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Italian Pizza: Its Not What You Think!

No matter where you are in the world, you can find pizza – in every shape and flavor.  Chances are, however, you’re not in Italy – and what you see elsewhere is usually quite different from the Pizza you’d find in Italy.

If you’re in Italy and you expect the same type of pizza you find in your home country you’ll likely be very disappointed.

So what’s the difference?

First, food found in Italy is in a world of its own.  The amount of effort and attention spent to perfect each and every step of the process is absolutely incredible.  For instance, if one were to pick the correct flour, someone from Naples might use 100% “00” flour, while, someone elsewhere might use a combination of all-purpose + semolina.

Not only that, the very best pizza all has the same characteristics.  Few ingredients, but of the highest possible quality.  For instance, the tomatoes might be a San Marzano variety.  But they aren’t just any tomatoes, ones grow in a very small area in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius near Naples.  I’m not kidding!

And then there’s the cheese.  No, I’m not talking about the shredded stuff from the bag, I’m talking about artesianal cheese such as Mozzarella di Buffala or Fior di latte – the types that only the very best pizzaiolo will use – and you can bet that they know the farmer very well, and possibly even the cow!

Second, the food in Italy is regional.  That means the pizza you get in one part of Italy will be different from what you get in another part- and that goes for pretty much any traditional Italian food!

There are (slight) differences between pizza found in different places within Italy.  Let’s dig in a see the differences!

Northern Italian Pizza

In Northern Italy the pizza is incredibly thin, almost paper-thin – making it light and crunchy.  There is practically no crust around the edges. The tomato sauce it is very similar but it can be made with tomatoes that are not San Marzano. The cheese is very similar. Toppings wise you can find a slightly more variety, but still not too many. Classic combination toppings are ham and mushrooms (prosciutto e fungi), mozzarella, parmesean, gorgonzola and caciocavallo (quattro formaggi). The pizza is a round individual serving and not cut as well.

Northern Italian Pizza
Northern Italian Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza

Naples is recognized as the birthplace of pizza and the pizza you find here is delicious. These are the main characteristics the cruise is thick around the edges, with some chard area from the wood burning oven. The tomato sauce is made of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, not cooked with just salt nothing else. The cheese is what people in Naples call “Fior di Latte” simple cow cheese fresh mozzarella. That is it. The toppings are usually minimum or none. Very importantly they will never bring it to the table pre cut! This to avoid any liquid from the cheese to make the crust soggy.

Pizza Napoletana

Moreover, in Naples, there’s even an associatation to ensure quality!

Its called the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” and they are an international group that controls every aspect of the Neapolitan pizza.  If you see this logo at a pizza restuarant anywhere in the world, you can be assured of a very high-quality pizza!

Roman Pizza

In Rome and other areas of central Italy, the traditional pizza is baked in a long oval shape, with a wide variety of topping and then cut to order in pieces and sold by the weight. The crust is thick, crunchy, chewy but firm. It is usually considered a lunch item and it can be eaten while walking. This kind is also known as Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice).

The nice thing about roman pizza is that you can order multiple varieties at one time – since you’re only buying it by the slice.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat pizza because I am not forced to order/eat an entire pizza (Italians don’t like to share) of a single variety.  One piece of tomato and cheese, and one piece of gorgonzola, thanks!!

Pizza Romana
Pizza Romana

Sicilian Style Pizza

In Sicily the typical style of pizza is cooked in huge pans in the oven, sliced in squares and sold by the slices. The crust is soft and spongy almost like focaccia. Toppings are usually vegetables or some sort of meat. Very common as a lunch item to be eaten while walking.

Sicilian style Pizza or Pizza al taglio
Italina Pizza al taglio

Today, young folks like to experiment with interesting combinations of pizza toppings like chopped hot dogs and French fries… I know it sounds weird but it is actually quite good.

Non Traditional Pizza
Non Traditional Pizza

If you ask for a pepperoni pizza in Italy you will be quite disappointed because you will get a pizza with chunks of bell peppers (pepperoni in Italian means bell peppers), if you want the spicy sausage the closes you can get is a Pizza Diavola. another thing you won’t find in an Italian pizza restaurants are the warm and chilly shakers. That is not a thing in Italy, if you want to make it spicier you can ask for chilly oil.

And the one last thing you never ask for is pineapple on pizza.  It just doesn’t exist in Italy – so save yourself, and don’t ask!

I hope these tips will help you having a wonderful pizza experience in Italy enjoy!

P.S. Italians eat pizza with beer it is considered weird in Italy to order wine with pizza…. just a suggestion.


Photos by Pexels

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