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Pizza has been a staple of Italian heritage and culture dating back to the 16th century. From there, it permeated the world, interpreted and served in a variety of ways and enjoyed by nearly everyone. But, what is genuine Italian pizza really like? What qualities make it the delicious and celebrated cuisine that we all know and love? Here’s what indulging in a delicious slice of pizza in Italy is truly like.
First of all, whether you’re sitting seaside in Sicily, admiring the Tuscan countryside or observing the twinkling lights of the Colosseum as night falls, you will find that Italian pizzas aren’t served as a slice, but most commonly as a whole pie. Although you may discover that each commune in Italy has their own personal tweaks and styles, you will likely be left to apportion the tasty morsel yourself. Often when people order a pizza, they’re expecting to share. However, in Italy, each person will get their own massive pie and trade pieces around the table.
One of the key misconceptions about Italian pizza is that it is served like a thick cake, deep-dish style. In fact, the crust is one of the most important components of the meal and is traditionally thin but has a fluffy consistency. Within the crust lies the characteristic flavor and exceptional texture found solely in Italian pizza. Cooks place a lot of importance on the amount of fresh yeast and type “00” flour required for concocting this perfect base. The crust is hand-stretched and cooked at extremely high temperatures in a wood-fired oven to achieve that impeccable finished quality.
The sauce is the next important factor and is usually made from peeled local Italian tomatoes, most often San Marzano, grown meticulously in rich Italian soil and blended with a variety of well-portioned herbs. Another oddity is that this sauce is not cooked alongside the other toppings but remains fresh and chilled atop the crust. In some versions, Italian pizza is served entirely without sauce, called bianca, and is instead lightly doused with olive oil.
The toppings may be one of the most surprising properties that sets authentic Italian pizza apart from its recreations and mimics. Instead of small slices of pepperoni or a sprinkling of shredded cheese, you’ll find large discs of prosciutto or slabs of gooey buffalo mozzarella. There is also an entire niche of toppings that are hard to come by anywhere else in the world, such as eggplant, artichokes, pumpkin, truffle, and salty capers. Lastly, pizzas are often topped with a delicate drizzle of olive oil to lend smooth uniformity and then a scattering of aromatic leafy basil.
When approaching your first experience trying truly bona fide Italian pizza, avoid thinking it will be the superior version of your favorite slice back home. True Italian pizza is a mouth-watering and robust entity all its own and is incomparable to any ideas or preconceptions of the meal you may have. Immerse yourself in the unique occurrence that is dining in Italy with one of their most special and honored creations.