Have you heard the rumor that Italians eat pizza with a knife and fork in Italy and want to know if it’s true? The answer is yes! Italians do eat pizza with a knife and fork in Italy. If you’ve never had pizza in Italy, you might wonder why. Here’s a quick video to give you a hint.
How Do Italians Eat Pizza?
Method aside, the video does a good job illustrating why Italians eat pizza with a knife and fork in Italy.
3 Reasons Italians Eat Pizza With a Knife & Fork in Italy
There are three main reasons Italians eat pizza with a knife and fork in Italy.
1. Pizza in Italy is Made and Served at High Temperatures
First, in Italy, the most common style of pizza is Neapolitan or Naples-style. Neapolitan pizza is famous for its airy, puffed-up, chewy crust. To make it, you need a screaming hot oven. We’re talking 800-1000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since most Italian home kitchens are too small for a pizza oven that can hit high temperatures, Italians typically eat pizza at a pizzeria. Pizzerias are restaurants in Italy that specialize in pizza. Hence, they are experts at turning out pies and serving pizza quickly. Thus Italians are used to eating scorching hot Neapolitan pizza in a pizzeria.
2. Neapolitan Pizza is Messy
The scorching temperatures of pizza ovens enable 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. So Italians make Neapolitan pizza with fresh mozzarella.
Since fresh mozzarella adds moisture, Neapolitan pizza can get messy when you cut into it. Can you imagine us trying to eat the pizzas shown below without a knife and fork?
3. Pizza in Italy is Individual & Served Unsliced
The final reason Italians eat pizza with a knife and fork is that pizza is served uncut in Italy. Now can you imagine trying to eat a hot, messy Neapolitan pizza without a knife and fork? Want to see it through our eyes? Take a look at the pizzas below.
So the short answer is in Italy, Italians eat Neapolitan pizza with a knife and fork in Italy because it is not sliced when it’s served and it’s too hot, and messy to be eaten by hand.
In our experience writing about pizza in Italy, we have learned pizza is a hot topic. Hence we embrace the idea that opinions are like pizza dough. Meant to be tossed around a little! So please know comments (about Pizza) are welcome in the comment section at the end of the article.
How to Eat Pizza Like an Italian
For the most part, eating pizza like an Italian in Italy is as simple as these three things. Use a knife and fork with Neapolitan pizza. Drink beer instead of wine with pizza in Italy. Don’t expect to build a custom pizza. Typically, pizzas in Italy are ordered by name like Margherita, Bufalino, and Quatro Stagioni.
Tip: Don’t expect to see Pepperoni Pizza on the menu. Instead, look for Pizza Diavola which loosely translates to Pizza Hell in reference to the addition of hot or spicy salami.
So how do you know when it’s okay to eat pizza by hand in Italy?
When to Eat Pizza by Hand in Italy
The short answer is, if the pizza is cut and sold by the slice, it’s generally okay to eat it by hand in Italy. Plus, the pizza itself tells you! Neapolitan Pizza for example demands the use of a knife and fork for the reasons outlined above. It is however perfectly acceptable to move to using your hands to eat the crust portion of a Neapolitan pizza. Just don’t be surprised if you see Italians around you sticking to the knife and fork method to the very last bite.
There are however a few styles of pizza in Italy that are made to be eaten by hand including Sicilian, Pizza al Taglio, Pizza Romana, and Pizza Fritta to name a few. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of pizza you can eat by hand in Italy.
Types of Pizza to Eat by Hand in Italy
While Neapolitan pizza is the most famous Italian pizza, it’s not the only one! In fact, there are many different types of pizza in Italy including Sfincione or Sicilian pizza and Pizza al Padellino. A new favorite of mine out of Turin, Italy to name a few.
Pizza al Taglio
Sliced with scissors (or cut) and sold by weight, Pizza al Taglio is a style of pizza in Italy. It’s okay to eat Pizza al Taglio by hand because it’s not nearly as hot or messy as Neapolitan pizza. Plus, it’s sold as a street-style pizza typically eaten on the go at lunch.
Pizza Romana or Pizza alla Pala
If you prefer a thinner, crunchier crust to the soft, chewy Neapolitano-style pizza, look for Pizza Romana. You can find it throughout central Italy and of course, Rome where it originated. With a sturdier crust, Pizza Romana is easier to eat by hand than Neapolitano-style pizza.
You can find Pizza Romana in both round and rectangular shapes. Typically the rectangular shapes are pre-cut to be eaten by hand. However similar to Neapolitano-style pizza, round Pizza Romana is sometimes served uncut. Hence, you’ll still need a knife and fork to eat it.
Sicilian Pizza or Sfincione
One of the most surprising pizzas in Italy is Sfincione in Sicily or Sicilian Pizza. I say surprising because while it looks simple it’s delicious. The tall, thick, focaccia-style crust rises for a second time after it’s been sauced. The result is a super savory and satisfying bite. Cut with scissors, this street food is sold by the slice in every town in Sicily.
The fried brother of Neapolitan pizza, Pizza Fritta was a post-war invention in Italy. Pizzaioli (the name for pizza makers in Italian) prepared fried pizza at home on their day off to earn extra cash. They fried the dough in oil because they lacked a proper pizza oven at home.
This is one style of pizza I have yet to try in Italy. Everything else you see above we have eaten countless times on our travels through Italy. I guess that means Paolo and I need to plan our own trip to Napoli very soon!
If you’re as curious about Pizza Fritta as I am, take a look at the video below showing how it’s made and eaten by hand on the streets of Napoli.
Why Italians Eat Pizza With a Fork in Short
Nowhere else in the world is pizza more a part of the culture than in Italy. Why? Because pizza originated in Naples, Italy. Thus the original Italian pizza is Pizza Napoletana or Neapolitan pizza in English. This explains why the predominant style of pizza in Italy is Neapolitan. It also explains why so many people, myself included believe pizza in Italy is the best in the world.
So while Italians eat Neapolitan Pizza with a knife and fork, you will see them eat other styles of pizza by hand in Italy. The type of pizza (Neapolitan vs Pizza al Taglio) and the location (in a pizzeria vs on the go in the street) make the difference.
Since Neapolitan is the reigning king of pizza styles in Italy it’s consumed in every region of Italy. Thus it’s fair to say in general Italians eat pizza in Italy with a knife and fork because Neapolitan-style pizza is too hot and messy to be eaten by hand. Plus, since Neapolitan Pizza is served as an individual, unsliced pizza a fork, and a knife are a must for eating the most popular style of pizza in Italy.
We’re Brandy Shearer (Author) & Paolo Ferraris (Photographer), two budget-savvy Italian introverts, artists, and dual citizens living in the Italian Alps. We show you how to avoid crowds and save on travel by exploring Italy in the off-season. From popular destinations to hidden gems, get a taste of la dolce vita in your inbox by subscribing below.