Styles of Pizza Around the World

Jump to: New York | Florida | Detroit | Northeastern US | New England | Sicily | Poland | Canada | South America | Eastern Mediterranean | Malta & Gozo Islands | Asia

Pizza is one of the most popular foods in America. Almost everyone likes pizza, and it is economical for parties, large gatherings, or just feeding the family on an average Tuesday night. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “about one in eight Americans consume pizza on any given day.” Whether they like the convenience, the flavor, or both, Americans are hooked on this portable Italian food, which has almost completely lost its ethnic origins.

Italian immigrants introduced pizza to America in the late 1800s. It was cheap food that reminded them of home and remained in the Italian neighborhoods until 1905, when the first pizza parlor was licensed in New York City. From there the phenomenon grew beyond the ethnic neighborhoods and eventually consumed the entire nation. New York has a strong pizza history; a couple of the original pizza restaurants opened in the early 1900s still operate today.

Like everything else, pizza took a long time to travel from the East Coast to California. Its first stop was Chicago in the 1940s, where it got a foot-hold with second-generation Italian immigrants expanding westward and developed a Midwestern spin. New York-style pizza didn’t hit the West Coast until the 1980s and was definitely influenced by the health craze that came before it.

What Does Pizza Really Mean?

The word for pizza in any language generally refers to the flattening or pressing of the dough to make a crust. That dough can be made of any consistency and flavor. Many are raised with yeast to yield a soft, fluffy texture. But the dough can also include other ingredients for leavening such as baking powder or eggs.

The dough used for a pizza crust may also vary in flavor:

  • Some recipes add sugar, more than what is needed to activate the yeast, for a sweeter flavor.
  • Others enhance the saltiness of the dough or leave it completely flat, devoid of any flavor.
  • Some types of pizza use the dough strictly as a vehicle to deliver the toppings.
  • Others rely on the dough to add flavor to the overall meal.

The consistent effect of all varieties of pizza crust is to increase portability. In most cultures, pizza is a portable food eaten with the hands and sometimes on the run. At its most essential, pizza entered most countries through the poor neighborhoods as a means of feeding a family with few resources. It is easy to make, with few ingredients required.

Topping a pizza is where most of the fun takes place. All worldwide versions of pizza are based on local ingredients and flavors. Around the world there seem to be no taboos for pizza topping. If you can eat it, you can put it on a pizza. From seafood in Japan to cream and bacon in Alsace, every region of the world has experimented with creating a signature pizza flavor. In Asia, especially Korea, where pizza is a more recent phenomenon, the experimentation continues!

Pizza in America

The original recipe for pizza contained just tomato sauce, basil and cheese, representing the three colors of the Italian flag. As news of this delicious, simple, portable food spread, the recipe expanded to incorporate different ideas and tastes. Today, you can get almost any toppings imaginable on a pizza.

Like many other foods, pizza has developed a regional flavor. In New York, the American epicenter, pizza maintains its traditional form. The crust is thin and soft, topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Other popular toppings include sausage, mushrooms, peppers and onions, but pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the entire country.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza


chicago deep dish pizza

If you get pepperoni on your pizza in Chicago, though, you will need a knife and fork. The best Chicago-style pizza is called deep dish because it is made in a deeper pan with more toppings than the New York version. In the 1940s, a couple of Chicago entrepreneurs developed the recipe with a few variants:

  • It has a deeper, crunchier crust.
  • Chicago pizzas involve several layers of toppings, like a stuffed pie.
  • Unlike the traditional Italian or New York varieties, the best deep-dish pizza layers the sauce on top of the cheese instead of the other way around.

California really turned pizza on its head, though, by bringing it into the epicenter of the organic food movement. Californians placed an emphasis on vegetables to attract the attention of trendy vegetarians. In California, pizza also went high-end. In the 1980s Spago, one of the first chef-owned restaurants, featured a pizza topped with caviar as one of its signature dishes. Veggie pizza also has its origins in California.

New York Sicilian-Style


New York Sicilian-Style

If you order a thick-crust pizza in the United States, you may be served a Sicilian pie, if you’re in New York. This regional variation has its roots in Italy’s sfincione, but American influences have changed the pie into something unique.

