Pizza is a dish known and loved globally, with its delicious cheesy roots in Italy. But which Italian pizza style is the best – Neapolitan Pizza or Roman Pizza? What are the differences between them?
Both kinds of pizza carry classic flavors from Italy and have been eaten for centuries. Neopolitan pizza, originating in Naples, is thicker, focusing on the dough. Roman pizza originating in Rome is thinner and crispier.
Here’s what you need to know, about Neapolitan Pizza versus Roman Pizza, to decide for yourself.
Why are pizza types so highly debated?
Before diving into each kind of pizza’s specific cooking style and qualities, it’s essential to recognize why Italians so hotly debate the issue. Whether for fun or in all seriousness.
For Italians, Pizza is a point of cultural heritage. It’s a dish that most people associate with Italy that has come to represent the country.
The art of making the dish, in whatever style, is typically passed down from generation to generation in families; everyone has their family recipe.
Pizzaioli, pizza makers have a lot of passion for their industry and strive to make it taste as good as possible.
The argument between pizza kinds is a matter of pride in your home. Neapolitans will argue stringently that Neapolitan Pizza is the only pizza that counts. Romans will say that Roman Pizza is just as good if not better.
Although, both may agree that American-style pizzas don’t count at all.
Neapolitan Pizza puts significant focus on the dough. This style of pizza is made with flour, water, yeast, and salt, which is proofed and gently stretched into shape to get the lightest, fluffiest crust possible.
A Neapolitan pizza will have toppings and sauce in the center and leave some room around the edge to allow it to rise and crisp, making a distinct crust called cornicione. Neapolitan pizzas are typically only stretched to be about 12 inches across at maximum.
They will be soft so that you usually have to fold your slice in half to eat it without losing any toppings. Additionally, cooking it quickly, usually for no more than 50-90 seconds at a high temperate, between 800 and 900 degrees F (425 and 480 degrees Celsius), creates the perfect slice.
The most traditional toppings for a Neapolitan pizza are tomatoes or tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese cut into thick rounds or shredded, and fresh basil added after the cooking process.
Where does Neapolitan pizza come from
It’s hard to say precisely when and where pizza as we know it originates.
However, we can see when it became popular in a recognizable format thanks to Italian records in the 1500s.
Neapolitan Pizza comes from the city of Naples in Italy. It was initially a cheap food eaten by the Lazzaroni, or the city’s lower class, as a weeknight meal to get them through to the weekend when they could afford better food.
Pizza was elevated from its humble beginnings when the King and Queen of Italy were on a royal visit. They were served pizza and became completely enamored with the dish. The style of pizza made for them was named and became a point of cultural pride for Neapolitans.
This pizza was named Margherita, after Queen Margherita.
In 2009, Naples made the dish official by receiving a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) label from the European Union. This label classified that only pizzas made with local ingredients – San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella could legally be called Neapolitans.
Roman Pizza, also called pizza al taglio, focuses on the toppings rather than the dough. The dough is still made with flour, water, yeast, and salt but has added olive oil, making it easier to stretch.
It’s stretched as thinly as possible and rolled with a rolling pin to get a thin, crunchy base with a crumbly, barely-differentiated crust. Also, slowly cooking the pizza, allowing it to dry slightly at a lower temperature of 715 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (380 to 400 degrees Celsius), creates a thin crunchy base.
Roman pizzas toppings can be anything and lots of it! More traditional toppings include tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, pecorino cheese, anchovies, fresh or cooked basil, and pepper.
Roman pizzas are often larger than Neapolitan and shaped into rectangles rather than rounds.
Pile toppings high on pizza if you like – its crisp crust is built to support the weight and offer you a satisfying snap when you bite in.
Where does Roman Pizza come from
Looking at early records is the closest we can get to knowing precisely the origins of this pizza.
As we know it today, the first mention of pizza was in Gaeta, in the Latina province of Italy, in 997 AD. It’s impossible to tell whether this Pizza was Neapolitan in style or Roman.
The Gaetan bishop demanded twelve pizzas on Christmas day and Easter Sunday as a payment method from the son of a local Duke.
We also know that Romans had been eating a flatbread dish with similar toppings for centuries before this. During the classic age, it was a staple in the Roman empire, a low bread made with olive oil and salt.
This dish, called focaccia and still quite popular today, was considered similar to modern pizza. So much so that Benedetto Di Falco called the pizza being made in Naples simply the “Neapolitan dialect” version of the dish in the 16th century. Going by this logic, you might argue that Roman Pizza is older.
It’s unclear exactly when Roman pizza originated – the crispy flat dough dish. Unlike Neapolitan Pizza, there is no prominent legend associated with its creation. Instead, it’s thought to have originated from focaccia made thinner and crispier to hold heavier toppings without making the dish so dense.
Roman Pizza doesn’t have any special qualifications, which makes it slightly harder to classify and track through history. However, it’s a highly versatile dish as popular worldwide as pseudo-Neapolitan pizza has.
There’s no definite answer as to whether Neapolitan or Roman pizza is better because it all comes down to personal preference. However, there will always be someone who steadfastly holds one over the other.
No matter where you get it, pizza is a classic food. It’s a favorite to people worldwide with a history and tradition that spans centuries, cities, cultures, and oceans.
Every time pizza arrives in a new location; it gets localized and made unique for those who eat it; why not celebrate the diversity available in the dish?
Whether you’re staunchly a Neapolitan traditionalist, a Roman pizza connoisseur, or someone who enjoys getting a local bite to eat, pizza is a dish that’s sure to please.