The less informed about Italian pizzas think of them as just one type of pizza. Wrong. Just like America has New York-style pizza or Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, Italy also has different types of pizzas, or in the proper Italian plural noun form, pizze.
And it rightfully should have! After all, Italy was the place where one of the world’s most beloved dishes was invented.
Do you want to take your love your pizza beyond the usual Pizza Hut’s, Domino’s or frozen pizza in boxes? If so, you may want to know the classic varieties of Italian pizza to truly understand them.
1) Neapolitan pizza (pizza napoletana)
There’s a good chance that this is the pizza that most people consider the authentic Italian pizza. This type of pizza consists of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. If you want to take a bite of the original Neapolitan pizza, there’s no other alternative than flying to Naples.
The method of making traditional Neapolitan pizza is protected by the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) in Europe and UNESCO. These citations mean that Neapolitan-style pizzas must be made in a particular way.
The dough consists of wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water. Mix all the ingredients to form into a dough, and then knead it by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After that, the dough must be left to rise for 24 hours. After the rising process, the dough must be shaped by hand into a flat, round disk, about three millimeters (0.12 inches) thick. Top the dough with ingredients and bake it in a blisteringly hot 485 °C (905 °F) wood-fire oven for 60 to 90 seconds. The result is a dough with a soft and elastic center with a tall, fluffy crust, which the Italians call “cornicione.”
Ingredients for the genuine Neapolitan style pizza include the San Marzano tomatoes or Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio tomatoes, and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (made from buffalo’s milk) or “Mozzarella STG” (made from cow’s milk).
2) Pizza marinara
Pizza marinara or pizza alla marinara is most likely the oldest tomato-topped pizza, with several sources claiming that it was introduced during the early 18th century. It consists of tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. Pizza marinara is a good choice for the lactose-intolerant who still crave a slice of pizza.
Despite the name, pizza marinara has little to do with the marinara sauce, although they have the same place of origin.
3) Margherita pizza or Margherita (pizza Margherita)
Probably the most famous of all (according to many pizza lovers, anyway), Margherita pizza is a variant of the Neapolitan pizza. In addition to the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, this type of pizza has fresh basil leaves, salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
It is named either in honor of Margherita de Savoy, a 19th-century queen of Italy, or the original way the toppings were arranged to look like a margherita, Italian for “daisy.” For many people, Margherita can be seen as a mark of a good pizzeria. So, if you want to find out whether or not a pizzeria makes a good pizza, order a Margherita.
4) Pizza romana
This type of Italian pizza originated in Rome, thus the name. The crust is round and rolled as thin as the center of the dough. The toppings consist of tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, oregano, and olive oil.
Pizza romana is typically cooked in an electric open, resulting in a dough that’s crispy that it tends to break, not bend, when you try to fold it.
5) Pizza alla pala
Pizza alla pala is named after a wooden paddle that’s used to take the pizza out of the oven when it’s cooked. Another pizza originating in Rome, pizza alla pala was conceived as a way to use up leftover bread dough. Bakers would stretch the dough, usually to a rectangular shape, top it with fresh ingredients, bake it, and then serve it by the slice on the wooden paddle.
Unlike Neapolitan pizza, pizza alla pala uses highly hydrated dough with around 80% water content. Thus, the dough is denser and takes a longer time to rise. But like pizza romana, pizza alla pala is cooked in an electric oven (around 580 °F). The result is dough that is crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
6) Pizza al taglio
Another pizza originating in Rome, pizza al taglio is popular, especially in pizza takeaway shops and sidewalk stalls. It is served by individual slices, thus the name that means in Italian, “pizza by the cut.”
Pizza al taglio is typically baked in a long, rectangular baking pan and baked in an electric oven. Then it is cut in square or rectangular slices and sold usually by weight, with prices marked per kilogram or 100 grams. This is ready-to-eat pizza, Italian-style.
7) Sicilian pizza (pizza Siciliana or sfincione)
As the name suggests, Sicilian pizza was originated on the island of Sicily. Traditional Sicilian pizza consists of a thick focaccia-like crust and is baked and served in a rectangular shape. The thick crust has a fluffy and sponge-like texture. Thus, its other name, “sfincione,” means “focaccia with toppings.”
Sicilian pizza can also be baked and served round, depending on where it’s purchased. Typical toppings include tomatoes, onions, anchovies, herbs, and cheese made of goat, sheep, or cow’s milk. Speaking of cheese, the traditional Sicilian pizza is topped with caciocavallo (stretched-curd cheese made of cow or sheep’s milk) or Toma (not a very common cow milk’s cheese in Italy, but it’s praised for its excellent melting qualities).
8) Pizza al padellino (or al tegamino)
Pizza al padellino is mostly associated with Turin but can be found throughout Italy and elsewhere. It is baked and served in a small and deep pan, somewhat similar to the Chicago deep-dish pizza. The word “padellino” means “pan” in Italian.
Pizza al padellino consists of a thick and soft crust and is baked in a wood-fired oven or electric oven. Toppings vary depending the availability or preference, from mozzarella to prosciutto.
9) Pizza quattro stagioni
Italians seem to love their “four seasons,” from Vivaldi to their cuisine! Each of the four types of toppings on the pizza quattro stagioni (literally, “four seasons pizza”) represents each of the four seasons of the year. It is topped with artichokes (representing spring), tomatoes or basil (summer), mushrooms (autumn), and olives or prosciutto (winter).
10) Pizza fritta
Pizza is typically baked, but have you heard of a fried pizza? Let’s go back to Naples once again, where this totally different type of pizza, pizza fritta, was invented.
Pizza fritta comes in various shapes and forms, from the usual round-shaped to crescent-shaped calzone (folded pizza).
Like many other famous culinary inventions, pizza fritta was born out of necessity. After World War II, prices of mozzarella and wood for the oven experienced a sharp increase. To continue to serve their staple dish, cooks in Naples decided to deep-fry the dough instead of baking it, filling it with whatever ingredients available. Pizza fritta remains one of Naples’ popular street foods.