Experts tell us what eaters in Naples and Rome really put on their pies.
By Lynn Andriani
A specialty in Rome's Campo de' Fiori square, which has a famous open-air market, is a carb-lover's dream: thin slices of roasted potato on top of dough that's sprinkled with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. It's a tomato-free pie, and mozzarella is optional, says Marc Vetri
, an Italian-trained chef who runs six Philadelphia restaurants including Pizzeria Vetri
They've almost gone extinct from American pies, but anchovies are a classic that's going strong atop Italian ones, says 11-time World Pizza Cup Champion Tony Gemignani
. Here's the difference, though: Italians often choose white anchovies instead of brown (they cost more and have a milder flavor). An anchovy pizza often omits the dairy and instead goes minimalist, with just tomato sauce, garlic and oregano (cured olives can be present, too), but Vetri says the no-dairy-with-fish myth is just that, and it's fine to combine the two -- just use restraint so one does not overpower the other.
You don't generally find uncooked veggies on Italian pizzas -- but the exception is salad greens. Arugula, in particular, has taken off; Gemignani says it's everywhere now in Italy. Its peppery flavor adds spice to a tomato-and-cheese pie, and it goes especially well with prosciutto. Lay thin slices of the ham on top of a tomato-and-cheese pizza after it comes out of the oven and then scatter some arugula over that (there's no need to bake either the meat or the greens).
Aside from prosciutto, the two meats nearly every expert we talked to mentioned are the Italian dry salami soppressata, and the sausage mortadella (which some refer to as Italian balogna). Both go well on a standard tomato-and-cheese pie. While you'll rarely see pepperoni on an Italian pizza, if you're hooked on that smoky and salty flavor, you'll probably find soppressata even better. And chef Dan Holzman, who has spent time in Rome and Naples learning about pizza and has a "pizza meatball" on the menu at his New York restaurant chainlet The Meatball Shop
, says mortadella is common on Italian pizzas; slice it paper thin so it crisps up slightly in the hot oven.
Regular, shredded mozzarella is the standard-bearer on pies both in Italy and the U.S. However, Gemignani says, Italian chefs (in Naples, especially) also love mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella); it's infinitely more creamy and flavorful than the regular stuff. And smoked mozzarella doesn't usually appear on American pies, but Italians reach for it often to add deeper flavor to white pizzas.
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