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Not All Pizza Is Created Equal
“Pizza is just pizza though” I hear you say! A circle of dough with some tomato and cheese on top and it’s cooked in an oven and you eat it, right? Not quite!
To Italians, pizza is serious business, and just like the numerous varieties of bread buns (or baps, barms, stotties, rolls etc.), there are in fact seven types of pizza you can find in Italy, some more common than others.
Napoletana – The most famous.
Created in Napoli, as the name suggests, Pizza Napoletana is the only type of pizza to have Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status. As such it must be made to a strict set of rules laid out by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). First, the dough must be made from ‘Doppio Zero’ Flour, Water, Yeast & Salt. No other ingredients are permitted in the dough.
It must be stretched by hand. Then it has to be cooked in a wood-fired oven for no longer than 90 seconds at a temperature of around 485°C. Toppings may vary but for a Pizza Margherita DOP it must be made with San Marzano tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella or Fior di Latte from Campagna and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
The finished result is a very soft pizza with a fluffy rim or ‘coricione’. In the UK many people find Pizza Napoletana a little too soggy as it tends to flop in the middle, although it is still very enjoyable when made properly.
Also sometimes referred to as Pizza Tonda Romana.
Unlike Pizza Romana, there are no strict rules here which is why we prefer to make this style of pizza at Punto Italian Kitchen. We will use doppio zero flour, water, natural yeast and salt but we also add a little olive oil to the mix. Pizza Romana tends to be far more crispy and less ‘soggy’ than the Napoletana variety.
The dough is cooked at a lower temperature, 385°C – 415°C, which means we also make the dough with a little more water so it doesn’t dry out too much in the oven, the bake normally takes longer too, so the end result is more crispy; the crust should still be fluffy though.
When it comes to toppings they extend further towards the edge of the pizza leaving a thinner ‘cornicone’ and with a lack of defined rules, this means you can get really creative with styles, toppings, dough mixes and proving times. After all, while traditions are important, we are here to be a modern Italian kitchen.
Pizza al Taglio
Another favourite from the capital city is Pizza al Taglio, literally meaning ‘by the cut’. You will find these all over Rome as typical ‘street food’. Baked in large rectangular trays it is cut into long strips, frequently with scissors, before being folded over and wrapped to eat straight away.
Pizza al Taglio is something of an obsession of mine when I return to Italy as it brings back childhood memories of visiting the local pizzeria bar and seeing all of the different styles lined up along the counter. I can’t walk past a pizzeria without having a little peek at what’s on offer.
Pizza alla Pala
Pizza on the peel, normally found in bakeries (although sometimes created by dedicated pizzerie) was a way of bakers using up excess dough. Similar to Pizza Romana and al Tagio the base is a very highly hydrated dough (70-80%) that is normally cooked in an electric bread oven on its paddle.
Due to the high water content the dough is particularly hard to handle, thus the reason for cooking it on the peel.
It is thought that Pizza alla Pala was the precursor to ‘pan pizza’ due.
A sub style of this pizza is something of a cross between Pizza alla Pala and Pizza al Taglio called Pizza al Metro or ‘By the Metre’, again frequently found in bakeries, it’s a long pizza with rounded edges baked on huge peels measuring sometimes over 2 metres. The price is charged by the metre or half-metre and cut into slices, which can be folded over and eaten immediately or boxed up for later.
One of the more interesting types from Naples is Pizza Fritta, fried pizza. While fried dough existed to some extent before the Second World War it was normally in the form of Crespelle. Pizze Fritte on the other hand really emerged after the war when ingredients were scarce, wood was expensive and ovens had been destroyed.
Resembling a Cornish pasty, filled with various ingredients from anchovies and broccoli or less favourable parts of vegetables they made a really cheap and easy meal during hard times. Now of course you can get far more refined varieties purpose-made.
Usually found in the north of Italy around Torino (Turin), Pizza Padellino is made, once again, with a highly hydrated dough that requires the use of a pan for effective baking. This gives the dough a slight brown colour all over and a much more fluffy, soft texture.
Sicillian pizza, baked in a rectangular pan similar to Pizza Padellino, although that’s where the similarity ends. What makes this pizza unique above all others is the use of grated hard cheese and breadcrumbs on top.
The depth of the pizza resembles focaccia more than pizza but the depth of flavour and texture in the toppings is incredible.
While these are the main types of pizza you will find subtle regional variation all over Italy, this may be in the type of dough used, the type of flour, hydration, yeast or even just the variety of toppings used.
Zeno Meynell-Rea – Operations Director – Punto Italian Kitchen, Heaton
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Punto is a modern Italian kitchen specialising in authentic, high-quality, delicious sourdough pizza and fresh pasta, made in-house with expertly sourced ingredients by our team of chefs, pastai and pizzaioli. It is fast becoming considered one of the best restaurants in Newcastle for Pizza, Pasta and Sunday Lunch.