Monday, 14 April 2014

Pizza, Pizza!

When we first moved to Rome a colleague of mine who was leaving said you know they cannot even make decent pizza here. I was very surprised by this blanket statement. Did the Italian not invent the pizza? Did they loose the recipe somewhere? How could this be, how could Italians not make something that is quintessentially associated with Italy. But this was not the end of it, I quickly discovered other colleagues who did not like the Italian food served in Italy.

Now that was quite the surprised, one colleague upon arriving a few months after me with her 2 kids, well let's say adult teenagers declared that Italy had the worst Lasagna in the world. Now in this case she had ordered lasagna in a well known restaurant where I had been myself several times.  So I asked in a state of bewilderment what did she mean, what happened I said to her. She proceeded to explain that in Canada they had a tradition of having dinner at 5pm promptly. Oh, I said, knowing that in Italy at that hour of the day most people are at work or having an aperitivo usually a glass of Prosecco, dinner is later usually around 8pm or 9pm.

She then went on to described her lasagna experience. She explained that the dish had veal instead of beef and not much of it, it was more like a creamy cheese tomato sauce not at all like hers which even if you shake the plate would stand tall and firm like a tower that you cut with a knife. I see I said, there was nothing else on the menu she recognized so foreign these Italian dishes were from what we have in Canada. She was convinced that in Italy all they had on the menu was pasta dishes and nothing else.  She was taken aback by the offer of beef, veal and lamb and then the various fish and seafood dishes. Italian cuisine is varied to say the least and depends a lot on the region for specialities.

So my colleague who so disliked Pizza in Italy did so because it was not loaded with ingredients and meat like in Canada. Pizza was historically speaking a food for the poor, invented in Campania to feed those who could not afford anything else, essentially a flat hot piece of bread with one topping, usually a bit of tomato sauce or a bit of green and mushrooms. Just enough to satisfy the appetite and sold on street corners for pennies.

Pizza with truffles and figs with ricotta cheese.

Pizza in Italy is sold in many different ways from small family owned shops. It may come in a big square pan with different toppings known as Pizza al Taglio meaning it is cut in square pieces and you buy a square the size of your hand or more with the toppings you want. It is also made in a pan a meter long and sold by weight Pizza alla pala. You may also find it in circular dishes and sold in triangle wedge Pizza Americana, but this is more rare. Or again in a Pizzeria your pizza is the size of a round dinner plate Pizza Tonda, always cooked in a wood burning oven this is a point of dogma and is followed carefully by Italians.

Pizza wedge with prosciutto 

Small Pizzette, one bite pizza

Other style of Pizza are Calzone, pizza Genovese, pizza foggiana,(Foggia, Puglia) pizza siciliana, pizza marchigiana (Marche region) and panzerotto (stuffed similar to a calzone). There is also the pizzette and pizzelle, (small dollar size pizza).

But there is more, in Rome a Pizza Napoletana is topped with tomato, mozzarella and fresh anchovies.
Order it in Naples and it comes without the mozzarella and is seasoned with oregano and garlic, it is also called Marinara even though it has nothing to do with the Mare (sea).
Not to forget that your pizza comes either Alta (high) typical of Naples or Bassa (thin or low crust) typical of Rome.

You cannot find any of this in Canada, so this is why my colleagues were so confused.


  1. That's what we noticed when we were in Rome too. Italian pizza is very different than Canadian/North American pizza! Good in its own way though. But we were happy to get back to "our" pizza, LOL!

    1. What about the lasagna?

    2. We didn't have any while we were in Italy. But we ate a lot of veal and loved how it was prepared! And I had the best Pasta Primavera I've ever had in my entire life in Cinque Terre. I still dream about it, LOL!

  2. Italian pizza is OK - I tried mine in the Porto Garibaldi area south of Venice, while vacationing on the Adriatic. Nevertheless, if you want a truly satisfying meal, forego the Italian concoctions, and try some Schweinhaxe (roasted pork hock) grilled to perfection with a decent portion of Bratkartoffeln and Sauerkraut done to perfection with just the right amount of cumin, all with at least a litre of Schwarzer Steiger (beer available in Saxony) that is served on Prager Strasse in Dresden Wednesday evenings. Hmmmmmmmm...

  3. Thank you for the recommendation, I am going to Dresden in June. Will look this address up.

  4. Laurent, Prager Strasse is a main board-walk just in front of the main train station. It has many shops and restaurants. The most famous beer that is available in Dresden comes from a town just outside of Dresden - Radeberg - the beer is of course the Radeberger. The brewery claims that the beer is the "Tafelgetraenk" or something that August the Strong (Elector of Saxony, aka. August II - King of Poland) used to drink (I kid you not - it's on every bottle or can). Dresden is wonderful - Prager Strasse is not it's best part by any means. Besides the Zwinger / Gemaeldegalerie and surroundings, you may wish to visit the Schloss Moritzburg just outside of Dresden, where August II used to hunt. You will notice that the Saxoners are really proud of August, there is even a golden statue of the man on a horse... Yvonne and I just love Dresden - it's our special city, where we met. You must also take the Shifffahrt along the Elbe to the Saechsischer Schweitz (Sachsen Switzerland) - a truly beautiful area south of the city definitely worth exploring - along the Czech border. You can also take a short train ride there and visit the Kurort Rathen, Koenigstein (used to be a WWII Stalag, also a very impressive fortress), Bad Schandau... And do not miss the first European Porzellan Museum and Factory in Meissen. Ahh - I wish I could go with you. BTW - the city has a bridge called the "Blaues Wunder" - do not see it, it's not one of the wonders of the city at all, whereas the other bridges

    1. Thank you for your recommendations, it is not our first visit to Dresden but a return one, the first in 14 years. Looking forward to it.

  5. Too bad North Americans don't appreciate that the ethnic foods they had been experiencing in the US and Canada were not much like what they'd find in the countries they supposedly came from. I think it's changed a lot in recent years. But, when I still lived in California, a colleague returned from a holiday in Spain and told me "they" (the Spanish) didn't even know what a tortilla was. They had the nerve to put it on the menu anyway. When I tried to explain that a Mexican tortilla was entirely different from a Spanish tortilla, she told me "'d think the Spanish would know how to make the right way! We finally ended going to McDonald's every day."

    Interestingly, we have exceptional pizza here in Fuengirola.

  6. This reminded me of the times I made pumpkin pie and M&C from scratch and no one liked it as they didn't taste like 'proper' foods poured out of tins or made from orange powder in Kraft cardboard boxes. People don't appreciate the 'good stuff' if they know no better.