Pizza in Italy vs. America

Pizza in Italy vs. America – How and Why They’re Different?

Is there something in the pizza in Italy vs. America debate? Isn’t it just the same pizza in these two countries? The quick answer is no. Pizza in Italy varies from that in America.

In this article, I’ll be looking at:

Key Takeaways

  • Italian pizzas typically remain faithful to their traditional roots, often embracing minimalistic toppings. In contrast, American pizzas cater to various tastes, reflecting American culture’s diverse and accommodating nature.
  • The United States has a culturally diverse population with a wide range of taste preferences. To appeal to a broader audience, American pizzas often incorporate a variety of toppings and flavors, departing from the simplicity of traditional Italian pizzas.
  • American cuisine has a history of culinary experimentation and innovation. Pizzerias in the U.S. have adapted and created new pizza styles to suit the evolving tastes of the American consumer. This might involve introducing different ingredients, sauces, and cooking techniques, leading to pizzas deviating from the classic Italian approach.

Crust Comparison

One of the primary distinctions between Italian and American pizzas is the crust. Italian pizzas boast a thin and light crust, while American pizzas come in various crust options, often thicker and denser than their Italian counterparts.

Let’s look at the preparation in both cultures to find out how the crusts differ.

Dough Discourse: Italian Simplicity vs American Variety

Dough preparation and ingredients are significant differences between Italian and American pizzas. Here are some key differences:

  • Italian pizzas use 00 flour for a more delicate pizza dough, while American pizzas opt for all-purpose or bread flour for a thicker crust.
  • The perfect temperature for cooking pizza dough with olive oil in Italian pizza ovens is around 800 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.
  • Italy’s thin-crust pizza is thin and crispy, made from a simple dough.

Quick Fact: The “00 ” refers to the texture and fineness of the flour. In the pizza-making world, this type of flour is favored for its ability to create a soft and elastic dough, ideal for achieving that perfect thin crust. It’s commonly used in traditional Neapolitan pizza recipes for its specific gluten content and texture.

– Luca
A 00 flour used for Italian pizza
A 00 flour by Caputo – my choice for making an Italian pizza at home.

American pizza offers an abundance of crust options, such as:

  • Stuffed crust
  • Herbed crust
  • Flaky croissant crust
  • Thin, crispy St. Louis-style crust

Each one is unique, including the deep, saucy Chicago crust, which has its own dedicated fan base. Americans often build their pizzas by selecting ingredients from a list, a popular way of eating pizza in the United States.

Difference in Sauces

Pizza Sauces
Pizza Sauces made from fresh tomatoes.

Another critical distinction between Italian and American pizzas is the sauce. Italian pizzas typically feature a lighter tomato sauce of crushed tomatoes and herbs. In comparison, American pizzas usually have a thicker sauce cooked with a mix of herbs and a bit of sugar. Italian sauces commonly include basil and oregano, often topped with tomato and mozzarella cheese.

The most noticeable difference between Italian and American pizzas is in the preparation and ingredients used for the sauce.

My Two Cents: The Americans too can go minimalistic with their pizza sauce when they want to. But it’s their Margherita pizza that perhaps comes close to the Italian side of things.

The Margherita pizza typically consists of a few key ingredients: a light tomato sauce made with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, extra-virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt.

The emphasis here is on high-quality, fresh ingredients, allowing the natural flavors to shine without an overwhelming array of additional seasonings.

– Luca

What About Cheese

Neapolitan Pizza with Mozzarella di Buffalo Campana
Neapolitan Pizza (Margherita with extra olives) with Mozzarella di Buffalo Campana DOP

Italian pizzas typically use fresh mozzarella, especially for the classic pizza Margherita. The cheese selection is particularly important in traditional Italian pizza, as it must melt uniformly without burning under the high heat of Italian pizza ovens.

On the other hand, American pizzas usually use pre-shredded mozzarella with other toppings and cheeses thrown in.

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, a PDO product produced in Campania, is often used with pureed fresh tomatoes on Italian pizzas.

My Two Cents: Many American pizzerias prefer pre-shredded mozzarella as a common choice due to convenience and efficiency. It’s easy to use and ensures a uniform distribution of cheese across the pizza. But, fresh mozzarella has a distinct texture and flavor, with a creamier consistency when melted. It adds a more authentic touch to the pizza, resembling the traditional Margherita style.

High-end American pizzerias opt for fresh mozzarella.

– Luca

Toppings – Less Is More Or The Sky’s the Limit?

