Pizza is simple: Wikipedia describes it as “an oven-baked, flat, disc shaped bread usually topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and then a selection of meats, cheeses, vegetables, seafood and herbs depending on taste and culture.”
In Italy today, pizza exists in a number of regional styles, of which two of the most famous are the Neapolitan and the Roman. Both schools knead the dough, but Pizza alla Napoletana is round, has a high border, a thick and chewy consistency, features several toppings, and is generally sold in pizzerias, while Pizza alla Romana, is more or less rectangular, often as much as a meter long, topped only with oil and salt, and sold by weight, primarily in bakeries and groceries, according to the size of the piece requested (oftentimes it is cut and stuffed with prosciutto and/or cheese).
Other regions of Italy (where pizza is thinner and crunchier)—Sicily, for example—also have distinctive versions of pizza, indeed Pizza alla Siciliana has its toppings baked directly into the crust. The toppings can be numerous, ranging from green olives, seafood, hard-boiled eggs and peas.
Regional varieties are always worth trying: among them we find Pizza alla Marinara, a traditional Neapolitan pizza that features oregano, anchovies and lots of garlic. Pizza alla Napoletana features local ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di Bufala and anchovies. Pizza Pugliese is made with local capers and olives, while Pizza Veronese features mushrooms and tender prosciutto crudo. In Liguria you may find pizza topped with basil pesto and no tomato sauce.
Besides regional styles there are several varieties that are popular throughout Italy (the dough is . Pizza Margherita is the eternally popular pizza par excellence (it owes its name to Italy's Queen Margherita who, in 1889 visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples. The pizza maker on duty that day, Raffaele Esposito created a pizza for the Queen that contained the three colors of the new Italian flag: red for the tomato, white for the mozzarella and green for fresh basil.) Quattro Formaggi uses a four cheese combination using fresh mozzarella and three cheeses such as gorgonzola, ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano (or scamorza). Italian tuna packed in olive oil is also a popular topping along with other marine products like anchovies, shellfish and shrimp. Quattro Stagioni is a pizza that represents the four seasons and makes a good sampler pizza with sections of artichokes, salame or prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Capricciosa features mushrooms, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, olives and ½ a boiled egg!
Pizza al taglio also known as Pizza rustica is sold everywhere in Italy, usually by weight and often piled with marinated mushrooms, onions or artichokes. This style of pizza is cooked on a sheet pan at street stalls and makes a good quick lunch or snack.
All over the country you can also find Focaccia (known as Schiacciata in Tuscany). Focaccia resembles the earliest pizzas being without tomatoes or cheese but covered in olive oil, caramelized onions and other savory toppings. But this is not it: Sfincione is a thick Sicilian sheet pizza that uses tomato sauce, anchovies (usually anchovy paste) breadcrumbs and caciocavallo cheese and Italian calzones are a turnover-style pizza filled with several ingredients, such as ricotta, salami and mozzarella, and folded over to form a half circle before being baked.
White pizza (pizza bianca) omits the tomato sauce, often substituting pesto or dairy products such as sour cream and ricotta.
In Rome, the term pizza bianca
refers to a type of bread topped with olive oil, salt and, occasionally, rosemary sprigs.
A newer trend that is gaining popularity is the emergence of sweet pizzas and traditional Italian pizzerias are trying to catch up by using unique ingredients. These dessert pizzas often have flavor combinations such as Nutella, honey, fruit jam, yogurt, even mustard and liquor. That disc of dough is like a clean canvas where pizza makers can let their imagination run wild … as long as it tastes good.