Food & Drink

New York vs Naples: Pizza Legends

Both Neapolitan pizza and New York-style pizza dough are two of the most popular types of pizza, and they both also have very distinctive qualities and characteristics. But no matter how you top it or cook it, one could be forgiven for confusing a New York-style pizza and Neapolitan pizza from a distance. They’re round, they rely on the same core ingredients, and they’re both undeniably delicious. But, in reality, they’re as far apart as New York and Naples. 

History

The Pizza Napoletana is an Italian specialty native to the coastal city of Naples in Campania. This is as traditional as it gets. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is credited as the oldest, still-operating pizza place in Naples (and the world) and goes back to 1738. 

Today, a very serious organization, the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, sets strict rules and definitions for pizza making in the city.

With the first Italian immigrants looking for a fresh start under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty came enthusiastic pizza makers, ready to swoon the good folks on the new continent off their feet.

America’s first pizzeria, Lombardy, opened its doors in 1905, and many others soon opened — some still operate to this day. The New York-style pizza was born.

What’s the difference between New York and Neapolitan-style pizza? And how did Italy’s invention turn into something so different in the United States? Here are some points of difference:

Dough

This is the base of pizza but what are the differences between these two pizzas. The Italian pizza dough is made with extra care by paying attention to time.

After preparing the dough, it is allowed to sit for at least 24 hours or even 72 hours sometimes. This is to allow the leavening of the flour in the dough. They pay attention to the type and amount of flour used.

This Italian manner of care is not often performed on American dough as any type of flour can be used and their wait time ranges from 8 hours to 16 hours. This is why most commercial pizzerias make pizza in a short time.

Crust

Not all crust is made equal. There’s a large difference between Italian pizza and American pizza and it all starts with the crust.  Most Italian pizzerias skillfully stretch out the dough to the point where it resembles a cracker with tomato sauce and cheese on it. It’s so thin and light that many people eat a whole pie by themselves. 

As an aside, Sicilian pizza, a vastly different take on the traditional pie, is completely different. It is thick, rectangular, and much heavier. American pizza, on the other hand, comes in a large variety of crusts: New York floppy slice, Chicago deep-dish, Detroit pan, and New Haven coal fire.

Sauce

Italians use fresh & pure tomato sauce which is usually unflavored and devoid of any additives or colorings. This sauce is the main characteristic of the classic Naples pizza from Italy. Other Italian pizzas may incorporate other cooking components in their sauce.

The Americans use thick and flavored tomato sauce which is usually cooked beforehand. This is the feature of a typical New York Pizza, other American pizza styles may use other sauce types.

Cheese

Early New York pizzerias relied on coal-fired ovens to replicate the high-temperature wood-fired ovens of Italy. But, over time, shops transitioned to gas-powered ovens, which required a change in methodology. 

Fresh mozzarella was not suitable for the longer cooking times, so chefs replaced it with shredded low-moisture mozzarella. Shredded mozzarella wasn’t in line with Italian tradition, but it had a clear advantage: low-moisture cheese could be used liberally, whereas fresh mozzarella had to be used lightly to avoid making a pie too soggy.

Toppings

Americans have such diverse tastebuds that pizzerias are required to offer a whole slew of toppings and cheeses. Even when you order a plain pie, American pizza has much more cheese than its Italian counterpart. 

This is because, in Italy, whole pies are often consumed on the go. This means they need to be very light and digestible. It’s also the reason why Italians tend to not order their pizza with only one topping.

In fact, mixing toppings is part of American evolution. No other country offers as much variety as we do here in the United States. Whether it’s a meat lover’s special, the works, or something in between, American pizza is unlike any other pizza in the world. With all of that being said, hopefully, we were able to clear up the differences between Italian pizza and American pizza. No matter your preference though, we can all agree that pizza is amazing.

Key Takeaway

Any type of pizza you choose is fine and good for you. If you are looking for a more traditionally-inclined pizza that is closest to nature, your pick is Italian pizza. The Italian is made with laid down rules which will rarely change to fit anyone. 

If you are looking for a mix of tradition and modernization, American pizza is the linking joint. It is similar to rice that will accommodate any change as far as it brings a type of uniqueness and makes everybody happy.

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