Italian Pizza 101: The Real Deal
Visitors to Italy are often surprised by the pizza served in Italy. Of course it’s delicious, but it also tends to be very different than slices served in North America.
No matter where you go in Italy, you will find pizza. It is always served with the best ingredients and made with a thinner crust. There are fewer ingredients than on American pizzas, and the dish tends to be lighter. For this reason, portion sizes are larger. It’s not unusual to see a child eat a whole pizza!
Overall, there are two main types of pizza: Roman style and Neapolitan style.
Roman pizza has paper-thin crust that crisps up in the oven. This style of pizza is usually covered from edge to edge in toppings. To create the unique texture of crust, chefs use olive oil, flour, water, yeast and salt to make the base of the pizza and then stretch the dough by hand. Experienced pizza makers can make the dough very, very thin without ripping the surface.
Roman-style pizzas also tend to be more diverse. While Neapolitan pizzas are strictly controlled, almost anyone can claim they make a Roman style pizza.
Neapolitan Style Pizza
Neapolitan pizza is serious business. In 2004, the Italian Ministry of Culture created a document for the European Commission outlining exactly what makes a Neapolitan pizza and in 2017, UNESCO conferred Intangible Heritage Status to the art of the Neapolitan pizza maker. You can’t just make a pizza in Italy and call it Neapolitan pizza. A Neapolitan pizza has to meet certain criteria.
This type of pizza was first made in Naples, reportedly in honor of Queen Margherita of Italy. Even today, Margherita pizza is the most famous and classic of Neapolitan pizzas. It contains tomatoes, soft white cheese and basil. The colors of the pizza are said to represent the colors of the Italian flag.
Neapolitan pizza is also different because of the crust. It is made with no oil, so it is prepared with only water, salt, flour and yeast. Baked in a wood-fired oven at a very high heat for only a few minutes, this crust is denser and chewier than Roman pizza. It is also thicker.
Since the crust is denser, a Neapolitan pizza tends to have fewer ingredients than a Roman pizza, since it is already heartier. You can expect just a few pinches of ingredients. The ingredients are set by the Italian Ministry of Culture, which recognizes only three types of Neapolitan pizza:
- Pizza Napoleatana Margherita, made with either Fior di Latte Appennino or specialità tradizionale garantita mozzarella and basil.
- Pizza Napoletana Marinara, made with garlic, tomato sauce, oregano and olive oil.
- Pizza Napoletana Margherita Extra, made with mozzarella di bufala di origine protetta and basil.
Most authentic Neapolitan pizza uses local, certified ingredients, including local flours. The Ministry of Culture even has rules about what steps to follow, how much of each ingredient can be added, how long each step should take, how hot the temperature of the oven should be and more. The ministry even bans the use of rolling pins and other mechanical presses for authentic Neapolitan pizza!
If you want a delicious Italian pizza with a more relaxed attitude toward the rules, reserve a table at Bricco, the Harrisburg Italian restaurant serving fine Italian food.
Category: Food Stories