Pizza Hut: Working Against a Neapolitan Tradition

Ninety-three percent of Americans have eaten pizza last month (Pizza.com), and virtually every American has, at one point in our lives, picked up the phone to order a pizza from Pizza Hut.  And, upon arrival, we’ve opened the cardboard box to reveal a heavy circle of bread shining with a thick sprinkle of white cheese – and perhaps a few pepperonis.  Such a pizza differs greatly from Neapolitan pizza, which was the one of the first versions introduced to America.  Today, Restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut offer merely a globalized version of Italy’s signature culinary creation.  Since the first Pizza Hut opening in 1958, a shocking 34,000 more have been built, according to A History of Business.  When compared side by side, the difference between Neapolitan and American pizza can be seen immediately.

Now, let’s compare the two.

The top picture is of a Pizza Hut pie, and the bottom is of a Neapolitan.

Size

A typical Neapolitan pizza is about 12” in diameter.  It’s common to order one pizza per person, because Neapolitan pies are so light.  At Pizza Hut, however, customers have the option to purchase a 16” pizza.  Although there is the option for a 10 and 12 inch pizza, all I’ve seen people order is either the 14” or 16”.  While a Neapolitan pizza feeds a single person, and Americanized pizza can feed up to ten!

Crust

Most Americans expect a crunchy crust from a pizza.  If one ordered a Pizza Hut pie and found that it was floppy or soggy, they would probably take it back and complain.  However, Neapolitans actually prefer soft and pliable dough.  Their pizza can even be called “soupy”, because its sauce tends to pool in the middle.  Watch this video from Slice.SeriousEats.com to learn more about “soupy” pizza.

In this picture (from Serious Eats) you can see the pooling of the sauce in the center of the pizza, causing its “soupiness”.

This Pizza Hut crust is much thicker than Neapolitan varieties.

A thin slice of Margherita from Tavolo V’s. Picture by J. Pollack Photography.

Toppings

One of the greatest ways that American and Neapolitan pizzas differ is in their toppings.  To true Neapolitan “purists”, there are only two types of pizza; the marinara, and the margherita.  The marinara consists of tomato, oregano, basil, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil – no cheese.  As for the margherita, kudos to Raffaela Esposito.   He impressed the Queen Margherita of Savoy by displaying the colors of the Italian flag in the pizza: (red) tomatoes, (green) basil leaves, and (white) mozzarella (Source: Pomopizzaria).  He was also the first to use cheese on pizza.

The Margherita pizza

A classic marinara pizza from Wheelsoftitaly.com

The Pizza Hut menu, on the other hand, offers a plethora of pizza varieties.  To name a few, there is the Supreme Pizza, with their “signature blend of pepperoni, pork sausage, beef, mushrooms, red onions and green peppers”; the Meat Lover’s Pizza, “loaded with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon and sausage”; and the Ultimate Cheese Lover’s Pizza, “covered in creamy Alfredo sauce and topped with delicious cheeses”.

Pizza Hut Ultimate Cheese Lover’s

Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza, “loaded” with toppings.

Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s Pizza, piled high with meat.

As you can deduce from the pictures, there is a minimal amount of toppings on the Neapolitan pizza, and a maximum amount on the Pizza Hut varieties.  The Neapolitans thought there should be an equal balance between the crust, sauce, and cheese, so that each aspect can be tasted equally.  However, Pizza Hut franchises share the American mentality of  “the more the merrier”.  Adjectives such as “covered, and loaded” are used to describe the extent of their toppings.  The American pies are smothered in meat, cheese, and sauces that takeover the dough.

Holding on to Traditions

As a way to combat the Americanization of pizza, Antonio Pace, of the restaurant Ciro a Santa Brigada in Naples, created the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.  The association aims to protect the Vera Pizza Napoletana (Real Neapolitan Pizza) by publishing strict Pizza Disciplines  outlining how a “real pizza” should be made.

The Pizza Disciplines cover virtually every aspect of the pizza.  I am not going to describe the whole eleven page document (that would be ridiculous), but I will summarize it.

The dough should be “soft, elastic….and easy to fold.”  Furthermore, towards the center, it should be especially “soft to the touch and taste”.  In terms of The Marinara’s appearance, the tomato sauce should be bright red, and unite equally with the green of the basil, the white of the garlic, and the olive oil.  The Margherita pizza should have equally spaced pieces of mozzarella, as well as evenly placed basil that is a dark green, as a result of the cooking process.

Continuing, true Neapolitan pizza should be cooked solely in a wood fire oven, at 905°F.  This is essential because it creates the desirable charing of the crust, and cooks it in just 60 to 90 seconds.  The document goes even further to list the only acceptable ingredients for the pizza and how much must be used, but I will not go into that.

If you would like to see how a real Neapolitan pizza is made, watch this video (scroll to bottom of the page) from Passion-for-pizza.com.

Italian pizza lovers such as Antonio Pace believe it is their duty to protect the honesty of Neapolitan pizza.  “We are against the cultural and commercial deformation of our pizza and against its industrialization; in fact, the ready-to-eat and frozen pizzas sold in supermarkets have nothing to do with the original ones,” says Pace (Source = Passion-for-pizza).    The globalization of American pizza is taking over, with a source stating that 4,570 Pizza Huts are located outside of the U.S., as of 2011.  It is important that Italy does not lose a part of its rich culinary history because of these profit-hungry restaurants.

**All photos were taken from Google.com/images, unless stated otherwise**

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