Italian pizza vs American pizza: what are the differences?

Italian Pizza vs American Pizza: Key Differences Unveiled

Pizza in Italy vs. America: are you wondering which is better? Let’s find out! Today, we’re diving into a mouth-watering exploration of one of the most cherished elements of Italian cuisine: pizza.

But not just any pizza—we’re talking about the delicious distinctions between the best pizza styles in Italy and America.

As you savor this article, you’ll learn about the biggest differences that set these two pizza styles apart and how they’ve come to represent their respective culinary cultures.

So, grab a slice of your favorite pizza (the Italian for pizza by the slice is “pizza al taglio“), and let’s embark on a journey to discover the unique characteristics of the different types of pizza in Italian and American styles.

Pizza in Italy vs. America: What are the Key Differences?

a group of friends eating Italian pizza

At a glance, Italian and American pizza styles might seem quite similar—after all, they both involve dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings.

But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that these two styles of pizza have developed their unique characteristics, largely influenced by the local ingredients and culinary traditions of their respective countries.

In this article, we’ll delve into the nuances of each style, from the crust and sauce to the cheese, toppings, and even eating styles. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss the importance of pizza in both Italian and Americanized cuisine.

The Importance of Pizza in Italian and Americanized Cuisine

In Italy, good pizza is more than just a meal – it symbolizes their culinary heritage. Originating in Naples, pizza quickly became a staple food for the working class, thanks to its affordability and convenience.

Over time, pizza has evolved into a dish enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and its popularity has spread far beyond Italy’s borders.

Meanwhile, in the United States, pizza has become an Americanized version of the Italian original. Italian immigrants brought their beloved pizza recipes to the new world, particularly after World War II, so the dish began adapting to local tastes and ingredients.

Today, American pizza has earned its place among America’s favorite foods, with countless regional variations and creative reinterpretations defining a unique cuisine unto itself.

Recommended Reading: 100 Most Interesting Italian Food Facts You’ll Love

Pizza in Italy vs. Pizza in America: A Detailed Comparison

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s dive into the delicious details that set Italian and American pizzas apart.

Difference in Crust

original italian pizza

Italian pizza crust

The crust is the foundation of a great pizza in Italy. Thin, light, and crispy, the Italian pizza crust is made with just a few simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Italians are meticulous about their dough, often taking 72 hours to prepare it, ensuring optimal leavening.

Furthermore, they are cautious about the quality of their ingredients. Neapolitan-style pizza, for example, boasts a soft and airy crust with a slight char, thanks to the intense heat of wood-fired ovens and a specific type of flour that helps form the thin-crust pizza.

American pizza crust

The divergence from its Italian roots becomes evident in the American pizza crust. Thicker and denser than Italian crusts, American pizza dough often contains olive oil or sugar, giving it a chewier texture.

Unlike Italian pizzas that use a specific type of flour, American pizzas can be made with many types. The crust varies significantly between regional styles—from New York-style pizza with thin and foldable slices to Chicago’s deep-dish crust, which resembles a buttery pie crust.

Differences in Sauce

pizza sauce

Italian pizza sauce

The sauce on Italian pizzas is typically simple, fresh, and made with ingredients such as crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a pinch of salt, and sometimes a touch of basil or garlic.

Italian pizzas use pureed fresh tomatoes, which emphasize the natural flavors of the tomatoes in every bite. This results in a lighter, less spicy sauce than the American version.

American pizza sauce

In contrast, American pizza sauces are often cooked and seasoned with herbs and spices, such as oregano, basil, garlic, and onion powder. American-style pizza sauce is made primarily with canned tomatoes.

It is slow-cooked, resulting in a thicker, more robust sauce that adds another layer of flavor to the pizza. The American version of the sauce is heavier and has a bolder flavor than its Italian counterpart.

Pizza in Italy vs. America: Key Differences in Sauce

The primary distinction between Italian and American pizzas lies in the preparation and ingredients of the sauce. Italian pizza sauce is made with fresh ingredients and focuses on the natural flavors of tomatoes.

In contrast, American pizza sauce is made with canned tomatoes, cooked, and seasoned with various herbs and spices, creating a bolder, more pronounced flavor profile.

Differences in Cheese

a slice of pizza with cheese

Italian pizza cheese

Italian pizza prioritizes simplicity and quality when it comes to cheese. Mozzarella, specifically fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, takes the spotlight.

Italians often use their distinctive mozzarella di Bufala, a cheese made from buffalo’s milk, placing scoops of fresh cheese rather than grating it for a refreshing taste.

Cheese is typically used sparingly on Italian pizzas, allowing other ingredients to stand out. In fact, you won’t find any cheese on some traditional pizzas, like the Marinara.

American pizza cheese

In contrast, cheese is the main attraction of American pizzas. They are often loaded with generous amounts of mozzarella and feature various other kinds of cheese, such as provolone, cheddar, and Monterey Jack.