Though sfincione was the inspiration for Sicilian pizza in New York, the crust is where the similarities end. Sfincione has a small amount of hard cheese sprinkled on top, but Sicilian pie in the United States features thick layers of both tomato sauce and melty mozzarella. With an oiled base and pan baking method, this dish has many similarities to a Chicago deep-dish pie — except Sicilian pizza in New York is baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.

Depending on where you get New York Sicilian-style pie, the cheese may be shredded and put on top of the sauce or sliced and put under it. If the mozzarella used is sliced and layered under the sauce, it’s referred to as an “upside-down Sicilian.” Sometimes pizzerias use additional toppings like pepperoni.

Florida Scachatta Pizza



For a uniquely American melting pot of flavors, head down to Tampa for scachatta. This Floridian city is the only place in the country you can get the Cuban-Sicilian-American pie. While it shares many similarities with tomato pies found in the Northeast, the Cuban influence in Florida can be tasted in the additions of corn or cassava flour in the thick crust. Additionally, many places use a rich, egg-based dough.

The Cuban influence means the sauce has extra spices and ground beef cooked into it. No other tomato pie incorporates meat into the sauce, making scachatta a unique dish. Like tomato pies, scachatta is often cut into squares.

If you’re looking for this version of pie, pass by the pizzerias and head toward a Cuban-Italian bakery. There, you’ll find scachatta served in bakery cases with other regional specialties like Cuban bread and pastries. When you purchase scachatta, don’t heat it. The pie is meant to be eaten at room temperature, like other pastries.

Detroit-Style Pizza


Detroit-Style Pizza

Detroit-style pizza starts with a thick crust baked in a rectangular pan. The pan is important to the cooking because the properly seasoned pans don’t require the copious amounts of oil used in other pan pizza recipes. This makes the pizza less oily on the bottom, but not less flavorful.

The order of ingredients when building the pie also sets Detroit-style pizza apart. The dough lines the bottom of the pan, followed by pepperoni. Then brick cheese, a unique blend from the Great Lakes region, goes over the top of the pepperoni. This cheese is mixed with cheddar and mozzarella. Finally, the cook tops the cheese with sauce, giving rise to this pie’s other name of an “upside-down pizza.”

Northeastern US Tomato Pie


Tomato Pie

Like New York-style Sicilian-style pies, tomato pies in the United States got their inspiration from sfincione. The crust is the same fluffy focaccia-type crust found in sfincione recipes, but unlike the Italian dish, the sauce is the most important part of a tomato pie. In Philadelphia and other parts of the northeastern United States that make tomato pies, the sauce is often called tomato gravy. The crust is baked in a rectangular pan in a brick oven at a low heat. After cooking, the only cheese used on the Philadelphia version of tomato pie is a sprinkling of Romano or Parmesan. Tomato pies are cut into squares for serving at room temperature or while still hot.

Other parts of the Northeast, like New Jersey, combine the concepts of tomato pie with Neapolitan pizza. Unlike Philadelphia tomato pies, New Jersey ones are baked in a round pan. New Jersey-style pies also use more toppings and cheese compared to the Philadelphia version. The amount of toppings and cheese is the subject of the rivalry between the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and their respective pies.

Rhode Island has its own version of tomato pie, too. Instead of cutting the pie into squares, it’s sliced into strips. This cutting method gives the Rhode Island version its name of “pizza strips.” There is no cheese on top, aside from the typical dusting of Parmesan cheese. While some tomato pies are served warm, pizza strips are served cold. Their bite-sized shape makes these strips the ideal food for birthdays and other gatherings. And that’s how Rhode Islanders enjoy these. People often have preferences for pieces cut from the middle or from the edges, but the debate of middle or edge can only be settled on a personal level. If you get the chance to try pizza strips, enjoy them from both places to decide whether you are a middle or an edge lover.

New England Greek-Style


New England Greek-Style

In New England, you’ll find a style of pizza that sits between thin crust and deep dish. New England Greek-style pie refers to a hand-stretched, no-knead dough that is baked in a well-oiled pan. The crust has a texture like focaccia, except the bottom is crunchy. Some chefs insist on Crisco for greasing the pan to achieve the pie’s famous crunch.

