In honor of Pizza Day, which falls on February 9, here’s a look at 11 different pizzas from Italy and beyond.
We’ll just go ahead and say it: pizza is the most beloved thing in the world. And please note, we’re not calling it a “thing” because we got lazy or we ran out of words, but simply because pizza transcends all categories. Not only are there many people who prefer pizza to pasta or a hamburger, but there are also those who’d rather have pizza than a skiing holiday or an afternoon at the spa.
Besides being one of our favorite things, pizza exists in many versions—there’s practically one for every place in the world—and although there are purists who can’t even stand to see photos of its more exotic variants, we don’t judge anyone by their taste, culinary or otherwise.
So, here’s a short compendium of pizzas to give you a little taste (pun intended) of the different types of pizza, from the most traditional to the most creatively reimagined, that you can find in various places, not only in the different regions of Italy but everywhere in the world—so it can be an inspiration to you for your next meal.
1. Neapolitan pizza
Her Majesty, the Queen Margherita—the original pizza, baked in a wood-burning oven, and just incredibly tasty. Its signature characteristic is the soft thin dough that blends perfectly with the fresh tomato and mozzarella topping, and which contrasts with the thickness of the very soft edge, the cornicione (don’t ever call it a “crust!). In some cases, this can be filled with ricotta cheese and pepper: a garden of delights for your taste buds. Neapolitan pizza is also the starting point for all the gourmet pizzas of the Italian culinary scene.
2. Fried pizza
The sister of the Neapolitan pizza—the less wealthy sister, to be precise. It was born at the end of the Second World War, when Naples had a shortage of even the most basic raw ingredients, such as tomatoes and mozzarella. Since it was fried in oil instead of cooked in a wood-fired oven, it could be sold on the street, allowing families to make some extra cash and their customers to have a filling meal at a low cost. The defining trait of fried pizza is the pocket that is created inside it while frying, which can be filled with anything. It’s excellent with Neapolitan salami, ricotta cheese and pepper, but also with chocolate and icing sugar.
3. Roman pinsa
Rome is another brilliant city for pizza, and this crunchy speciman has origins in ancient Rome. The dough is made with millet flour, barley, spelt, salt, aromatic herbs and sourdough. It’s not thick, it has a crunchy crust, it’s oval and slightly elongated in shape, and you can get it topped with the most varied ingredients.
4. Pizza al trancio
Of Milanese origin, “pizza in slices” is the typical treat for when Italians go out for “pizza and a movie.” It’s a thick and soft pizza covered with a thick layer of mozzarella and sold in slices that are usually very generous and filling, and it’s prepared in a baking pan in an electric oven. It became widespread together with the Milano da bere (“Milan in a glass”) party scene in booming 1980s Milan, which is why you can get it at many authentic and vintage places all around the city.
The name literally means “Andrea’s pizza”—meaning Andrea Doria, a prominent political figure in Genoa during the period of the Maritime Republics. This type of pizza is cooked in a pan, topped with tomatoes, olives, onions, Ligurian cheese similar to squacquerone and anchovies.
In Sicily, we find several different variants of traditional pizza, and the local specialties are quite far removed from the notion of “pizza” as usually understood. Out of all of them, we recommend the Palermo sfincione: a soft treat from leavened dough, baked in the oven and seasoned with breadcrumbs, onion, caciocavallo cheese and strattu (sun-dried tomato preserve).
7. Pizza al tegamino
Pizza al tegamino (or al padellino, literally “pan-fried pizza”) is a local specialty in Turin. Its defining feature is the double leavening and baking, which takes place in a small pan, preferably made of aluminum, that’s placed directly in the oven with a little oil to prevent it from sticking.
8. Molisan pizza and minestra
This typical dish from Molise is a combination of a soup made from field herbs—such as chicory and chard—and dark cabbage, and a pizza prepared with cornflour, water, salt and a few tablespoons of oil. Originally, it was cooked “under the bowl,” meaning it was covered by an iron container after being placed in the oven on top of vegetable leaves, and the container was in turn covered with embers from the fire.
9. New York pizza
It’s time to cross the ocean to check out a pizza that has a tradition of its own: it developed in New York towards the end of the 19th century, following the successive waves of migration that brought many Italians to land on Ellis Island. New York pizza is thin enough to be folded, but not too thin because it has to be able to support the tomato topping seasoned with garlic and oregano and grated mozzarella as you eat it while walking. It’s sold in generous triangular slices, and it’s the perfect food to fill your stomach on the way home after a crazy evening out in the Big Apple.
10. Hawaiian pizza
Few other dishes in the world can claim to be this controversial. Some people think it’s an abomination, while others are crazy about it. We can only wonder whether the Canadian cook Sam Panopoulos, who claims to have invented it, ever imagined that his pizza would end up being the object of so much controversy. In 1962 he decided to add pineapple in syrup and ham on top of a classic pizza Margherita at his Satellite restaurant in Chatham-Kent, Ontario.
11. Diet pizza
We started out by saying that pizza is one of the most popular things in the world. Well, there are people who love it so much that they can’t give it up even when they’re on a diet. Although traditional pizza is a very healthy food, there is also a kind of pizza with fewer calories, made from dough prepared with cauliflower, egg white and a pinch of rice flour.