What Exactly is a Neapolitan Pizza?

What Exactly is a Neapolitan Pizza?

What Exactly is a Neapolitan Pizza? Exploring Italy is amazing – the country is full of old buildings and charming streets. From big cities to quiet towns with old villas, Italy has something for everyone. You can sip on coffee and biscotti at traditional cafes, and of course, you can’t forget about the pizza – especially Neapolitan pizza, the original. This type of pizza comes from Naples and is known as pizza Napoletana. It’s not like regular pizza with toppings like pepperoni, onions, or pineapple, it only has a few essential ingredients like fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, tomatoes, and simple wheat dough.

Chefs and foodies love Neapolitan pizza because it’s all about the ingredients. It’s not about piling on as many toppings as possible, it’s about finding the freshest ingredients to enjoy the flavors. Getting the ripest tomatoes and the best mozzarella is just the beginning. Kneading the dough by hand is crucial to getting the perfect texture. The sauce for Neapolitan pizza is made up of just four things: cheese, tomatoes, herbs, and olive oil, and the key is to add just the right amount of each so you can taste them all but none of them overpowering the others. This simplicity is what makes Neapolitan pizza stand out from other types of pizza like New York, California, Chicago style and other Italian styles.


The story of Neapolitan pizza goes back to Naples, Italy in the 1600s. People who were struggling financially started adding tomatoes to their flatbreads after the fruit was imported from Peru. Explorers had brought them back, and even though people were initially scared to eat them because they thought they were poisonous, they became popular once people realized they were safe to eat. The lower-income areas of the city were known for their great pizzas, and they even drew in visitors from other towns. At first, the bread only had sauce and no cheese, but cheese was added later. The pizza really blew up in popularity in the 1880s when a baker made a pizza for the King and Queen with the colors of the Italian flag (red, white, and green) represented by tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. And that’s the flavor combination that’s still used in Neapolitan pizzas today.

What Makes Neapolitan Pizza Special?

When King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples, a baker named Raffaele Esposito made a special Neapolitan pizza just for them. Before that, bakers in the area only made pizzas with sauce and no cheese, toppings, or any other ingredients. That’s why it’s called the Margherita. It was special because it was already a popular local dish, but Raffaele put his own spin on it to impress the royal couple.

Not a lot of people know this, but in Italy, there’s a board that certifies pizza makers who specialize in making Neapolitan pizza. For it to be considered authentic, it has to be made with dough and four ingredients – fresh basil, mozzarella, tomato, and extra virgin olive oil. Unlike in America where the mozzarella is shredded, in Neapolitan pizza, it’s sliced thin. To get the best taste, a lot of pizzerias use a wood-fired brick oven to bake it.

What makes Neapolitan pizza stand out from other types of pizza?

People choose Neapolitan pizza because they like the simple flavors that really stand out. Other pizzas may be delicious, but they often have sauces with too many competing flavors. Instead of complementing each other, these flavors get muddled and need to be stronger. Here are some differences between Neapolitan pizza and other types of pizza in the United States.

New York Style vs. Neapolitan Pizza

In New York City, you can get a huge pizza. These pies are around 18 inches across. They’re made that big so people who can only afford one slice can eat it quickly while walking. Usually, New Yorkers eat the pizza folded in half, which makes it easy to hold with one hand, unlike Italian pizza, which is eaten with a knife and fork.

Even though it’s convenient, New York pizza doesn’t have the same rustic flavor as Neapolitan pizza. This is because they don’t put as much emphasis on using high-quality ingredients like Neapolitan pizza makers do. They also often use a pizza oven dome to make sure the crust has the right texture.

California Style vs. Neapolitan Pizza

California-style pizza may not be as popular as its Neapolitan counterpart, but it’s still a tasty option. Just like Neapolitan pizzas, California-style pizzas are 12-inch single-serving pizzas, not meant to be shared. It’s a combination of the thin crust styles from Italy and New York-style ingredients with California’s unique flavors as toppings. It might sound appealing to some, but with so many options and nuances, it can take time and effort to decide if it’s delicious. On the other hand, Neapolitan pizzas focus on creating a fantastic crust, using fresh mozzarella, and adding fresh basil and tomatoes to make a simple yet delicious meal.

Chicago Style vs. Neapolitan Pizza

Chicago-style pizza was created by Italian immigrants who settled in Chicago and wanted something to remind them of their homeland. But instead of trying to copy the pizza they left behind, they put their own twist on it. Chicago pizza is famous for its deep-dish shape and fried crust, and the sauce and cheese are switched around – the sauce is put on top so the bottom can cook properly before the cheese burns.

Chicago-style pizza is really unique and that’s why people love it. But when it comes to flavor, Neapolitan pizza is even better. Chicago pizza is pretty heavy and rich, so you can only eat a couple of slices of it. On the other hand, Neapolitan pizza is light and delicious, making it hard to stop eating. Chicago-style pizza can have lots of ingredients on it, but Neapolitan pizza keeps it simple with just a few basic toppings. So you don’t have to choose between pepperoni and sausage.

Italian Style vs. Neapolitan Pizza

It might seem strange to differentiate between Neapolitan and Italian pizzas, but it’s all about the little details. They’re similar, but there are some differences that people might not notice. The crust of a Neapolitan pizza is thin and flat, which sets it apart from the traditional Italian pizza which has a thicker, doughier crust. People usually prefer the texture of a Neapolitan pizza since it’s not as soft in the middle. Also, you can find up to five different kinds of cheese on an Italian pizza, while Neapolitan pizza usually has only two to three types.

Final Thoughts

Making Neapolitan pizza is not just about the ingredients, it’s also about how it’s made. And using the right oven can make a huge difference. A wood-fired oven similar to the one used in the 1600s can give the pizza an authentic Italian flavor. Plus, it cooks the pizza quickly, which is perfect for a pizzeria or a home chef who wants to make pizzas for guests. Compared to the thick, greasy crust of Chicago pizzas, a chewy crust with fresh ingredients is much more refreshing. California pizzas try to put a unique spin on traditional pizza, but it can sometimes be too much. And a New York-style pizza is only good when you’re buying a single slice because of its large size.

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