The toppings include copious amounts of rich, cooked tomato sauce spiked with oregano. Unlike other tomato sauces, the one used for Greek pies uses the tangy, concentrated flavor of tomato paste instead of tomato sauce. After saucing the dough, the cook sprinkles on equal parts of mozzarella and white cheddar. Occasionally, workers at houses of pizza — as Greek immigrants named their pizzerias — add provolone into the cheese mix. Most pizza shops stop at this stage, refusing to add any other toppings. The topped pizza bakes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit until it’s cooked through. While you have the options of meat and vegetable toppings, the heavy layers of cheese and sauce may overpower them.

If you crave a New England Greek pie, head to a pizza house. The establishment’s name indicates it serves Greek pizza and not Italian pies, which come from pizzerias. Greek pizza houses are scattered throughout New York and New England, where the immigrants from Greece settled and took over the pizzerias of retiring Italian-Americans. Owning a pizza house was such a popular profession for immigrants that 76 percent of Greek-Americans in Connecticut participated in a pizza business.

Pizza in Different Countries

While hard-working immigrants from many countries were settling in America and developing its eclectic cuisine, pizza was making its way around the world. In some instances, it is hard to say if the Italian version came along and was then altered according to local flavors or if pizza was simultaneously invented in different parts of the world as a basic part of the indigenous cuisine.

In every culture, pizza began as a basic, inexpensive way of feeding a family. It can be made with just a few ingredients and customized to accommodate availability of local foods. One thing is sure, if you sample the pizza from different locations around the world, you will taste a variety of flavors. As one might expect, these different styles of pizza reflect the national taste and culture.


Italian Varieties

The original home of pizza, Italy has also created regional variations.

  • Naples:

    What we consider traditional pizza in America is from Naples — a thin, soft crust with tomato sauce, basil and cheese. The pizza is round and cut into wedges, sometimes referred to as pizza pie. The word “Neapolitan” is occasionally used to refer to the New York style of pizza.

  • Rome:

    Another version of Italian pizza originated in Rome. Roman pizza is called “pizza bianca,” meaning white pizza. There are a couple different versions of this, but none of them include tomato sauce.

Pizza bianca is made with a thin crust, sometimes almost cracker-thin and crispy. The crust is topped with olive oil, garlic and cheese. Other toppings such as sliced olives, anchovies and fresh herbs like parsley and basil are sometimes added. Another variation of pizza bianca starts by spreading ricotta on the crust and then adding other ingredients on top.

Sfincione Sicily Pizza



When you crave a deep dish pie in Sicily, head toward a bakery called a panificio. Inside, you’ll find bakers serving up squares of an unusual deep-dish creation called sfincione. Sfincione — yes, it’s spelled that way — has a thick crust, like a deep-dish pie, but that’s where the similarities end. The bread has a fried base from oil in the bottom of the pan, but the bread’s texture has an airiness that perfectly absorbs the flavor of the oil from the pan and the toppings.

Unlike Chicago pie, which uses mozzarella, you won’t find any of this melty cheese atop sfincione. The lack of cows’ milk cheese on this pie originated from Sicily’s reliance on goat and sheep for cheese production. The hard cheeses produced from these animals’ milk were cheaper than cows’ milk cheeses. Sfincione has always been a way to use cheap ingredients to make a tasty meal, so hard, long-lasting grating cheeses became the norm.

The sauce used is not a standard sauce found in the United States. Sfincione features a thick combination of tomato, onion and anchovies for its sauce. Have some breath mints handy after eating this dish. Atop the sauce, bakers put a sprinkling of hard cheese and breadcrumbs.

Pizza Around Europe

The pizza in Spain, called coca, is made with slightly lighter dough than in Italy, and it is often rolled out very thin. Like pizza in other countries, coca has a number of variations, but the traditional recipe includes caramelized onions and chorizo, a Spanish-style sausage that is very spicy. Diced or sliced fresh vegetables, anchovies, and olives can be added. Like other Spanish dishes, coca leans toward a spicy, peppery flavor to make it authentic.

