Most probably, pizza represents the most well-known and consumed food product in the world, and if someone would ask you now to define what pizza is, you would probably be confused and say that pizza is… pizza and that’s all! There’s no need for a definition of pizza.
Anyway, a precise definition of pizza is needed if you want to truly understand the origins and characteristics of this traditional dish, and is of paramount importance in order to preserve the true identity of the real pizza, the one that contributed to make its own home, Italy, famous worldwide.
That’s all very well, but what is pizza then? Finding an exhaustive explanation of this product is somewhat difficult, due to the incredible number of factors that must be taken in account when preparing it! We need to look at he quantity and quality of the ingredients, the way you make pizza, what kind of toppings you put on it and the cooking styles. These invariably contribute to make every pizza completely unique, even if prepared by the same pizzaiolo.
Despite this, however, we know that pizza has got a unique identity and is completely different from any similar gastronomic product, having precise rules and recipes that follow the original tradition. Just to point out one of these, pizza must be prepared manually in each and every phase of its production. This means that every single process needs the manual human intervention, from the initial ingredients mixing to their manufacturing, the preparation and pounding of the dough, through to their cooking and removal from the oven.
Obviously many of these steps aren’t followed when preparing pizzas in industry, but this is the point we are trying to make – they are completely different from traditional handmade ones. This means we can say that true pizza is an original handmade product. Pizza is a oven product.
This really makes a difference from other similar products, such as the “piadina” or “calzone”…but what kind of oven you need in order to make a good pizza? There are now many pizzerias (this is the Italian name of restaurants when you can eat pizza) that prepare pizza with electrical “forni”, but when pizza was invented they used to prepare it with wood-fired ovens. Hence, a truly original pizza needs to be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Basically, pizza is made up of a base and toppings. The base is a dish of levelled dough, obtained by “stendendo a mano un panetto”. The main ingredients are “farina doppio zero”, salt and “lievito di birra”. The topping selection is up to the pizzaiolo’s own preferences, but this is strongly vetted by their customer’s requests. The typologies of toppings that are used are extremely variable and they can range from fresh products such as tomatoes to frozen or pre-prepared products (such as peeled tomatoes).
In every case pizza must be “deposta” on the base and must be left uncovered. Once the pizza has been cooked, further toppings can be added, the most popular addition is basil.
Moreover, pizza must be consumed shortly after cooking, in order to enjoy its best fragrance and tastes. As you can see, defining pizza is not an easy task: we will try to discover now all the hidden secrets of it.