Another aspect that sets Italian and American pizzas apart is the approach to toppings. Italian pizzas lean towards minimalism, prioritizing high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. This straightforward approach enhances the authentic flavors.

In contrast, American pizzas are recognized for their abundant and varied toppings. American pizzerias offer a multitude of topping combinations, allowing customers to customize their pizza. The transformation of American pizza culture has resulted in an extensive assortment of toppings, satisfying desires from:

  • meat lover’s specials
  • vegetarian options
  • gourmet combinations
  • unique and creative flavors

Eating Experience

Italian pizza experience with friends
Best pizza? The one you share with friends!

The eating experience of Italian and American pizzas also varies. In Italy, pizzas are usually eaten with a knife and fork while sitting at a restaurant. This traditional dining experience allows for a more leisurely enjoyment of the meal.

On the other hand, American pizzas are often consumed on the go and shared among friends. Americans typically enjoy their pizza by hand, either folded or flat, and sometimes even add extra toppings like crushed red pepper or Parmesan cheese. This casual approach to pizza consumption reflects the adaptable nature of American culture.

The Pizzeria Perspective: Italian Authenticity vs. American Adaptability

Italian pizzerias focus on authenticity and tradition, staying true to the classics. This dedication to preserving the essence of traditional Italian pizza is a testament to the importance of quality and heritage in Italian cuisine, which is also evident in authentic Italian food.

On the other hand, American pizzerias have adjusted to local tastes and preferences, leading to a range of American pizza styles.

Italian cuisine was introduced to Americans by Italian immigrants, and the evolving tastes of American consumers have transformed the American pizza scene from regional cooking styles to chain locations, frozen food, and delivery services. This flexibility has cultivated a distinctive and varied pizza environment in the United States.

Italian vs. American pizza compared
Italian vs. American pizza compared

Protecting the Neapolitan Pizza Tradition

The Neapolitan pizza tradition is protected through certification and strict regulations, ensuring the quality and authenticity of this Italian pizza style. La Pizza Napoletana is given the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) certification, which requires it to adhere to the official Neapolitan pizza recipe.

The flour used for making the crust must be either 00 or 0. The crust must rise at least 1-2cm to be considered good. This certification guarantees that you’re getting the real deal regarding authentic Italian pizza, also known as authentic Neapolitan pizza.

The UNESCO recognition of Neapolitan pizza as an intangible cultural heritage highlights the importance of this art form in Italy. The dedication to preserving the ancient Neapolitan pizza tradition showcases Italian cuisine’s passion and respect for authenticity.

Neapolitan Foccacia
The amazing, Neapolitan-style Foccacia.

Personal Preferences in Pizza Enjoyment

Ultimately, personal preferences greatly influence the enjoyment of both American and Italian pizzas.

Each style provides a unique and enjoyable culinary experience, catering to diverse tastes and preferences. Whether you favor the simplicity and authenticity of Italian pizza or the diversity and flexibility of American pizza, neither can be declared the clear winner.

What truly matters is the pleasure and satisfaction derived from indulging in a delicious slice of pizza, regardless of its origin.

So, the next time you find yourself craving a slice, why not try a style you’ve never experienced? You might discover a new favorite pizza.


In summary, Italian and American pizzas differ in crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. The eating experience and pizzeria atmosphere also vary, reflecting Italy and America’s unique culinary traditions and cultures.

The enjoyment of pizza comes down to personal preferences and an appreciation for the diverse styles and flavors each has to offer.


What distinguishes the crust in Italian and American pizzas?

Italian pizza crust is often thin and crisp, while American pizza crust can vary, with styles ranging from thin and crispy to thick and chewy.

How does the sauce differ between both types of pizzas?

Italian pizza sauce tends to be minimalistic, emphasizing fresh tomatoes and simple seasonings. American pizza sauces may be more complex, incorporating a variety of herbs, spices, and sometimes sweeteners.

What’s the role of cheese in both Italian and American pizzas?

In Italian pizzas, fresh mozzarella is common, providing a creamy texture. American pizzas often use shredded mozzarella for convenience, with variations like cheddar or provolone depending on regional styles.

How do topping choices differ between the two pizza styles?

Italian pizzas often use classic toppings like fresh basil and quality olive oil. American pizzas embrace a broader range of toppings, reflecting diverse tastes, including meats, vegetables, and various innovative combinations.

What cultural factors contribute to the differences in Italian and American pizzas?

Italian pizzas prioritize tradition and simplicity, while American pizzas reflect a diverse culinary landscape, accommodating a wide range of tastes and preferences shaped by the United States’ cultural diversity.


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