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What Is the Difference Between American Pizza and Italian Pizza?

Italy's Pizza Margherita was named for a queen.
Mozzarella is a traditional topping on Margherita pizza.
A pepperoni pizza.
Food historians believe that basil was one of the ingredients on the first "named" pizza.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 April 2014
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Many people know that American pizza derived from Italian pizza. What many people don’t know is the history behind Italian pizza and how Italian and American pizza developed. Italy, as it turns out, is not the first source of the pizza concept. Sources attribute that honor variously, including to Egyptian flatbread creations. It may have been Greek invaders in the first century A.D. who brought pizza to southern Italy.

Early pizzas were made of a roundish bit of dough with various seasonings, toppings, drippings, gravy, or whatever was around. The evolution into a standard, predictable “dish” seems to have come about as a result of the export of tomatoes from the New World to Naples, and — unknown to most people — this makes the first recognizable pizza style something of a joint Italian-American venture.

Apparently the first named pizza to spring up was what is now known as Pizza Margherita — a pizza topped with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. This was the favorite of Queen Margherita of Savoie, who visited Naples and tasted this pizza — subsequently named for her — in 1889. Now Italy had a particular and recognizable dish, endorsed by royalty and sporting the colors — red, white, and green — of the Italian flag. At this time, there was still no such thing as American pizza.

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This pizza, along with other Neapolitan variations, including oregano and anchovies, came to American with immigrants at about the same time that Queen Margherita got her first taste of it. Reportedly, the first pizza sold commercially in the US was focaccia, a thick-crusted version of pizza that may also be referred to as “pan pizza.” These pizzas were available in Italian bakeries. The first pizzeria in the Little Italy section of New York City was apparently opened by Gennaro Lombardi, originally of Naples, in 1895.

Pizza increased in popularity both as a cheap meal-in-one food during the Great Depression and with the return of US servicemen from Italy at the end of World War II. The opening of pizzerias in this period mirrored the spread of pizzerias in Naples after the tomato first became available and pizzas experienced their first wave of popularity. Standardized fast-food version of pizza emerged, but with the growing interest in cuisines of other cultures that blossomed in the late twentieth century, pizza was affected as well.

Not only did experimentation lead to American pizza appearing in forms previously unimagined — featuring ingredients such as ham and pineapple, chocolate, Cajun shrimp, venison, the so-called “garbage” pizza topped with many different meats and vegetables, and “white pizza” made without tomato sauce. But also, the freedom to choose one’s toppings took pizza full circle — back to its beginnings in which a bit of dough and whatever one has on hand to bedeck it with enjoys the name of pizza. In the end, the difference between Italian and American pizza and the similarities between Italian and American pizza depend on the same, most important ingredient: the pizza maker.

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Discuss this Article

anon344088
Post 6

American pizza does not compare to traditional Italian pizzas made in Italy, not even close.

Americans have this uncanny ability of stealing something original and screwing it up, just like Italian pizza.

anon311186
Post 5

American pizza is very innovative and changes, year in year out. Italian pizza is stuck somewhere in the 80s under the assumption its authentic. You'll find better pizza to suit exactly what consumers want in New York and Chicago. In Italy, it's eat this and love it, if you just don't know what you are talking about.

Italy has very little variation with a region, while New York styles change dramatically from restaurant to restaurant.

Pizza in the US is a significantly better choice than in Italy.

anon309780
Post 4

The restaurants I went to in Trieste, Italy served pizza with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese (you could still see the crust between the melted pieces of cheese), a few cut/diced tomatoes and onions.

There was no "sauce" or meat involved. When I asked the server if they had marinara sauce, she giggled a little bit at me and shook her head, no. I have read that marinara sauce came from southern Italy, so don't know if being in Northern Italy was why the difference? The food however, was very different than anything in the US labeled as "Italian" especially the pizza.

GreenWeaver
Post 2

Sunny27-The New York pizza is flat. Italian pizza vs. American pizza is very different.

Italian pizza in Italy is simple. The crust is thin and includes fresh tomato sauce and a bit of cheese.

It does not contain the amount of cheese as in the American pizzas. The taste is very light and not heavy like an American pizza.

Also, in Italy you would never see a deep dish pizza. Some Americans that go to Italy are often disappointed with the pizza because they are expecting the pizza to be prepared the way Americans eat them.

The Italian version of pizza is much healthier and it is not uncommon to have a thin crust pizza with some vegetables.

Sunny27
Post 1

The best all American pizza is either New York style pizza or Chicago style pizza.

These all American pie pizza is both delicious and both offer different textures and tastes.

The New York style pizza has a thinner crust than the Chicago style pizza and it contains rich mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil.

The Chicago style pizza which is served in restaurants like Uno Pizzeria and is a deep dish pizza.

Here the crust is deep and rich and the tip of the crust could up to two inches high.

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