Pizza ~ Pizza

Zucchini & Mushroom Pizza - Rome - Beyond the Pasta - Mark Leslie

Zucchini and Mushroom Pizza from Pizza alla Pala, Rome

Hmm, Rome had a Caesar, too ~

Pizza – so much for starting the year off on the healthy side, right? Hmm, well, it may not be as bad as you think.

If I were to ask you, “What is your favorite Italian food?” I have a feeling I could place a sure bet that you’d say, “Pizza!” And why shouldn’t you? Pizza is as popular here in the US as it is in its homeland of Italy thanks to the returning GIs from WWII.

There are two ways to get pizza in Italy – at least these are the two in my experience.

*The 1st: Pizza to go or take-away pizza. There are little pizzerias all over Italy where you can go in, choose a slice from one of the many being offered, grab a bottled drink from the beverage case, and head out. These pizzerias are usually shallow storefronts or long, shotgun-style shops where the pizze (that is the Italian plural for more than one pizza) are rectangular and placed side by side. Here you determine the size of the “slice” and, really, it is more of a “piece” (“pezzo”) than a “slice” (“fette”).

The person behind the counter will ask you “Prego?” (“How I can help?” or “What would you like?”) You’ll let him know your selection. He’ll place his cutting knife down on the pizza and ask you if this is the amount that you’d like. From there you tell him a little more or a little less, he’ll cut it, weigh it on a scale, and then place it in the oven to reheat. You can order as many “pieces” (“pezzi”) of the various pizze (pizzas) as you wish.  You are charged by weight and not by size.

You can either eat this pizza here inside at a counter or there might be a table or two, but most Italians take their pizza to go from this type of pizzeria.

*The 2nd: Pizza in a sit down pizzeria. This pizza is round, wood-fired oven cooked (more often than not) until the edges are almost charred and there is a slight taste of the smokey wood imbedded into the crust. The crust is thin and crisp; the toppings are simple and varied … from the classic Margherita (the first and most famous of all pizzas – created in Naples in honor of the Queen) with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, to prosciutto with an over-easy egg in the center, to my new personal favorite – tuna and arugula.

Usually people order an individual “pie” per person and it is not cut into slices. Your pizza is brought to you whole and you eat it with a knife and fork, cutting off individual bites. A somewhat more civilized way of negotiating what in America can be an enormous piece of folded dough, dripping with sauce and cheese heading toward your mouth – and down your front!

Now, getting back to the healthy side ~

Pizzas in Italy tend to have a lot less cheese on them then ours do here in America.  As with anything dough related in Italy, Italians enjoy tasting the crust, the pasta, the pastry dough of what they are eating. The sauce, toppings and seasonings are a condiment to the dough – and, as in the case of pizza, the crusts are always thin. Deep-dish pizza seems more akin to something Sicilian and focaccia-like rather than anything like a Chicago deep-dish pie.  Don’t get me wrong, I am from Chicago and I LOVE a big old thick slice of deep dish…but it’s definitely not Italian.

People may argue as to the health benefits of pizza in general, but the Italian version is certainly lighter than its American cousin. I think their concept of pizza once again highlights their concept of balanced tastes and moderation.

Here is a video I made inside a little take-away pizzeria in Rome. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing what I have been talking about.

Buon Appetito ~ and bring your family to the table!


**In Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family I write about an evening spent at a neighbors eating various pizzas made in their wood-fired oven. Those pizze included zucchini blossom w/anchovy and a dessert pizza with cinnamon. Buonissime!