Multiple kinds of cheese are sometimes blended together to create a rich, gooey layer of dairy goodness. The tomato sauce in American pizza is typically thick and packed with cheese.

While Italian and American pizzas are undeniably tasty, the Italian variety offers a more fresh and flavorful sauce, setting it apart from its American counterpart. This cheese usage and sauce composition difference significantly distinguishes the two pizza styles.

Differences in Toppings

pizza toppings

Italian pizza toppings

Italian pizzas embrace minimalism in toppings, emphasizing high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. A classic Italian pizza may feature a selection of fresh, simple ingredients such as tomatoes, basil, prosciutto, or arugula. The idea is to highlight the natural flavors of each ingredient without overpowering the others.

American pizza toppings

In contrast, American pizzas serve as a canvas for creativity, offering various toppings. The combinations are limitless, from pepperoni and sausage to mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.

Some regional specialties, like the Hawaiian pizza with its ham and pineapple or the Philly cheesesteak pizza with thinly sliced steak and sautéed onions, demonstrate the diversity of American pizza toppings.

American pizzerias are more likely to provide options like meat lovers’ pizzas due to the US preference for mixing and matching different cheeses and toppings.

As a result, American pizzas are often more heavily loaded with toppings, including green or black olives, anchovies, beef, chicken, pineapple, and even cherry tomatoes.

Consequently, you’ll find more cheese on an American pizza than an Italian one and a greater abundance of meat and vegetables.

Difference in Texture

pizza in Italy vs. America: which is better?

Italian pizza texture

Italian pizza is light and delicate, with a crispy, thin crust, a thin layer of sauce, and just the right amount of cheese and toppings. Italian pizzas, especially when cooked in a wood-fired oven, develop a slight char that adds a hint of smokiness to each bite.

Generally, Italian pizzas are lighter and thinner than their American counterparts, with the main ingredients being tomato and mozzarella cheese. This type of pizza is often enjoyed as a full meal, providing a full-bodied flavor and texture.

American pizza texture

American pizzas tend to have a chewier, heartier texture, thanks to their thicker crusts and generous layers of sauce, cheese, and toppings. The result is a more filling and substantial meal, often enjoyed with a side of dipping sauce for the crust.

However, the average American pizza’s thicker crust may not provide the same authentic flavor and texture as an Italian pizza.

Italian vs. American Pizza: The Difference in Eating Styles

Italian pizza in Venice

How Italian pizza is typically eaten

In Italy, pizza is often savored as a sit-down meal, enjoyed with a glass of wine or beer. Diners typically use a knife and fork to eat their pizza, appreciating the balance of flavors and the intense, savory taste in each bite. Italian pizzas are more of an experience, focusing on quality ingredients and authenticity.

How American pizza is typically eaten

In America, pizza is often consumed on the go as a convenient, portable meal. Slices are usually eaten by hand, folded, or held flat and may even be served with additional condiments, such as crushed red pepper or Parmesan cheese.

American pizza culture has been commercialized, with large pizza chains (e.g., Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, and Papa John’s) transforming how pizzas are enjoyed.

This has resulted in a broader appeal for American and Italian pizzas, making pizza an increasingly affordable staple food in the United States. Trying both styles is essential to experience the difference between the two truly.

The Authentic, Traditional Italian Pizzas

authentic traditional Italian pizza

Now that we’ve explored the differences between Italian and American pizza let’s discuss what constitutes authentic traditional Italian pizzas. An authentic Italian pizza is characterized by its simplicity, quality ingredients, and traditional preparation methods.

A quick historical note: The first pizzeria, which served la pizza Napoletana, was established in Naples, Italy, in the 18th century. One of the most iconic Italian pizzas, the pizza Margherita, was created in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy, featuring the colors of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil.

A true Italian pizza starts with a thin, crispy crust made from a simple dough. The sauce is made from fresh, crushed tomatoes, seasoned with just a hint of salt, and the cheese is fresh, high-quality mozzarella. Toppings are used sparingly and thoughtfully, emphasizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

To experience authentic Italian pizza, look for Italian restaurants or pizzerias that adhere to traditional recipes and techniques. In particular, seek out pizzerias certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which ensures the pizza is made according to the strict standards of Neapolitan pizza-making.

Discover the Delectable Diversity of Italian and American Pizzas: A Culinary Journey for the Ultimate Pizza Lover

Italian and American pizzas offer two distinct and equally delightful culinary experiences. While Italian pizzas emphasize simplicity, quality, and tradition, American pizzas showcase creativity, variety, and heartiness.

As you explore these interesting facts about pizza, take the time to appreciate the unique characteristics of each style, understanding the cultural context that has shaped them.

Whether you’re savoring an authentic Neapolitan Margherita or indulging in a loaded American-style supreme, there’s no denying that pizza is a universal language of deliciousness.

So, dear pizza lovers, we encourage you to embark on a tasty adventure of discovery. Sample the flavors of Italy and America, and embrace the culinary diversity that makes the world of pizza so incredibly irresistible.

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