One of the most popular take-out foods is pizza. We can thank Italy for creating the pie that more than 5 billion people enjoy throughout the world each year. Pizza is different in Italy, varies from region to region, and even eating it is different. But honestly, it’s just darn tasty. So when you travel to Italy, and the travel advisors at GetAway are ready to plan a fabulous trip for you, don’t skip the pizza. The pies you get in Italy are far better than the steamed crust varieties you get when you order delivery in the United States.
First, some pizza history
The first pizza likely didn’t have tomato on it because the fruit didn’t come to Italy until the Europeans brought it in about the mid-1500s. It was pieces of leftover dough either fried or baked with whatever ingredients were available. Pizza marinara was probably the first pizza more like the pizza Americans are used to, because it was fluffy dough prepared by the wives of fishermen who topped it with garlicky, oregano-seasoned tomato sauce. Truthfully, that early pizza was more like focaccia.
In the 18th century, street vendors in Naples would sell flatbread topped with garlic, salt, herbs, lard and cheese. It was a satisfying and convenient fill-up for low-paid workers. Pizza got the royal seal of approval in 1889 when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita arrived in Naples and wanted to taste “local” food. The queen was said to be quite impressed by a pizza that featured basil, mozzarella and tomatoes on top. It helped that the toppings were the colors of the Italian flag!
Let’s “pizza” our way through Italy
The biggest differences involve the dough and how the pie is cooked — baked in a wood-fired oven or an electronic oven. Toppings vary, but expect less than you get on a pizza in the US because the fabulous dough is the star and Italians expect their pizza to be light, not the gut-bomb pizzas with tons of toppings and a stuffed crust like some chains offer. And don’t expect to be able to get pineapple or chicken on a pizza.
Here are some regional differences. Naples is in the Capania region. Here, pizza napolitana is king. Think soft, thin crust with some nice airy bubbles and a thickish edge. It is baked in a wood-fired oven at a high heat.
Rome is in the Lazio region and here you’ll enjoy pizza romano. It’s a larger size, crunchy, thin pizza with almost no edge. It gets its crispy texture because it is rolled out with a rolling pin and baked in an electronic oven. Liguria is on the West coast and home to the city of Genoa. Pizza here is a soft, flatbread similar to focaccia. The pillowy golden, brown dough contains milk which gives it the softer texture.
Trendy Milan is in the Lombardy region. Of course the “pizza” here is different. The panzerotti was created here. They are sort of the Hot Pockets version of pizza. Filled with tomato sauce, cheese and sometimes meat, they are a cross between a deep fried turnover and an empanada.They are a great street food choice!
Sicily may be small in surface area, but it boasts three types of pizza! There’s pizza and pizza Siciliana which is two pieces of thick dough. The dough is airy, with a crunchy, crisp bottom and filling in between. The pizzolo is a round turnover creation stuffed with fillings and baked in a wood-fired oven.
Puglia, on Italy’s heel, has pizza pugliese. The thick dough rises slowly overnight in the refrigerator and it is full of flavor.
Vento is an area that specializes in gourmet or tasting pizza. You can get smaller slices with individual creative toppings.
What can you expect for toppings?
Expect fresh toppings and that brings us to how pizzas are served. If you order them in a restaurant, they come to your table uncut and you eat them with a knife and fork. Yes, a knife and fork. If the menu or the server says they come with tomatoes, they mean tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes squished onto the crust with fresh mozzarella. Both of those ingredients contain a lot of liquid and you’ll either be eating your pizza with utensils or, depending on the region and how soft the crust is, folding it in half or thirds. You may get sausage as a filling, but not usually on top of a pizza. The fast-baked crust in many regions isn’t conducive to toppings that require a lot of cooking.
So you may get onions, fresh anchovies, ham, prosciutto, potatoes, hard-boiled egg, broccoli, olives, mushrooms, olive oil, sea salt, herbs, artichokes, smoked cheese, gorgonzola, salami and goat cheese as a topping. Pizzas are served by type, you don’t order by topping and they are all one size.
You can go into a bakery or shop and order pizza al taglio, or cut to go, You’ll see four or five different types of pizza and you point to what you want and show the size of the piece with your hands. The piece is weighed and you are charged by the weight.
Some common types of pizza
Marinara is tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano and garlic and margherita is tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and olive oil. Frutti de Mare would be pizza with scampi, mussels or squid on tomato sauce with no cheese. Quattro stagioni is a four-sectioned pizza with artichokes on one part to signify spring, tomatoes on one section for summer, mushrooms for autumn and ham for winter. Pizza capricciosa has mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichokes and tomatoes. It could also have prosciutto, marinated artichoke hearts and egg. If you order diavola you’ll get a pie with tomato, mozzarella, oregano and spicy salami. You can order a vegetarian pizza or pizza Bianca which comes with no tomato sauce. Quattro formaggi is four cheese — mozzarella and something like gorgonzola, provola and fontina.
At GetAway Travel we are all about experiencing a country through the culture, the sights and, the food. Your travel advisor will help with a vacation experience that includes all of that, especially good eats! We can be reached at: (262) 538-2140, e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading our blog. We told you you would be hungry now! Please share with your friends and let them know you are ready to join them on a GetAway to Italy – Ciao
P.S. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers should not eat pizza – but this guy is too cute!