Curious why Italian pizza is believed to be the best in the world? Wondering if eating pizza in Italy is really all it’s cracked up to be? A look at Italian pizza vs American pizza with two dual American Italian citizens with nearly 100 years of combined pizza-eating experience in Italy and in America.
Our opinions are a little like pizza dough, meant to be tossed around a little. Comments (about Pizza) are welcome in the comment section at the end of the article. Keep ’em clean and polite or you will be excused from the table.
We are Paolo and Brandy. Together we have been traveling across Italy for over a decade. After becoming dual Italian-American citizens, we moved to Italy to live out our early retirement dreams. Now we travel to Italy’s most popular destinations and explore hidden gems full-time from our home base in the Italian Alps.
Italian pizza vs American pizza
We kick things off with 5 reasons Italian Pizza is the best in the world including the origin of Pizza in Italy. Then we go head to head with an overview of Pizza in Italy vs Pizza in America and why Neapolitan Pizza is so good. Finally, we sum things up with a short and sweet list of 11 Differences Between Italian Pizza and American Pizza.
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5 Reasons Why Pizza in Italy is the Best in the World
Why is Italian pizza the best in the world? Five reasons. The first is history because Italy is the birthplace of pizza. Secondly, Italians are sticklers for fresh, quality ingredients. Thirdly Italian pizza is ready fast! Fourth, Italian pizza is made by trained Piazziolo, and these guys are series. Finally, Italian pizza is certified and regulated.
Pizza Originated in Italy
Pizza is one of the most beloved symbols of Italy. It has a history that stretches back a thousand years. Even though yeast and bread can be attributed to Egypt, the Romans were the first to use bread in the shape of a disc to hold saucy dishes.
Around 1000 AD, the first documented words resembling Pizza began to surface in Italy. By 1535 Benedetto di Falco finally wrote the phrase “focaccia in Neapolitan is called pizza” in his Description of Ancient Places of Naples. Hence making Napoli the official birthplace of Pizza.
If you have the time and want an in-depth look at the history of Pizza, the video below is among the best we’ve seen in English.
Pizza in Italy is Made from Fresh Ingredients
Some of the best tomatoes in the world come from Italy. Likewise, some of the best mozzarella cheese in the world also comes from Italy. In short, Italy has access to the best pizza ingredients in the world in its freshest state.
Italian pizza might be made with Fior di latte (cow’s milk) or Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo milk) cheese, but either way, it’s fresh, full-fat, and full of moisture.
Both are light with a creamy flavor that pre-shredded cheese can only dream of.
Pizza in Italy is Cooked Fast
Pizza ovens in Italy are wood burning and reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter! The scorching temperatures enable Italian pizza to be cooked in under two minutes. Consequently, the type of cheese used in Italian pizza is critical. It must melt without burning under the scorching temperatures reached by Italian pizza ovens.
Pizzaiolo, the Secret Ingredient in Italian Pizzas
A Pizzaiolo is a chef who is trained, certified, and specializes in making Neapolitan pizza.
Consequently, a Pizzaiolo is a respected professional with deep technical knowledge of Italian pizza. There is even a registry for Pizzaiolo. What do pizza makers have to do to prove they are worthy of the title Pizzaiolo? A Pizzaiolo in Italy must start from the bottom and work his way up.
Typically a Pizzaiolo will train for one to two years as an oven operator first. Next, come the recommendation letters, and exams. Then they can apply for registration.
There are even advanced levels of Pizzaiolo including Instructor and Master Pizza Maker (Maestri Pizzaioli).
The Verace Neapolitan Pizza Association Certifies Pizza in Italy
Neapolitan pizza (Pizza from Napoli, Italy) is arguably the most famous Italian pizza. Because it is so freakin’ good Neapolitan pizza is Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) certification. That’s right. It’s a certifiably good pizza!
In fact, Neapolitan pizza was added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2017! In other words, Neapolitan Pizza is an art form in Italy.
The rules around what makes a pizza an authentic Neapolitan Pizza are so strict in Italy that they have been codified, certified, and protected by L’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). The AVPN was formed in 1984 to “defend against the impure and improper use of the phrase ‘true Neapolitan pizza.'”
36 years later, they still defend the ancient Neapolitan pizza tradition with regulatory and disciplinary action. Think of them as the pizza police.
For a pizzeria in Italy to say it serves Neapolitan pizza, it must follow this official Pizza Neapolitan recipe. If not, no matter how good it is, it’s not Neapolitan pizza.
In summary, these five points make Neapolitan pizza not only the best Italian pizza but the best pizza in the world.
11 Differences in Eating Italian Pizza vs American Pizza
Eating pizza in Italy is very different than eating pizza in America. Here are the top eleven differences when it comes to Neapolitan-style pizza.
