Jan 19, 2010

Pizza Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of La Pizza segment. Last week we investigated the history, appreciation and basic rules of Italian pizza-making.

From the comments on Part 1, I noticed that many of you are regular pizzaioli. Did any of you attempt baking pizza with the easy recipe provided? Was it good? Different? Any questions? Comments? Was it a triumph, or a debacle?

Non-Italians are used to a different kind of pizza than the one we eat here. Different ingredients and thickness, quantity of topping on a single slice and the overall flavor of pizza outside Italian borders varies widely according to place. Just think of pan-baked Greek, or Chicago-style pizza; or the U.S. Pepperoni topping, which in Italy does not exist. In California I loved eating a Hawaiian barbecued chicken and pineapple pizza, but I don't consider that pizza per se.

But let's take a look at other kinds of pizza we enjoy here in the boot-shaped peninsula.

Besides the already examined Napoli-style pizza which once baked in a wood-fired brick oven should be crispy, tender and fragrant, Italy also boasts a street-food, portable version. In Rome as well as in many other parts of Italy, pizza is available in take-away shops which sell pizza rustica or what is more commonly known as pizza al taglio. This pizza is cooked in long, rectangular baking pans and relatively thick (1–2 cm). The crust is often a little charred on the bottom, and this may be because the pizza is often baked in an electric oven. It is available with a myriad of different toppings, portions are cut with scissors and sold by weight. I love eating pizza al taglio as I window shop. Producing long ribbony strands of molten mozzarella and delightfuly dribbling my chin with hot tomato sauce... ah, bliss.

Another interesting kind is Sicilian-style pizza, sfincione (or sfinciuni, in Sicilian dialect), which has its toppings baked directly into the crust. A particular variety that originated in Messina is focaccia alla messinese, typically made with delicious sauteed endive and anchovies.
In Rome, the term pizza bianca refers to a type of flat, pizza-like bread topped with olive oil and coarse salt. It is also a Roman custom to stuff this white pizza with mortadella, or prosciutto and figs, the result being known as pizza prosciutto e fichi. Read more about pizza bianca on this post.
Calzone ripieno is a turnover-style pizza filled with several ingredients, such as ricotta, salami and mozzarella, and folded over to form a crescent before being baked. In Italian, calzone literally means "large sock", while the word ripieno actually means "filling."

Thick vs Thin, the ancestral Napoli vs. Roma thickness discord

In Italy there are two schools of thought. The Neapolitan fluffy thick border around the medium crust pizza and the Roman ultra-thin, crispy recipe. Try feeding a native of Napoli a Roman-style pizza and vice versa, you’ll only see disgust painted on their faces. Some scholars repute Napoli’s pizza (owning the original patent) as the authentic, but in its interesting difference, the Roman lightweight counterpart is no disappointment. I personally love them both, being my Italian roots planted deeply in both cultures, I belong to each in equal measure. And I eat their pizzas with the same nonpartisan satisfaction.

Best-loved pizza recipes

Listing the constantly updated creative commons of pizza would need a separate publication. The popular Italian pizzas listed below are the ones commonly featured on any pizzeria menu.

Pizza bianca/focaccia

Plain dough base with rosemary, salt and olive oil, sometimes served with prosciutto. Usually spontaneously presented as an appetizer by busy restaurateurs before even taking your order.

Pizza marinara

Tomato sauce, oregano and garlic. Steadfast and reliable.

Pizza margherita

Tomato sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella. Named after and dedicated to Queen Margherita di Savoia on her first visit to the bay of Naples and whose colors reflected those of the newly founded Italian flag. Kids love.

Pizza al prosciutto

Tomato, mozzarella and once baked, topped with slices of prosciutto. Sometimes added with fresh arugula.

Pizza Romana/Napoletana* (or Napoli)

Tomato sauce, mozzarella and anchovies. Thirst-inducing and delightful. Endangered species.
* In Rome, when you order a pizza Napoletana you get one topped with tomato, sauce mozzarella and anchovies; in Naples it's the opposite: that same arrangement is called pizza Romana.

Pizza capricciosa ('capricious')

Tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes, ham, black olives and a soft cooked egg. For the capricious and undecided.

Pizza Quattro Stagioni ('four seasons')

Same ingredients found in the capricciosa, but divided in 4 sections, not mixed. No egg.

Pizza Quattro Formaggi ('four cheeses')

Tomato, mozzarella, stracchino, fontina, gorgonzola. Sometimes ricotta can be swapped for one of the last three.

Pizza ai Funghi e Salsicce (or boscaiola, which means 'lumberjack')

Mozzarella, mushrooms and sausages, can be with or without tomato sauce. A winter classic.

Pizza Mare e Monti ('surf and turf')

Mushrooms and shellfish on a tomato sauce base. A little too nouvelle vague for me.

