “You can come in, sip a glass of wine and be served a gourmet meal in five to 10 minutes.”
First, you’ll read the overhead menu, walk a showcase line of 12 palate-dazzling pizzas al taglio, watch the open-kitchen action and have your meal made to order. A server delivers drinks and food.
Then you can linger all day, as in Rome, or just grab a quick bite.
The finished pizza, scissor-cut in 4-by-8-inch slices, uses the finest Italian ingredients.
The Amatriciana is topped with pomodoro, sautéed red onion, pecorino Romano, mozzarella and parsley. It features guanciale — a rarely found Italian cured meat taken from the pork jowl.
Campo de’ Fiori has hummus and mortadella topped off with stracciatella (that pulled, stretched cheese best known as the creamy deliciousness inside burrata) and pistachio.
But Taglio isn’t just about pizza. It’s a complete Roman dining experience.
Traditional Italian cuisine also means fresh pasta. Although they aren’t yet making their own, Taglio is working with a company that delivers melt-in-the-mouth spaghetti alla chitarra, rigatoni, lasagna sheets and pappardelle.
They’ll also serve fresh chop salads, Roman-bread panini and panzerotti (hand-held calzones), cured meats, aged cheeses, Italian wines and regional Italian craft beers — all also available for sale, as at any Italian deli market.
Theresa, a wine specialist and connoisseur, has curated a list by glass and bottle to complement all the flavors. The house selection is Sicilian Stemmari; bottles are native Roman varietals from Casale del Giglio.
Taglio could even become a hidden-secret dessert stop.
Classically trained Chef Carlos Claudio, formerly executive pastry chef at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and a full operating partner at Taglio, will prepare scratch-made desserts from Pizza Dolce to chocolate torte. After dinner, you might share one with an illy-brand imported espresso or one of Theresa’s sparkling or sweet wines.
Why open another pizza place a mile away from Bella Napoli?
The Recchias know that the area, especially Peachland Promenade, is growing and that the Taglio cuisine and experience are very different from Bella Napoli’s traditional Italian-American.
“The basic philosophy of authentic Italian food is simple,” said Theresa. “It’s more about having a few good, simple ingredients in balance than lots of cheese and sauce.”
“At Taglio,” concluded Vito, “we want people to experience something that they otherwise couldn’t without traveling to Europe.”