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Roman-style Pizza Vs. Pizza Napoletana; What's the Difference?

Everything you 'knead' to know about the battle for supremacy.

Pizza is pizza right? We all have a picture in our mind and a lingering flavour on our taste buds when it comes to describing ‘the perfect pizza’. It is round, isn’t it? Well, often it’s not. It has a puffy crust right? Not always. Tomato sauce? Not necessarily so. Everyone has their own opinion. Some love a thin pizza, others love it more doughy, some prefer it crispy while some like it red while others prefer it white.


Behind every great menu item there is a great story, and in pizza’s case it is more like a great battle! While Italian food is hyper-regional, Pizza is more or less universal throughout ‘the boot’. There are two camps that you have to be aware of to truly understand pizza.


In one corner there is team Naples; home of the Neapolitan-style pizza and ‘the (unofficial) global billboard of Italian & Neapolitan food culture. While in the opposite corner you have team Rome, its younger cousin and new kid on the Hong Kong block. While both are made with fresh ingredients and are abundant & affordable in Italy, some claim that Naples has the best pizza in the world, many argue that the title belongs to Rome. Nowadays the battle of two cities persists – but what is really the difference between the two? Read on to find out…


Birth Right: The Claim to Fame

Before we dive into the differences, you’re probably wondering which city has the claim to fame for creating the pizza to begin with? It’s almost impossible to trace when the pizza was born. If stories are to be believed, today’s modern pizza was born in Naples and has been around since the 1700s. Before that, pizza could be found, in one form or another, in the cultures of the Etruscans, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but its current incarnation was indisputably first seen in Naples. This version spread throughout Italy during the twentieth century and now pizza can be found all across the globe. The Roman-style pizza, however, originated in the ‘Eternal City’ in the early 1960s.


Naples: Sitteth by the Sea

I would go out on a limb and say that Neapolitan pizza is the most traditional of the two. So much so, that it earned serious street cred with the 2009 EU “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed” safeguard as well as its making process having earned UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Status in 2017. Did you know the Neapolitan pizza has its own ‘pizza police’?


The Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, certifies pizzerias and gives pizzerias an official stamp of approval to make authentic Pizza Napoletana. If they doesn’t adhere to strict guidelines - covering everything from the use of San Marzano tomatoes, usage of certified mozzarella di bufala cheese, the consistency of the finished product, and the use of wood-burning oven with a stone bottom – they are not allowed to call their pizza Napoletana.


The dough is set to rise at room temperature and is typically used the same day, while the pizza itself is traditionally cooked in a wood-fired brick oven (That’s of course in Italy, unfortunately HK restaurants are not able to have a wood-fired stove). Temperatures are extremely hot, at least 427 degrees Celsius, resulting in each pizza only needing to bake for a minute or less. The pizza is very light and thin and often has characteristic black/charred spots on it. There is no real crust and the pizza tend not to be that crispy.


When In Rome

Roman-style pizza, is whole other pie. Unlike in Naples it doesn’t need to follow a stringent set of rules and therefore it’s slightly more difficult to classify and one can find a wide range of different pizza doughs. As a general rule of thumb, Roman dough is made with flour, water, yeast, salt & olive oil. The addition of olive oil gives the crust more weight and flavour, and allows the dough to be hand-stretched out wide and thin. Furthermore, Roman pizza dough often uses a tougher wheat as well, so the pizza base does not lose its chewiness. In Rome you can also find more innovative styles of pizza – such as those with black dough [pizza nera] or white base [the sauceless pizza bianca]. Pizza without sauce topped only with olive oil and coarse sea salt may seem strange, but it has been a favourite of Italians since Roman times and is the poster child for the merits of culinary simplicity. Nowadays, in Rome {so I have been told) the most popular filling is mortadella, a ham from Bologna sometimes studded with pistachios.


That being said, what sets it apart is the high water to flour ratio for a highly-hydrated, wet and sticky dough and the crust. The crucial foundation of Roman-style pizza is the crust that is crispy but has a delicate lace pattern of open interior crumb structure. To create flavour and texture, Roman-style dough is typically left to rest & rise anywhere between 3 to 4 days to develop large air bubbles, before being baked at lower temperature of 260 – 315 degrees Celsius. At PALA, following the process of an old family recipe, we use a variety of different flours [including organic] and let our dough ferment for 72 hours giving it its unique taste and making it easy to digest.


While those large air bubbles are the key component to a light and airy crust, the longer baking time is so the oven can dry the dough and make its base super crunchy. The Roman-style crisp crust also means that the pizza can be loaded with ingredients without collapsing, unlike the pizza Napoletana.


At PALA, we serve our Roman-style pizzas two ways; the traditional rectangular shape ‘al taglio’ [per slice] and 12’ inch round ones. We serve Roman-style pizzas for a variety of reasons but, the two most important are; ‘pizza alla pala’ wasn’t on any menu in Hong Kong [at least not with a Roman authentic taste] and because they are better for delivery. A Neapolitan crust – which we love equally – has a tendency to steam in a delivery box and will lose any crispiness, becoming chewy. There is also a distinctive quality to the centre of a Neapolitan pizza – sometimes referred to as “soupiness” – where the cheese and the sauce form a molten pool at the centre, which can make it very difficult to eat without knife and fork.


Not that it’s a competition but PALA is without a doubt on ‘Team Rome’ but, as true pizza lovers, we don’t intend to bash the classic Neapolitan pizza! We love all pizza equally J. As mentioned at the start of this blog, it’s all a question of personal preference so – if you are the crispy type – we think we might have the perfect pizza that will hopefully capture your heart and taste buds [especially when you’d like to order delivery or takeaway and expect crispiness upon arrival].


So when it comes down to true pizza loyalty – will you be team Naples or team Rome? Get in touch with us at Facebook or www.pala.hk and let us know which – and why! If you’d want to get a sneak peek of what to expect from our tasty & authentic Roman-style pizza, head to our Instagram and get ready to salivate.






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