Few things are so simultaneously unifying and divisive as pizza. Don’t believe us? Well, we urge you to find two Italians from different Italian cities.
Chances are they will agree that pizza is the food of the gods, but could almost come to blows over what the best style is.
Far from just being dough, tomato sauce and cheese, pizza in Italy is actually hugely varied. Each region has its own unique way of serving it, all arguing that theirs is the best.
Here’s a crash course in the main types of pizza and the places they come from. Of course, there are thousands of different styles – these are just the big-hitters that you need to know about…
There is much debate around where pizza originally came from, but the overriding consensus seems to be Naples.
Neapolitan pizza is the type that’s most reproduced around the world – the base is thin in the middle and thicker around the outside, making for a particularly tasty and chewy crust.
The most classic type is the margherita – a tomato sauce with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and sometimes other things like mozzarella and basil are added.
Even though everyone tries to make it, no one else can truly achieve Neapolitan pizza. The European Union recognises it as Guaranteed Traditional Speciality – meaning that it’s only truly Neapolitan if it uses the specific ingredients from the area.
Just in case you weren’t already convinced what a big deal it is, making a Neapolitan pizza is recognised on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Romans would shudder at all this chat about the delicacy from Naples, arguing that pizza Romana is really where it’s at.
The main difference between the two is the base. Romans stretch out their dough a lot more, making for a bigger and crispier pizza – none of that chewy crust business here.
You’ll also find a lot more experimentation with toppings, as Romans are happy to load up their pizzas with a variety of seasonal ingredients. Just don’t ask for pineapple – that’s enough to get you chased out of Italy.
This is where things start to move a little further away from what you might think a traditional pizza looks like. Sicily is famous for sfincione – a type of deep-pan pizza that’s topped with tomatoes, onions, oregano, caciocavallo cheese and sometimes a scattering of anchovies.
Some argue that it’s more focaccia than pizza, as the base is actually made from a mix of pizza and bread dough and has a spongy texture. Something it definitely has going for it, though, is ease – it’s widely sold as street food, and the density means it’s far easier to eat on the go than a floppy slice of Neapolitan pie.
And while you might not have heard its name before, don’t underestimate the influence of sfincione. It inspired Chicago’s signature deep-pan pizza that’s in constant competition with New York’s style, which is closer to a Neapolitan or Romana.
Milan is a classy city, so it’s no surprise that its signature pizza is an elegant one. The panzerotto (plural panzerotti) is essentially a mini calzone.
It uses the same dough as a calzone and has the same turnover shape, but is more bite-size and tends to be fried instead of baked.
Standard panzerotti are filled with cheese and a tomato sauce, but just like any pizza it can be stuffed with whatever else your heart desires. Thanks to their portable size, they are a common street food in Milan and can be easily eaten on the go.
Turin’s favourite pizza al tegamino does what it says on the tin – it literally means “pizza in the pan”.
While many traditional pizzas are cooked in an oven or on a pizza stone, this one is baked in a baking pan (which is well oiled so the dough doesn’t stick).
It’s a bit smaller than a classic Neapolitan pizza, but the dough is much thicker and crispier, thanks to the heat of the pan.