French Tarte Flambee


french tarte flambee

French pizza, or tarte flambee, originated in the Alsace region of France and is considered a specialty there. Similar to Italian and American pizza, it begins with a soft, thin crust of yeast-raised dough. The traditional toppings for tarte flambee are crème fraîche, caramelized onions and lardons.

Crème fraîche or fromage blanc are used interchangeably almost as a sauce. They are both soft and creamy with a delicate, sweet cheese flavor. Sweet caramelized onions balance the salty lardons — bits of pork fat — in this savory concoction.

Another variation of pizza popular in France is pissaladiere, which originated in Nice. The dough is thicker than Neapolitan pizza, and the traditional toppings include caramelized onions and anchovies. Salty anchovies are used to balance the sweet flavor of the onions instead of lardons like in the tarte flambee. This difference is probably due to the fact that Nice is a coastal region while Alsace is not.

Flammukuchen is the German version of tarte flambee, also originating in the Alsace region. As the recipe for this comfort food moved across the border into Germany, some variations took place. Flammukuchen is traditionally prepared with sliced raw onions, not caramelized onions like the tarte flambee. Raw bacon is also substituted for the rendered lardons.

As the ingredients cook together on the crust in a hot oven, the melting bacon fat protects the crust from drying out, since there is no sauce to protect it. Crème fraîche also mixes with the bacon fat to moisten the onions while they cook. The result is a more rustic, less-refined version of tarte flambee.

Polish Zapiekanka



Pizza technically is like an open-faced sandwich or a single-layer pie. Think about these pies made on top of French bread or bagel halves. These dishes have thick crusts like deep-dish pies without the need to bake a dough before adding toppings to it. While you could call a French bread pizza an open-faced sandwich, its toppings make it more like a pizza. Using this definition of a single-sided sandwich topped with tomato sauce and cheese, this dish appears in unusual places, like as the street food of Poland.

In Poland, you’ll see people on the street devouring not hot dogs, like in America, but open-faced French bread sandwiches, resembling thick-crust pizzas. These treats are called zapiekanki when pluralized. The toppings are familiar to those who enjoy American pizza. Cheese, mushrooms and ketchup are commonly used.

Variations of this food resemble the alternative pies found in the United States. For instance, you can get a Hawaiian-style option with pineapple. Greek-style zapiekanka have olives and feta cheese.

Canadian Regina-Style Pizza



Deep-dish pizza is not only an American institution. Our neighbors to the north have a tradition of piling toppings high atop thick crusts to create hearty pizzas that will satisfy any appetite.

Regina-style pie, also called prairie-style, is a staple of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The dish can reach up to three inches tall with its heaping mound of toppings.

The base, though thick like a Chicago-style deep-dish, is much denser than its American counterpart. The crust combines a standard crust with a biscuit dough to make a unique base for the pie. Greek seasonings add a tang to the sauce, while toppings go over the sauce. The cheese layer is last, blanketing the entire dish.

South American Fugazzeta



Deep-dish pies with cheese don’t always need sauce. Several places around the world flavor bread with cheese and other toppings. For instance, Argentina has fugazza and fugazzeta, both of which use thick crusts and cheese but not the tomato sauce Americans are familiar with. When looking for a dish similar to Chicago-style stuffed pie, you will find a close relation in fugazzeta.

In Argentina, natives have a version of focaccia called fugazza. When the recipe for fugazza is altered to make the bread portion thicker and stuff it with mozzarella cheese, the pie become fugazzeta. While it does not have tomato sauce, like American deep-dish pizzas have, fugazzeta has the same bready, cheesy goodness of pizza. The top of fugazzeta typically has cooked sweet onions.

What makes Argentinian pies, including fugazzeta unique is the large amount of cheese piled on it. For instance, a large fugazzeta pie averages two pounds of cheese. With its hearty filling, fugazzeta has more similarities to our stuffed Chicago pizza compared to pizza in other countries.

