Pizza, undoubtedly one of the world’s most beloved dishes, comes in various forms and flavours across the globe. Two of the most prominent and distinct styles are Italian pizza and American pizza. While they both share the same basic ingredients – flour, sauce, cheese, and toppings – they are remarkably different in terms of preparation, and flavour.
Gulf News Food spoke to two UAE-based chefs to find out how you can tell the difference between an Italian pizza and an American version.
Italian pizza is all about using simple ingredients and creating a light texture, says Italian Chef Fabio Tramontano, the head chef at the Italian Venus Beach Club and Ristorante at Caesars Palace Dubai.
Italy has a wide variety of pizzas, but the two main types are Romano and Neapolitan. Fabio has a personal preference for Neapolitan since he hails from Naples.
“Neapolitan pizza has a slightly thick, soft, and soggy edge, while Romano pizza has a thin and crispy edge.
“Italian pizza typically consists of simple ingredients such as tomato, basil, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, and olive oil. Adding extra ingredients to the tomato sauce takes away from the authenticity of Italian pizza,” he explained.
Meanwhile, American pizzas usually have thicker crusts, generous toppings, including meat, vegetables, and a variety of cheeses, and come in larger sizes, according to Chef Francis Villaluna who works at Pizza Express.
He explained that American pizzas were a variation of Italian pizzas and over time developed various styles and variations. While Neapolitan-style pizza is well-liked in the US, other types like New York, Chicago, and California-style pizzas have also gained popularity.
Key differences unveiled
If one were to compare Italian and American pizza, there are several key distinctions to take into account.
1. The Crust
Italian pizza: The foundation of an Italian pizza is its thin and crispy crust. The dough is typically made with just four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. It’s mixed, kneaded, and left to rise slowly, resulting in a light, airy, and thin crust that is cooked at high temperatures in a wood-fired oven.
American Pizza: In contrast, American pizza often boasts a thicker and softer crust. While there are variations, the American pizza dough typically includes additional ingredients like sugar and oil, giving the crust a softer, bread-like texture. It’s often cooked in electric or gas ovens, producing a chewier and more substantial base.
Italian pizza: The sauce on an Italian pizza is simple and uncomplicated. It’s usually made from San Marzano tomatoes, salt, and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil. The goal is to let the natural sweetness of the tomatoes shine through, providing a light and fresh flavour.
American Pizza: American pizza often features a richer and more heavily seasoned tomato sauce. Ingredients such as herbs, garlic, and sugar are frequently added to create a tangy, robust flavour profile that complements the cheese and toppings.
Italian pizza: Mozzarella di Bufala is the cheese of choice for traditional Italian pizza. It’s a fresh, creamy buffalo milk cheese that melts beautifully and adds a distinct creaminess to the pizza. Authentic Italian pizza tends to use less cheese overall, allowing the other ingredients to shine.
American Pizza: The most common cheese used in American pizza is part-skim mozzarella. American pizzerias tend to be more generous with the cheese, resulting in a gooey and satisfying experience. Some American pizzas even incorporate other types of cheese like cheddar or provolone.
Italian pizza: Traditional Italian pizza toppings are often minimal and locally sourced. Margherita, for example, features just tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. Italian pizzas prioritise the quality of each ingredient over quantity.
American Pizza: American pizza is known for its creativity with toppings. Popular choices include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and even pineapple. The American approach embraces variety and abundance when it comes to toppings.
When it comes to making Italian pizza, cooking it on a wood fire is the recommended method for the most flavourful result. One crucial step is the proving of the dough, which should be done at least 48 hours prior to making the pizza. Poorly proven dough can result in feelings of bloating and thirst after consuming the pizza. Additionally, according to Chef Fabio, black spots on the pizza are a good sign, and a well-fermented dough may result in a slightly burnt but still edible crust. On the other hand, American pizza can be prepared using various cooking methods, ranging from conventional ovens to conveyor belt ovens.
According to Fabio, a cultural norm in Italy is to avoid using a fork and knife when consuming pizza, as it is considered impolite. Additionally, it is not common to share pizza among individuals in Italy.
Both Italian pizza and American pizza have rightfully earned their places in the culinary world. They cater to different tastes, preferences, and cultural contexts. Italian pizza celebrates simplicity, while American pizza embraces variety and bold flavours. Regardless of which style you prefer, one thing is certain: pizza, in all its forms, remains a global favorite, bringing people together over a delicious slice of tradition or innovation.
If you’re keen on preparing delectable pizza in the comfort of your own home, we have two recipes for you that are tried and tested. We’re confident that you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.