Whenever friends or relatives go to Rome, I ask them to bring me some special sweets that are only found there in the former Jewish ghetto. To prove that they care for me, they have to stand in the long line in front of the bakery called Boccione for as long as it takes to secure a few portions of Pizza di Beridde, also called sweet Jewish Roman pizza, a traditional local treat.
Despite its name, pizza di beridde is not a pizza: it is still simply a type of cookie, similar to a dense and cakey shortbread, enriched with dried and candied fruit. The usage of the word pizza here might confuse you, but here’s an explanation for that mystery: there are several Italian dishes called pizza that are not pizza, because in medieval Latin pizza indicated all pie-shaped dishes, especially those prepared for Easter, not what Neapolitans later on called their world-famous Margherita.
Pizza de Beridde, in particular, is a sweet Jewish Roman specialty that families serve to their guests as a party favor bag (called kavodde in Judeo-Roman dialect) on the occasion of the circumcision of a male son, a brit in Hebrew, which turns into beridde in Judeo-Roman.
The bakery that sells these cookies is managed by four no-nonsense ladies who have carefully guarded the recipes of their fabulous, one-of-a-kind baked goods for generations: nobody knows for sure how these cookies are made, because the recipe is absolutely top secret!
After years of thorough investigations (read: hundreds of cookies eaten) and multiple failed attempts, I finally managed to prepare something fairly similar to Boccione’s pizza di beridde. Now that I can bake these cookies, I can finally allow people to go to Rome without having to schlep them back for me, and you can taste them too, even if you never set a single foot in Rome.
In this photo, you can see one of the ladies of Boccione guarding her cookies, next to which you can admire another one of the specialties the shop is known for, the roasted pumpkin seeds, called bruscolini, which are also on my to-do list for the future.
But let’s now focus on pizza de beridde. In this second photo, you can see the original Boccione cookies: as you will probably notice, they usually appear to be badly overcooked, with burnt bits and blisters all over the surface (look at those black raisins!). However, don’t let the appearances fool you and trust the magic: they are perfectly delicious just as they are.
With no recipe to start with, I just followed my intuition to make my sweet Jewish Roman pizza. The result of my efforts does not stand a chance against the original, especially for the looks, but in terms of flavor, I think we are close.
Pizza di Beridde or sweet Jewish-Roman pizza
- 70 g almond flour
- 220 g all-purpose flour
- 80 g sugar
- 100 g peanut or sunflower seed oil
- 50-70 g Marsala wine
- raisins, previously soaked in hot water
- toasted pine nuts
- toasted almonds
- cubes of candied citron
- cubes of candied cherries
- Preheat the oven to the highest temperature it can reach, 400°F or above.
- Stir together flours and sugar in a medium bowl.70 g almond flour, 220 g all-purpose flour, 80 g sugar
- Add the oil to the bowl. Some say it should be lukewarm, but I don't think this makes a noticeable difference. Knead by hand, gradually adjusting the consistency of the dough by adding the white wine. You want to obtain a dough that is moist but not too sticky.100 g peanut or sunflower seed oil, 50-70 g Marsala wine
- Add the dried and candied fruit until you feel the dough is sufficiently studded with goodies.raisins, previously soaked in hot water, toasted pine nuts, toasted almonds, cubes of candied citron, cubes of candied cherries
- Prepare a 9x13-inch disposable aluminum baking pan and press the dough inside it. Score the dough with a knife, dividing it into 8 rectangles.
- Bake the cookies until well baked both on the surface and the bottom, but still soft inside. To achieve a result visually more similar to the original, you can finish up the cookies with a minute under the broiler, but it's not strictly necessary.
Try the recipe and let me know what you think, particularly if you have tasted the original and can compare!