Calzone fritto

Another famous specialty found primarily in Naples, this particular calzone is a disk of pizza dough filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, ricotta and Parmigiano, folded over into a crescent shape, which is then deep-fried. Whenever I engage in one of those, I then have to then check into hospital for liver cloning procedure.

Pizza alla Nutella

Plain focaccia dough, baked to a crisp and smeared with Nutella with profuse abandon. (For those who are not familiar with Nutella, I suggest you read this post). Whipped cream topping and side order of potent espresso are essential for completing this decadent dessert-pizza experience.

Pizza pairing

Even if beer continues to be the most popular and immediate match for pizza, aromatic and sapid whites like Pinot Grigio, Biancolella, a delicate rosé, or spumante bubbles are a dandy drink pairing to pizza Napoletana. For richer pizzas like Capricciosa or anything with mushrooms, Merlot or Piceno reds do justice.

I hope you enjoyed today's featured pizzas. The great thing about this complete meal is that it's fulfilling but not too filling. Care for more?

Then come back Friday for the final insallment of La Pizza, in which we will be taking one last walk together down the narrow alleyways of Napoli, the cradle of Italian pizza.


  1. this would all be grand but i still have 3 hours to go before i can eat. lol. there are quite a few on here i have never tried. i am behind the times. some of the best pizza i ever had was in New York...but then i have never been to italy.


  2. Pizza is my number one choice. Unfortunately, I can't just eat one slice. This is an encyclopedic post, Lola. Thanks.

  3. I will wait with a drooling mouth and ready taste buds.
    Here when we don't make it ourselves it can be delivered to the door. Convenient but greasy and with tasteless white cheese.

  4. Those pizzas are making my mouth water. They all look fabulous!

  5. Yes, I'm ready for more so will be back Friday. Thanks for dinner today -:)

  6. Wow! I want some pizza for dinner tonight! I'm tempted. :)

  7. OK, was that avacado on pizza? holy mother of pearl, I'm in! And that nutella one would be wonderful for my kids. I think I'll try it.

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful food.

  8. That is some variety of Pizza! Now I am hungry! Thanks for sharing to all what Real Italian Pizza, is all about :)

  9. Poor you! Did you have to EAT all those gorgeous pizzas as part of your research? Oh, I hope so! Pizza is in that category of thing (like bread in general) that we don't make it Italy because it is available in so many yummy forms. In Liguria we belong to the thin-crust school - frequently with anchovies, or rucolla, or... you name it!

  10. You've written a pizza encyclopedia! Kind of torture for me, being gluten and lactose intolerant. I know that pizzas for folks like me exist, but not in provincial little Molfetta! :-(

  11. The first time I ever encountered an egg in the middle of a pizza was in Normandy, then here in Brittany. I see you've mentioned it as being a normal thing with certain sorts of pizza. I've never seen it done in England though.

    These pizza posts are making me crave proper Italian pizza.

  12. I hardly ever eat Pizza, but did in Paris and Italy..oh they are delicious.. I, like many others, crave the REAL thing!!

  13. great post! I love pizza and I especially loved the pizza in Naples.

  14. It 11:36pm in Los Angeles and I want to pick up the phone and order a pizza. The problem is, of course, that anyone who I order from would be a disappointment after looking at your lovely post! They look delicious!

  15. I got a hell of a shock when I first moved here! How could the pizza dough be so thin, how could it hold the toppings? But somehow it does work. They have a say here 'you can tell how good a pizzeria is by their margherita.' Funnily enough, I found that most of the Italian people Ive met tend to always just have margherita. Me, on the other hand, being the seafood freak that I am, always go for a mare i monti, although it does need to be from an excellent pizzeria. Just make sure to try their margherita first lol

  16. Awesome post on pizza. Now, I'm hungry and have to go look for food to eat. *sigh* Nice to read your food blog.


  17. Brava Eleonora, great post, especially about la pizza al taglio. Mi hai fatto ricordare (a naso, almeno) di una piccola pizzeria in Via Garibaldi a Prato, vicino a piazza del Duomo. Cento lire per una fettona di pizza ai funghi, mai ritrovata o duplicata. Che odorino...

  18. Ciao Andrea! Che piacere rivederti da queste parti. Chissà se c'è ancora quella pizzeria. Una buona a Prato l'ho trovata a piazza Mercatale, King si chiama. Pizze leggere, ricche e saporite, e mai quella sensazione di attufamento afterwards.

    A presto!

  19. Eleonora, this post brought back fond memories of my Grandmother Carmella. She was from Puglia, and her pizzas were wonderful. Thick dough in a sheet pan topped with a delicious sauce and sliced mozzarella. A little basil and she was crazy about oregano. I made thick crust pizza with all kinds of different toppings when I was the executive chef at the Elkhorn Resort at Sun Valley, in Idaho. The place was called Palumbo's by the way and the pizza flew out the door. Sold by the slice people flocked to the place. Thanks for the memories.

    Paulo, Ha Ha!