Our first meal when we arrived in Italy was pizza. Exhausted and jet-lagged, we were feeling hungry and groggy. We walked the route from our apartment along the main street of our little town to explore our new surroundings, and then picked up two pizzas to bring back with us for lunch (or dinner to our 6 hour time difference appetites). After perusing the Italian menu, we placed our order. We figured we must've done something right, because after a few minutes we were handed two steaming hot pizza boxes. Much to our dismay upon opening the boxes when we got back to the apartment, we had mistakenly ordered a pizza with peperoni, not to be confused with pepperoni. All of my Italian language studies were useless to my fuzzy, tired brain. I had ordered myself a giant pizza covered in hot peppers. Oops. If you happen to find yourself hoping for a pizza resembling a pepperoni pizza, you'll need to order a pizza with salame.
There are a few things we learned about ordering/eating pizza in Italy~
-When ordering pizza in a restaurant, you'll typically get an entire pizza to yourself and it will not be sliced. Pizzas are served on a large plate, and you eat it with a knife and fork. True story...our "furnished" apartment came with one of these giant ceramic pizza serving plates, but no can opener or cups, and hardly any forks.
-If you happen to visit a chain-type pizza restaurant in Italy, chances are you'll be able to order pizza by the meter. Do it. It's a spectacle.
-For the most part, the pizza crusts are very very thin. Although I had a few really great focaccia pizzas too.
-Not all pizza in Italy is created equally. There are pizzerias on nearly every block, but if you're looking for the good stuff be sure to seek out a wood-fired oven. Most of the other pizzas are very floppy, with disappointingly soggy crusts that need to be folded in half like a taco shell to be eaten.
-When in doubt, order prosciutto e funghi (prosciutto and mushrooms). It's divine. A lovely pair. Although spinaci e funghi (spinach and mushrooms) is also one of my favorites. Hubby's favorite is anchovies and capers...thanks, but no thanks.
-Italians seem to think that America only has Pizza Hut, and that we've never had good pizza. I disagree, but that's a topic for another day.
Making a perfect, crispy thin crust pizza that would satisfy even the most elite pizza connoisseurs is entirely achievable. To do so, you'll need a metal pizza pan and a good amount of olive oil. Olive oil in the pizza dough, olive oil on the pizza pan, and olive oil on the crust. Mmm... The flavor is unmatched, and the gorgeous, golden crust is crispy without being greasy.
I have found that this 14-inch pizza pan by USA Pans is an inexpensive, yet phenomenal vessel for making the perfect thin crust pizza in your home oven. (Also available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, so save your 20% off coupon!) I find it to be a much more useful pan than the ones with holes in them, since this one can also be used for baking cookies, rolls, etc.
This recipe for pizza dough makes enough for three 14-inch pizzas. I like to make a batch and use one right away, and freeze the other two balls of dough for another time. Then all I need to do is thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight, or on the counter for a few hours.