I love the pizza in Rome. It’s pure street food, with a thin crust, overloaded with toppings, just begging to be munched on as you walk back to your (tiny, air conditioning-free) apartment while trying not to get hit by someone on a Vespa. You stop in to any one of the seemingly infinite number of tiny pizzerias and survey their many different topping options (at this time of year, I love the zucchini blossoms), then tell them what size piece you want. They hack you off a rectangle, cut it in half, stick the two halves together (with the toppings facing in), wrap it in wax paper, and off you go. Sometimes, if I’m feeling decadent, I’ll also get a suppli, which is like a deep-fried ball of risotto awesomeness. I have also been known to walk down the street with pizza in one hand and gelato in the other, because what about that doesn’t sound amazing?
Pizza in other parts of Italy, though, is completely different. In Sicily they have the inch-thick, bready rectangular slices. But most Italians will admit that the best pizza in the country is in Naples. It is definitely not street food. Neapolitan pizza comes in round, single-serving pies, that are almost cracker-thin except for the signature puffy crust around the edge. I like to think of them as a sort of bullseye. In the middle, the pizza is sort of soggy from the sauce and cheese (usually buffalo mozzarella, which is awesome). Then there’s a ring of thin crispy-crunchiness, and outside that, a ring of chewy, puffy pizza crust. It’s basically heaven. But you need a really, really hot wood-burning oven to make it. Most American ovens won’t go high enough (although some intrepid pizza hackers have been known to tamper with their oven’s heat control sensors, which I would most emphatically not recommend).
This recipe won’t give you real Neapolitan pizza, but it’s pretty freaking good fakery and the best pizza I’ve ever made at home. Splurge on the good ingredients – imported buffalo mozzarella and san marzano tomatoes – and you won’t regret it. It requires some planning in advance, but it cooks extremely quickly, which is definitely a plus during these hot summer months.