Italian Food

Italian Pizza vs American Pizza

Italian pizza and American pizza both have dough, sauce, and cheese. So how is Italian pizza different from American? 11 ways + which is better.

Yes, On the Whole Pizza is Better in Italy than America. If we’re talking dough, sauce, and cheese in both cases how different can pizza in Italy and pizza in America be? Let’s get into it, shall we? What makes pizza in Italy the best in the world? Think of it this way. Pizza is a bit like wine. There’s Old World (Italian) and New World (American). In the new world answering questions like “what is American pizza” is hard because it’s almost always personal. In America, we pick and choose from a list of ingredients to customize our pizzas. 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 both countries. I love that having pizza in America is relaxed, casual, and fun. Yet having endless topping combinations is not what makes the best pizza in the world.

Italian Pizza vs American Pizza

Now, if you haven’t had a good pizza in Italy, you might need a little convincing. Check out this video about what many would consider the original Italian pizza, Neapolitan Pizza aka Margherita pizza. This is a pretty long video, but within the first few minutes, one of the biggest differences between Italian pizza and American pizza is clear. The quality and simplicity of ingredients.

How is Italian pizza different from American? 11 Differences!

First, there is the experience of eating pizza itself. Eating pizza in Italy is very different than eating pizza in America. Especially for Americans who primarily eat pizza at home, fresh out of a black, blue, or red delivery bad.

  1. Italians love wine, but with pizza they drink beer. Order “Una birra media” in Italy with pizza.
  2. One person, one pizza. That’s it. No small, medium, or large. Everyone gets their own.
  3. He who makes pizza is a Pizzaiolo. A good Pizzaiolo is a valued, respected, craftsman.
  4. In Italy an Enoteca Ristorante Pizzeria lives or dies by the quality of its pizza Margherita, the one true pizza. Just dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil. That’s it. There are no toppings to hide behind. Always judge an Enoteca Ristorante Pizzeria by its pizza Margherita first, then move on to try other pizzas.
  5. In Italy different pizzas all have names. Like Margherita or Diavola which is the closest thing to pepperoni pizza in Italy.
  6. Don’t expect to pick and choose ingredients to personalize your pie. Don’t ask for substitutions. Order pizza by its proper name and respect the craft!
  7. In Italy, pizza does not come pre-sliced. It needs to be tackled with a fork and knife.
  8. Speaking of fork and knife, pizza is not eaten by hand in Italy. How rude! Kidding…
  9. Using a fork and knife to eat pizza in Italy is necessary because the most famous type of pizza the Napoletana has a 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 just too messy.
  10. Even though pizza is revered it’s still the fast food of Italy because it’s quick and relatively cheap. A pizza made with high-quality ingredients, a beer, coffee, and a small desert runs around 8€ – 10€.
  11. Most Italians don’t make pizza at home. It’s too cheap, good and easy in restaurants. Plus Italian home kitchens are typically not very big and their ovens are frequently tiny.

Most of what’s described here are the experience of eating a pizza Napoletana arguably the most famous variety of Italian pizza. La pizza Napoletana which comes from… you guessed it, Napoli is so freakin’ good it’s protected by a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) certification. That’s right it’s a certifiably good pizza! To top it all off in 2017 making pizza Napoletana was added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage! In other words, making pizza Napoletana is a culturally recognized art form in Italy.

This brings us to the next major difference between pizza in Italy vs America, how it’s made.

Why Italy Has the Best Pizza in the World

The rules around what makes a pizza an authentic Napoletana pizza are so strict in Italy, 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 are still defending the ancient Neapolitan pizza tradition with regulatory and disciplinary action. Think of them as the pizza police. To be certified and thus allowed to use the phrase “true Neapolitan pizza” the recipe and technique described here must be followed exactly.

For the AVPN there is to be no New World creativity and definitely no pineapple. The shape and diameter must be exact. The crust can only be made with 00 or 0 flour and it must raise 1-2cm. It must be soft and fragrant or no matter how good it is, it cannot be called a pizza Napoletana.

Why is Pizza Napoletana So Good?

Like a trinity the tomato, cheese, and dough of pizza Napoletana are sacred. The tomatoes should be 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. Oh, the cheese! This is where American pizza chains get it so very wrong. Napoletana pizza must be made 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. To that end it’s produced in a traditional method and entirely made in Campania or it’s not Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

Last but most certainly not least, is the dough. In America, it’s perfectly acceptable to toss pizza crust aside. It’s acceptable because frankly, too often American pizza crust isn’t very good by itself. It needs to be hidden under toppings and a mound of cheese.

I’m not calling out one major American pizza chain “cough smominos” but when pizza crust is consistently left in the box because it “tastes like cardboard” there’s something wrong.

While in contrast, the dough at Diecicento Enoteca Ristorante Pizzeria (our favorite in Torino, Italy) is so addictive. Hence they bring a plate of bite-sized pieces to tide you over before your pizza arrives. It’s THAT good. I’m hungry. Is anyone else hungry?

Best Pizza in America

Now all of this is not to say that you cannot find good pizza, even amazing pizza in America. Our friend Chef Daisuke Matsumoto aka Dice-K owns La Sorrentina in Vancouver, Washington.

Chef Daisuke placed #6 in the world at the Las Vegas International Pizza Expo Pizzaiolo competition. Daisuke is a Pizzaiolo in the truest sense because he knows at the heart of it, what makes pizza art is having respect for quality ingredients. A good chef knows the trick to making amazing food is starting with the best possible ingredients and not messing them up. Daisuke, however, does it one better. He takes the best Italian ingredients and makes them sing like a Barbara Frittoli aria.

