From Neapolitan to Deep Dish: A Guide to Pizza Crust
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People will get all sorts of passionate about pizza with words like 'authentic' being banded about like they mean anything. As with most traditional foods, Italian pizza has evolved over the years leading to a range of delicious but potentially confusing species. In the name of good Dojo, we've mapped these out below.
To mirror the culinary effects of immigration (a fascinating topic if ever we tasted one) we'll begin with classic pizza styles found in Italy, then move on to the delicious bastardisations coming out of the US.
Sourdough (Neapolitan Style)
Our tale starts with London's darling: Neapolitan pizza. Characterised by a very stretchy, slowly fermented sourdough base, the edges are hand-pulled into light, bouncy clouds, while the centre is impossibly thin, almost translucent. It's the kind of pizza where all the toppings fall off as soon as you pick it up which tends to panic us into eating it at lighting speed.
There are plenty to choose from if Neapolitan is your bag, from pizza bad boys Bravi Ragazzi to well-known nduja-touting mini-chain Pizza Pilgrims.
Crispy Base (Roman Style)
Next up we've a slightly crispier base, one that holds up better to weighty toppings and has a smaller crust-to-middle ratio as the good stuff goes right up to the edge. You may remember this style from a misspent youth eating other people's crusts in the little known restaurant Pizza Express.
There isn't that much Roman pizza around any more, but Stockwell Continental's is delightful with 'cheffy' toppings made in-house or imported from Italy. They're not afraid of white pizzas either like this guy with purple sprouting broccoli, house fennel sausage, garlic, and Fior Di Latte mozz'.
Pizza al Taglio (Sicilian Style)
A practical and convenient style, 'pizza al taglio' is made in long rectangular trays, then sliced up and sold to go. Its thick bready base lasts longer than Neapolitan and even Roman doughs, so can be kept for a few hours without spoiling. It's found in cafes across Italy though the Sicilian version is usually thicker (often over an inch in thickness) and likely what lead to the Detroit deep dish style.
Head to Clerkenwell fave Malletti around lunchtime and you'll see a speedy turn around of queuing punters all hankering after those heartily topped slices.
Pizza by the Slice (New York Style)
Famous in many a movie moment, New York-style pizza is slightly crispy on the outside, but still soft and pliable enough that you can fold that huge sucker in half and stick the end in your gob. It's made in huge 20" wheels and served up by the slice.
Paradise Slice in Shoreditch offer the authentic pepperoni experience with the holy trinity of NY pizza: crispy base, tangy sauce, and hella cheesey cheese. And for bougier toppings, there's always Voodoo Rays.
Deep Dish (Chicago Style)
Chicago's finest, deep dish pizza is pie shaped with crusts that rise right up at the edge forming a shallow bowl, a paddling pool if you will, that is filled with large amounts of melted cheese, tomato sauce and other goods. It's seriously filling stuff.
Japes is the only place in London where you can try proper Chicago-style 'za, complete with that pleasantly dense, slightly grainy semolina crust. Go for their classic with ham, artichokes and parmesan and prepare for a sleepy afternoon.
Deep Dish (Detroit Style)
Unlike most of the other types we've seen, the base of a Detroit-style pizza is very thick and completely even; toppings cover the whole surface so there is no discernible crust apart from a very crispy, almost caramelised cheesy edge.
Pizzas at Temper Covent Garden actually come in two forms: either deep-pan Detroit style, or thin, light and very crispy 'bar pizzas' topped with all sorts of fanciness from slow-cooked goat ragu to soft shell crab.