Pizza is one of the world’s most unifying foods. Originally from Italy, it seems like almost every country has its own version of the classic.
Although some play fast and loose with the concept of ‘pizza’ – for example, making a sushi version or adding tacos on top – the traditional, fail-safe recipe includes some form of dough, sauce and cheese. Within this remit, there’s huge amounts of scope for variation, and different regions can get seriously fired up over which type is best.
Far from just being dough, tomato sauce and cheese, pizza in Italy is actually hugely varied. Each region has its own unique way of serving it, all arguing that theirs is the best.
This International Pizza day, we’ve taken a look at some of the different types you can get from each region in Italy and around the world. Of course, there are thousands of different styles – these are just the big-hitters that you need to know about…
There is much debate around where pizza originally came from, but the overriding consensus seems to be Naples. And, pizzaiuolo – the Neapolitan art of making the pizza by twirling it in the air – is on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.
Neapolitan pizza is the type that’s most reproduced around the world – the base is thin in the middle and thicker around the outside, making for a particularly tasty and chewy crust. Even though everyone tries to make it, no one else can truly achieve Neapolitan pizza. The European Union recognises it as Guaranteed Traditional Speciality – meaning that it’s only truly Neapolitan if it uses the specific ingredients from the area.
The most classic type is the margherita – the recipe itself is simple. Hailing from Naples, it’s made of a basic dough with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. To be an authentically accredited Neapolitan pizza according to the True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), you must follow the specifications to a tee.
It’s a round pizza with a diameter of no more than 35cm, with a raised crust and soft centre.
Romans would shudder at all this chat about the delicacy from Naples, arguing that pizza Romana is really where it’s at.
There are technically two types of pizza originating from Rome – the first is pizza al taglio, which means pizza by the slice. This is a thick, focaccia-like base served by the slice as a street food snack.
The second – which you’ll find at basically any restaurant in the city – is the Roman take on the Neapolitan. Instead of a small pizza, the dough is stretched out into a much bigger and thinner, with an extra-crispy crust. Romans are said to be less strict about toppings and are happier to experiment than the Neapolitans.
The Neapolitan’s greatest Italian rival comes from Sicily, which has a completely different interpretation of pizza. Sicily is famous for sfincione – a type of deep-pan pizza that’s topped with tomatoes, onions, oregano, caciocavallo cheese and sometimes a scattering of anchovies. Making it instantly recognisable as Sicilian and not Neapolitan, it’s baked in a square or rectangular pan.
Some argue that it’s more focaccia than pizza, as the base is actually made from a mix of pizza and bread dough and has a spongy texture. Something it definitely has going for it, though, is ease – it’s widely sold as street food, and the density means it’s far easier to eat on the go than a floppy slice of Neapolitan pie.
And while you might not have heard its name before, don’t underestimate the influence of sfincione. It inspired Chicago’s signature deep-pan pizza that’s in constant competition with New York’s style, which is closer to a Neapolitan or Romana.
Milan is a classy city, so it’s no surprise that its signature pizza is an elegant one. The panzerotto (plural panzerotti) is essentially a mini calzone.
It uses the same dough as a calzone and has the same turnover shape, but is more bite-size and tends to be fried instead of baked.
Standard panzerotti are filled with cheese and a tomato sauce, but just like any pizza it can be stuffed with whatever else your heart desires. Thanks to their portable size, they are a common street food in Milan and can be easily eaten on the go.
Turin’s favourite pizza al tegamino does what it says on the tin – it literally means “pizza in the pan”.
While many traditional pizzas are cooked in an oven or on a pizza stone, this one is baked in a baking pan (which is well oiled so the dough doesn’t stick).
It’s a bit smaller than a classic Neapolitan pizza, but the dough is much thicker and crispier, thanks to the heat of the pan.
Chicago is home to the deep-dish pizza. A far cry from the thin Neapolitan, this pizza is baked in a pan which means the edge almost looks like a pie crust, and the middle is piled high with cheese, tomato sauce, and whatever else you want – in Chicago, sausage is preferred.
Deep-dish pizzas are closer to a pie than a flatbread, and have plenty of space for lots of cheese.
Like Naples vs Sicily, the pizza battle between Chicago and New York is fierce. In New York, the style is closer to a classic Neapolitan in its thinness. It doesn’t have quite the same crust – instead, it’s softer and thinner, meaning you can fold the pizza in half and eat it like a true New Yorker.
While the Neapolitan is on the small side and suitable for one person to eat as a meal, the New York version tends to be sold in massive single slices.
Detroit-style pizza takes a classic Sicilian dough and puts a Michigan spin on it. The dough is baked in a rectangular pan with plenty of cheese, sauce and perhaps pepperoni piled on top. The result is a spongy base with a crunch at the bottom, and rather than a discernible crust (like in the Chicago version, where the crust is up the sides), the edges are basically made up of blackened, crispy cheese.
The pizza is made in a different way too, with the cheese piled straight on top of the dough and the sauce following afterwards.
All of the pizzas so far on this list have been from specific locations, but a calzone is a completely different style of pizza. It’s originally from Naples, but has become so widespread everyone is putting their own spin on it. Essentially, it’s a pizza folded in half and baked with all the toppings you might expect inside.
Interpretations of the classic calzone are getting more experimental, with people stuffing theirs with macaroni and cheese or even making a chocolate-filled dessert version.