Eastern Mediterranean Pizza

On the other side of the Mediterranean, pizza takes a similar form but the flavors are very different. Instead of the sweet and salty balance of caramelized onions and bacon or sweet tomato and spicy sausage, these pizzas have an earthier flavor. Instead of a bright red flavors, eastern Mediterranean pizza is more of a savory brown.

In Turkey there is a meal prepared on a flatbread that resembles pizza called “lahmacun.” It is no surprise the Turkish version of pizza includes lamb, since it is a popular meat throughout Middle Eastern cuisine, which Turkish food is descendent from. Lahmacun is made with ground lamb, tomato and a unique blend of spices on a flatbread crust. Cumin, paprika, cinnamon, garlic, onion and cayenne pepper provide the flavor for this spicy meal.

Lahmacun is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that is sometimes attributed to the Turks, the Greeks or the Armenians. Everyone in the region wants to claim ownership of this delectable treat. Lahmacun is just as easy to make as American pizza:

  • The ground lamb is mixed with olive oil, parsley and spices.
  • It is spread over the top of a thin circle of yeast dough.
  • The toppings and crust cook together in a hot oven, infusing the whole pizza with a rich, savory goodness.

Further down the Mediterranean shore, manakish is the pizza of Lebanon, and it is a popular breakfast food. According to tradition, women bake bread at a communal oven each morning to be used throughout the day. While performing this chore, they flatten small portions of bread dough to cook quickly. Topped with seasonings, these manakish are eaten for breakfast.

Traditional manakish toppings include thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Like in most other cultures, pizza began as a cheap food eaten mainly in poor neighborhoods. Over time its convenient appeal spread to other strata of the culture and it became pervasive. Manakish is often served with fresh mint, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers on the side to enhance the meal.

Malta & Gozo Regina-Style



Deep-dish pizza is not only an American institution. Our neighbors to the north have a tradition of piling toppings high atop thick crusts to create hearty pizzas that will satisfy any appetite.

Regina-style pie, also called prairie-style, is a staple of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The dish can reach up to three inches tall with its heaping mound of toppings.

The base, though thick like a Chicago-style deep-dish, is much denser than its American counterpart. The crust combines a standard crust with a biscuit dough to make a unique base for the pie. Greek seasonings add a tang to the sauce, while toppings go over the sauce. The cheese layer is last, blanketing the entire dish.

Asian Pizza


pizza in japan

In Japan, okonomiyaki is a dish that resembles pizza in that it is a rather free-form group of toppings on a flat, circular base. Okonomiyaki is built on a disc of shredded cabbage cooked in a batter similar to pancake. The texture of this base varies by preference. Some prefer it dry and stiff while others like it to have a soft, almost custard-like center.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki has ingredients piled up on it like a traditional pizza. Those ingredients can be almost anything, from fried eggs to seafood. Okonomiyaki is considered a good way to clean out the refrigerator. Kansai-style okonomiyaki mixes all the ingredients into the batter before frying. Both types are topped with a variety of spreads and sauces before serving.

In the last couple decades, Neapolitan pizza has traveled to Japan from Italy and settled in. Japanese chefs brought the flavor back with them from their European travels and are working to recreate it for Japanese customers. In the sushi capital of the world, diners are crazed over a circle of dough covered in tomato sauce, basil and cheese.

Pizza arrived in Korea in the 1980s with American restaurant expansions. Today, the Korean pizza culture is exploding with variations. While it is possible to get a Neapolitan pizza in Korea, the locals tend to favor pizzas that feature combinations of their own familiar foods. It is not unusual to get a pizza topped with:

  • Sweet potato and wasabi
  • Japanese horseradish
  • Gochujang, a paste made from fermented soybeans

Different Versions, Delicious Taste

No matter where you live, experimenting with different flavor combinations is part of the fun when it comes to pizza. Whether you want to try something new or just get your old favorite, pizza is always a good choice.

Giordano’s was born in Chicago, where we perfected the best deep-dish pizza in the 1970s. Since then we have expanded and embraced the different interpretations of pizza around the world. Our Chicago-style and Neapolitan pies use fresh ingredients to bring you the best flavor representation pizza has to offer with the flexibility of eat-in, take-out, and online ordering for your busy family.