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Quattro Stagioni means... Pizza?

Dateline: 04/26/97


Pizza isn't exactly Tuscan, but it is popular, and chances are that you'll eat at at least one pizzeria during your stay. The experience can be sublime, but it can just as easily be dreadful. To begin at the beginning, there are two basic kinds of pizzeria in Italy.

  • One sells pizza by the slice, called pizza a taglio, and is a stand-up eatery, which can be fine if you're in a hurry. The pizza, made in large rectangular pans, is baked in electric ovens, has a fairly thick, soft crust, liberal topping, and can be all right if it's just out of the oven. However, pizza a taglio tends to be uninspiring even under the best of circumstances.

  • The other is the classic pizzeria, with tables, chairs, and a wood-fired oven, which sells individual pizzas to its customers. The pizza is shaped irregularly because it's placed directly on the oven floor without a baking tin, has a thin crust, and the crust is crisp.

You'll want the second kind of pizzeria, though you'll have to choose it with care. A pizzeria in the heart of town may not be that good, if it doesn't have to count on repeat customers for survival. Before you enter it, look at the clientele -- are the people eating with gusto or picking at their plates? Also, what kind of clientele is it? Tourists, or elegantly dressed couples? A pizzeria that caters to those enjoying a night out (but who don't have time for a restaurant meal) will probably be good -- word-of-mouth is powerful advertising. On the other hand, if you want a more relaxed, homey atmosphere, wander out into a residential neighborhood and pick a bustling pizzeria full of couples and families.

Once you've sat down, you'll find yourself faced with a menu (in homey pizzerie it's often printed on the place mat), with some names that will look familiar and many that won't. Here's a run-down of some of the basic things you'll find:

 

Pizza:

  • Marinara: Tomato and garlic, with no cheese. Simplicity in itself.

  • Margherita: Tomato, mozzarella and a basil leaf. Was supposedly invented in the late 1800s by a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, who made a pizza with the national colors to honor Queen Margherita di Savoia.

  • Napoletana: Tomato, mozzarella, anchovies, capers and oregano.

  • Atomica: Tomato, mozzarella, oregano, hot pepper, and other things (e.g. anchovies or mushrooms).

  • Maialona: Tomato, mozzarella, sausage, hot dogs, ham, peperoni and other types of pork.

  • Bismark: Tomato, mozzarella, other things, and an egg, sunny-side-up.

  • Quattro formaggi: Tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, groviera (Swiss Cheese), fontina, pecorino. Usually is white, with an olive in the middle.

  • Quattro Stagioni: Tomato, mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, ham.

  • Vegetariana: Tomato, mozzarella, and a vast variety of vegetables (e.g, olives, peppers, eggplant, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms).

  • Capricciosa: The kitchen sink. Tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, artichoke hearts, olives, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, and more.

 

Calzoni

Calzone means sock; it's a disk of dough, folded over to make a pocket and filled with a variety of ingredients. The standard calzone contains tomato, mozzarella, and ham.

  • Calzone quattro formaggi: Same as the pizza quattro formaggi

  • Calzone Bismark: A standard calzone with an egg cracked into it.

  • Calzone Farcito: Stuffed with everything -- equivalent to the Capricciosa.

 

Focacce

Focacce are disks of dough baked without topping (or at the most with slices of raw tomato); they puff up spectacularly and are topped once they come out of the oven. Common toppings include mozzarella, various cheeses, prosciutto, and radicchio (arugola).

THIS IS JUST A SAMPLING of what you may find. The following glossary should help you figure out what's in some of the more fanciful creations you'll find in an elegant pizzeria.

Acciughe - Anchovies

Aglio - Garlic

Capperi - Capers

Carciofi - Artichoke hearts

Cipolla - Onion

Funghi - Mushrooms

Grana - Parmigiano

Mozzarella - Mozzarella

Melanzane - Eggplant

Peperoni - Bell Peppers

Pomodoro - Tomato

Porcini - Porcino mushrooms

Prosciutto - Raw ham

Prosciutto Cotto - Cooked ham

Rucola, Radicchio - Arugola

Salsiccia - Sausage

Salamino Piccante - Pepperoni

Speck - Cured smoked ham

Tonno - Tuna

Vongole - Clams

Würstel - Hot Dogs

 

 

What do drink with your pizza? Most Italians prefer beer, though a sparkling wine such as Lambrusco will also be nice. After your pizza, try Tiramisu, or perhaps bongo (an improbable name for a delightful dessert: beignets filled with whipped cream, custard, and chocolate, and smothered in chocolate sauce).

A printer-friendly version of all this.

Fnally, want to make pizza at home? Here's how.

Enjoy!
Kyle Phillips

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