- One person, one pizza. That’s it. No small, medium, or large.
- He who makes pizza is a Pizzaiolo. A good Pizzaiolo is a valued, respected, craftsman.
- In Italy, pizza does not come pre-sliced. It needs to be tackled with a fork and knife.
- As a result, pizza in northern Italy is seldom eaten by hand.
- In Italy, Pizzerias live or die by the quality of their pizza Margherita. Just dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil. Judge a Pizzeria by its Margherita, as there are no toppings to hide behind.
- Italian pizzas have names. Like Margherita or Diavola which is the closest thing to pepperoni pizza in Italy.
- Don’t expect to pick and choose ingredients in Italy. Order pizza by its name and respect the craft!
- Italians love wine, but with pizza, they drink beer. Order “Una birra media” in Italy with pizza.
- Using a fork and knife to eat pizza in Italy is necessary because the most famous type of Neapolitan pizza has soft dough that is slick with sauce and cheese. Everything sort of melts together into a heavenly pillow of deliciousness. Eating pizza by hand in Italy is messy.
- Even though pizza is revered it’s still the fast food of Italy because it’s quick and relatively cheap. How cheap? Try 6€ – 8€ for a Margherita!
- Most Italians don’t make pizza at home. It’s too cheap and delicious in restaurants. Plus Italian home kitchens are typically not very big and have small ovens that are not ideal for pizza.
Italian Pizza vs American Pizza, Which is Better?
Yes, on the whole, Italian pizza is better than American pizza. If we’re talking dough, sauce, and cheese, how different can pizza in Italy and pizza in America be? Let’s get into it, shall we?
From a purely objective standpoint, pizza is a bit like wine. There’s Old World (Italian pizza) and New World (American pizza).
Defining American pizza is tricky because it’s almost always personal. Customers pick and choose from a list of ingredients to customize their pizza. Do you want ham and pineapple? Have at it. Goat cheese and mushrooms, why not? Pepperoni, sausage, and pickled onions, YES! In America, pizza is creative, personal, and expressive.
As a dual-American-Italian citizen, I’m quick to defend pizza in America. Yet endless topping combinations are not what makes the best pizza in the world. Instead, it’s fresh, high-quality ingredients, technique, and a history of excellence that Italy turns out for a fraction of the price.
If you haven’t eaten good pizza in Italy, a little convincing might be required. Check out this video about Neapolitan Pizza.
Why Neapolitan Pizza is So Good
The tomato, cheese, and dough of Neapolitan Pizza are a sacred trinity. The tomatoes should either be San Marzano or Pomodorino Del Piennolo del Vesuvio. Thicker flesh and fewer seeds make them sought after worldwide. Which means a sweeter flavor and a less acidic bite.
Then there’s the cheese. You have to make Neapolitan pizza with fresh mozzarella. Specifically, the cheese must be certified Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. That’s right, certified pizza needs certified cheese.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is a PDO or a Protected designation of origin product. So if your cheese is not Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, it’s not a certifiable Neapolitan pizza.
Last but most certainly not least is the dough. The dough of a Neapolitan pizza is critical. Only lean dough from 00 Flour, water, salt, and yeast will do. Above all, you have to ferment the dough just long enough for the starches in the flour to break down, making them easier to digest. The result is a flavourful, pillowy-soft, pleasantly chewy crust covered with the thinnest layer of crispness.
Pizza in Italy Photo Gallery
That’s not to say that all pizza in Italy is Neapolitan pizza. One of the best things about eating pizza in Italy is trying different types from the regions. Here’s a look at a few of our favorites.
Yes, Pizza is Better in Italy than in America
In the end, it’s true that a battle of Italian Pizza vs American Pizza all comes down to preference.
We are not saying you cannot find good pizza in America. Our friend Chef Daisuke Matsumoto owns La Sorrentina in Vancouver, Washington. Chef Daisuke placed #6 in the world at the Las Vegas International Pizza Expo Pizzaiolo competition.
Here’s the hitch, Daisuke trained in Italy. Hence, Italian pizza is better than American pizza in general because it shows more respect for quality ingredients as an art.
Final Thoughts on Italian pizza vs American pizza
To sum it up, while endless topping combinations and crust style are subjective, consistency is objective. Pizza in Italy is better than pizza in America because it is consistently good.
It’s true that Italians take pizza seriously, perhaps a little too seriously sometimes. One could definitely argue the pizza police are stifling creativity in young Pizzaioli, but still.
The tradition of quality food at an affordable price reigns supreme when it comes to Italian pizza. Furthermore, pizza making is an art in Italy. Finally, pizza for 8€ means no guilt associated with treating yourself once a week.
Are you planning your first trip to Italy? Here are a few of our most popular resource articles with tips on navigating some of Italy’s unique cultural quirks.