It may sound like a simple enough thing, but it has to be noted that though the wonderful, delicious pizza has become very common outside of Italy, when you’re in the motherland, it does tend to be quite different (kind of like when it comes to coffee, but that’s another story). So for people who plan to tour Italy or have their Italy vacation soon, if you want the authentic stuff, here’s a short primer on how to order a pizza in Italy!
Selecting Your Pizzeria
- Pizzerias are of course quite ubiquitous, but be aware that true Italian ones may still require a bit of seeking out as a lot of them tend to be run by foreigners or immigrants as well. While they can also make tasty pizza, it’s not quite as authentic, and you may end up missing out on a unique food experience.
- One of the first things to check when you enter a pizzeria is to look for the oven. The store must have their oven in plain sight, as it is a guarantee that the food is made fresh on the spot as opposed to just heating a pre-made or pre-packaged item. Normally, the sight of the oven is also accompanied by that of a kitchen and preparation area where you can actually see or watch your pizza-cook (or “Pizzaiolo”) make and assemble your pizza.
- The most common type of pizza is the thin crust variety or crunchy type. Don’t expect to run into the ones with thicker crusts or the deep-dish types very often.
Ordering Your Pizza
- There are some high-end pizzerias (and restaurants that have pizza on the menu) that may require you to make a reservation first, so be sure to check on this. Most, however, don’t, unless you’re arriving as a large group. A lot of pizzerias do have dining areas for customers, but it may not be big enough to be able to immediately accommodate your party. So if you’re a large group, try calling or asking to reserve tables in advance, or try to drop by when there aren’t too many other customers, such as right after the lunch or dinner rush. Otherwise, be prepared to wait for tables to free up.
- Once you’re seated, you will be handed a menu with at least 10 variations of pizza, including maybe the house specialty. Some of the most common choices include:
- Margherita – tomato sauce, cheese, basil
- Quattro Stagioni – mushrooms, artichokes, ham, olives, tomato sauce, cheese
- Prosciutto – ham, cheese, tomato sauce
- Siciliana – sardines, olives, cheese, tomato sauce, with or without eggplant slices
- Bismark – ham, tomato sauce, cheese, an egg sunny side up
- Quattro Formaggi – four types of cheese, tomato sauce
- If you would like your own variant (if you would like an all-vegetable pizza, for example), it is possible to add or remove ingredients as you like. When ordering, just politely ask the waiter if they can accommodate your request, and in most of the cases, they’ll say yes. The few times they would probably refuse would be if the ingredients you requested aren’t on hand, or if they’re nearing closing time.
- If you’re customizing your pizza, expect the price to adjust accordingly, so clarify with the waiter how much it will cost you before finalizing your order.
Most Popular Ingredients at an Italian Pizzeria
If you’re planning to customize your pizza or at least ask what’s going to be added to the dough, then it’s also important to know the terms to use when you talk to the waiter or pizzaiolo.
- Salame (Salami) – sausage slices that can substitute or add to ham and Speck for all-meat pizzas.
- SPECIAL NOTE: What we normally know as “pepperoni” (round meat slices used as pizza toppings) is NOT what you think it might be in Italy. If you want the meat slices, ask for “salame” and its variants, because if you insist on an all-“peperoni” pizza in Italy, you’ll end up with nothing but peppers for toppings!
- Mozzarella (and Mozzarella di Bufala) – a soft, fresh savory cheese made from cow or buffalo milk. Mozzarella di Bufala is extra savory but pricey, so ask about the costs and prepare for a gastronomic delight if you’re opting for this.
- Olive (black and green olives) – most pizzas use black olives, but you can also ask for green olives if they are available. The green ones are usually sweeter.
- Prosciutto (ham)-comes in three variants which are “cotto” (normal), “crudo” (salted and seasoned), and “affumicato” (smoked).
- Speck – mostly a northern product, it is a type of pork ham or prosciutto, that has been salted and seasoned, and is very savory. It can mostly be compared to bacon.
- Funghi (mushrooms) – these are usually champignons or button mushrooms, though high end places may offer you the option of porcini, a Piedmontese mushroom, or the REALLY high end ones, may even offer truffles!
- Capperi (capers) – common in Sicilian pizzas and variants that include seafood among the ingredients.
- Alici (anchovies)
- Carciofi (Artichokes) – a smaller type of artichoke that is considered a common ingredient for pizzas in Italy.
- Uovo (Egg) – Normally cracked on top of your pizza before baking so it comes out sunny side up. It is usually used for the Bismark pizza.
And there you have it! We hope that this information can be useful for you on your next trip to Italy and that learning how to order a pizza in Italy will help you in your quest for that perfect, authentic Italian pizza. Buon appetito!
P.S.: By the way, in case you haven’t yet, make sure to grab your FREE copy of our eBook to find out more about Italian beaches this summer! Ciao!