So could I be wrong, could America have pizza just as good as Italy? When it comes to Daisuke yes. Daisuke makes it on my ten best pizza in the world list. The thing is, Daisuke trained in Italy. So that brings us back to my personal truth.

Yes, On the Whole Pizza is Better in Italy than America.

To sum it up, while endless topping combinations and crispy vs soft crust is completely subjective, consistency is purely objective. Pizza in Italy is better than pizza in America because it’s consistently good. Italians take their pizza seriously. Maybe a little too seriously sometimes. One could definitely argue the pizza police are stifling creativity in young Pizzaioli, but still.

America I’m sorry but on this one, Italy wins. Italy’s tradition of quality food at an affordable price reigns supreme when it comes to pizza. The respect for ingredients and technique make pizza an art in Italy, and at 8€ there’s no guilt associated with treating yourself once a week. So while you can find swoon-worthy pizza like La Sorrentina in America, it’s the exception to the rule.


  1. LOL, if I can’t customize, I’m not Paying. Best pizza for me is deep dish in Chicago, and yes with pineapples on it. Give me an American place where I can specify any Day over some stuck up European snobs.

    1. LOL indeed. America is definitely more of a “have it your way” society honoring individuality first. Italy honors tradition more. At the end of the day all that matter is you lika your pizza pie!

  2. Only had pizza in Italy a few times. It was pretty good.
    Oddly best pizza I’ve had in Europe was in France. They put their own spin on it, but it was very tasty.
    Best pizza in the world is in New Haven, Connecticut. Modern, Sally’s or Pepe’s.
    Buenos Aires is a whole different animal. Enjoy it, certainly, but not like pizza I’ve had anywhere else. The portenos make some amazing Italian dishes though.

    1. Hi Andrew! It’s great to hear from someone who has traveled and experienced pizza in so many places. My American hear loved that your favorite is in the US. Is New Haven home for you or a favorite destination?

  3. Everyone has the right to their opinion. But this idea that Italian pizza has more focus on fresh ingredients is nonsense, unless you only eat American pizza at the big chain pizza places. The are countless smaller pizza places in the U S that can truly be said to put every bit, if not more care into the quality of their ingredients. And where good American pizza beats Italian is in the fact that Italian pizza is often sparse in cheese, more bland and sparse in tomato sauce and less creative. So just like some people only like vanilla ice cream, there are some who would prefer the more plain Italian style pizza. But for those of us who love variety, creativity, and depth of flavor good American pizza is the winner.

    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for taking time to stop by. I will agree that there are good pizza spots in America that have quality ingredients. I would also however argue these are the exception and not the rule. I grew up eating American pizza and it does have it’s place among the creativity of the world. Have you had a chance to have much pizza in Italy? What’s your favorite spot in the US?

    2. It’s not nonsense, it’s simply the truth. The worst fresh mozzarella in Italy beats 99% of mozzarella in the US. I have been to Frank Pepe more than once: super acidic tomato sauce and cheap salty mozzarella. I would argue that most American pizza is what Italian pizza was like 25 years ago. Made with poor-quality ingredients.
      I suspect you have a very limited knowledge of what constitutes modern Italian pizza (pizza contemporanea). It is anything but simple or bland. Many types of sauces are used (porcini mushroom cream, butternut squash puree, quattro formaggi etc) and endless choice of toppings.

      1. Hi Dan! Tell me more about your favorite pizza contemporanea? There’s a spot in Torino, Italy with some pretty amazing “pizza” that I’m obsessed with. Torino seems to be more comfortable innovating with tradition cuisine in Italy vs many other cities in Italy when it comes to pizza.

        1. Pepe in Grani is definitely a place you should check out:

          By the way my reply was directed to Kevin, who, like many tri-state residents, truly believes the best pizza in the world is there 😄
          I have lived in both countries and, while there are excellent pizzerias in the US, the ingredients they use (mainly the sauce and mozzarella) are objectively not of comparable quality.

          1. Oh man!!!! I checked out that Facebook video and you are totally right. I MUST go here! Thank you for sharing your pizza thoughts and inspirations with me.

      1. My honeymoon! We were supposed to go this June, but everything has been postponed to end of May 2021. We are doing Rome, Ischia, and Positano. I’ve been dreaming of going for years!!

  4. I’ve never eaten pizza in US though I’ve eaten it in tons of other countries but I agree, there’s no place like Italy.

  5. As someone who grew up in an Italian-American community in New York City, I do not consider Dominoes to be pizza. I’d put it more in the Doritos category…if someone puts it in front of you, you’ll eat it, but it won’t be a memorable culinary occasion.

    1. Theresa you just gave me the biggest laugh! Thank you! Where did you grow up in NYC? It will forever feel like home to me. Though I only got to live there a quarter of my life NYC has my heart.

        1. Love it! I once worked at HBO and while babbling on endlessly (like an idiot) to David Simon over lunch. Long story short I bragged about Lazarra’s in midtown. How it was old school New York one of a few authentic places in midtown. Up the steps, swinging wooden door. Flash forward to his new show and I’m pretty sure James Franco is sitting on the steps to Lazarra during a few episodes. Small world no!

          PS: I greatly admire your focus and consistency on your blog. Awesome work.

          1. Oh cool! I haven’t been there in years, but used to bring all out of town guests there. Hope it’s still there. Thanks so much for the compliment…I appreciate that😊

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