The Not Pizzas of Puglia

The focaccia of Puglia is famous and there is so much olive oil in it that it seems like a fried pizza even though it’s not deep fried. Also, it’s a bread, not a pizza.

A panzerotti looks like a calzone but it’s not one. The reason is that a panzerotti is fried, not baked. Panzerotti are specialities of the central and southern parts of Italy, especially Puglia/Apulia.

Panzarotti are also called calzoni fritti, fritte, and frittelle.

They are much like pizza and pizza is popular in Italy. While American pepperoni pizza is rare to find (not impossible, you just have to call it “con salame picante” to get something resembling it), I was delighted to find that spicy salami was one of the flavors on offer. If you ask for a “pepperoni” pizza, they will think you want a bell pepper pizza.

Pizza, Pinsa, Focaccia, Schiacciata, and Cold?

Pizza is cut with scissors and a spatula.

Pizza in Italy reminds me a bit of that time when my friend, who had never had a wedge salad, ordered one but without the tomatoes or the blue cheese. She was speechless with disbelief when a wedge of iceberg was served to her on a plate. In Italy, a plain pizza, a “pizza bianca,” or “white pizza” is indeed a piece of pizza bread that looks like focaccia… no cheese, no sauce, no toppings (other than salt and oil), and often served cold.

White pizza and red pizza fresh out of the oven. No cheese needed.

During the pandemic, I’ve been keeping pizza in my freezer. After a few weeks of eating all the frozen pizza I’d sequestered in my freezer, I thought that I’d had enough pizza for a while… until I saw a potato and mozzarella slice at Alice (AH-lee-chay).

Alice is a pizza chain.

Now that I live in Italy, some of my friends ask me questions about Italian food expecting that perhaps I have become an expert. Not yet. The most recent question I received was about focaccia and pizza. What is the difference? It turns out that pizza is the type of dough, not so much the type of topping or how it’s served. Even a brioche can be a pizza. At Easter, a large brioche shaped like a panettone is called a “pizza formaggio” and it is a cheese pizza. See photo below.

Pizza formaggio

I actually quite like the bread that is called pizza because it’s made from the pizza dough.

Bread roll made from pizza dought.
Long pizzas are sold by the slice (taglio) in Rome.

This reminded me of the last time I was in Italy when I had a bread called, “schiacciata,” which is was a flat, oil-rich, salty, pillowy dimpled flat bread sold in squares. I recall those dimples of green olive oil and the slick of grease on my chin. It is a Tuscan version of what is known as focaccia in the North. It is a little thinner, and perhaps a little closer to a pizza.  

Cold shrimp salad on a pizza. Ham and cheese pizza (sandwich).

In Rome, the pizza is sold by weight and in rectangles. It doesn’t have to have red sauce or cheese. It doesn’t even have to be warm! Often the pizza is topped with cold salad or sauteed greens. An extremely popular topping is cold mortadella. Pizza is also available as a breakfast item, even mortadella with mayonnaise.

Notice how it’s an oval shape?

There is a style called “pinsa” which is slightly oval and it is not a pizza, it’s a pinsa. Got it? The pinsa is a type of flat bread that is baked first and then topped with fresh ingredients.

This a colorful array of pinsa from Pinsere (small pinsa) before they go in the oven once you order.

So basically a pizza is a type of bread, sometimes cooked with the toppings in the oven and sometimes dressed afterwards. Otherwise, the rest seems to be free to one’s creativity. Except for pineapple. No pineapple on the pizza here in Italy. I really like pineapple on pizza and I don’t even mind corn. A really good pizza here is blue cheese and walnuts. Nuts! Right? Many of the Italian immigrants to the United States were from Naples so the American pizza evolved from the Neapolitan pizza.

A white pizza with porchetta.

When I went on a food tour with a local guide, she confirmed that pizza is about the type of bread. Not what is on it, what temperature it is, or how it’s served.

This lesson pizza will have to be ongoing as I discover more types of pizza.

Binge Watching Italy

A shop in Monti, Rome.

If you want to binge on watching videos about Italy, here are some I’ve found. Mostly on food. Mostly about Rome. I will not list all of them as there are too many, but a few that will give you some leads to follow.

Rick Stein is one of my favorite TV chef presenters. The thinking chef’s chef. Here in Corsica and Sardinia.

Alex Polizzi is a British-Italian TV presenter. Here’s an episode from Puglia.

Spaghetti with clams in Rome.

Insider is a channel about food. This host is Italian and in this short video, the topic is Limoncello. There are many other videos from Insider like this one pasta in Bari. Or focaccia in Genoa.

WocomoCook is another YouTube channel that I found. Here is an episode about food in Umbria.

A show on pizza from Munchies.

A vlog channel by expat guys who live in Rome.

Or visiting during lockdown.

Choice TV show on Roman food.

Farm to Table, here in Tuscany.

Two Greedy Italians. Need I say more?

Floyd was a chef who had a good time, this time in Liguria.

Pizza by the slice (taglio) sold by weight is a very Roman food.

If you want months worth of binge watching, Rick Steves provides! Rick Steves has eight hours of free TV shows on Italy alone! He also has free audio tours, apps, books, etc. He is much raunchier on his audio tours! If you want a private guide in your ear, he has those! If you just want to watch him give good advice, watch him here.

Also, many people like Dream of Italy. Here, the host is in Amalfi and Naples.

Italy Unpacked is a more scholarly approach.

Then, there’s this guy is quite wealthy (he is an angel investor and helped start Virgin America) but decided to make a travel show because he didn’t find any that matched his lifestyle. Swish.

Possibly the most famous car in Rome? This is in Monti.

A BBC documentary on Rome.

Another BBC documentary, this one on Sicily.

A great way to learn history is with Tony Robinson. He is a great story teller, here about Caligula.

Reel Truth History makes documentaries. This one on Rome.

So many classical and historical views all in one.

And, if you want to watch people buying A Place in the Sun in Italy

Rome is very proud of their free drinking fountains. Stay hydrated!

Or follow tour guides (and me) on Instagram. More about who I follow in another blog posting.

A ‘bar’ in Rome. Drinking a coffee is a social activity and Romans do it all day long.

Breakfast at KM Marker 52

F2yl8Y-igUdNURLmAzWQCpeur1o8H6Zv798pGYDQkDxZGQPRy-fwnbw1cQ7A0uj3RuY_H9rQmsYDDRKS9kpWJJg8XpEGUyIJ7_rLmz4WFOrk4_VCxtuTpUhagoK7iOc7wTb5qN-m0-Ygf1tQZpGhaaxFj_K2Ny8b67j2OHTasnzfxXTrXkCEYTr1UCLocated on the Panamerican highway at kilometer marker 52 on the road south of Lima, this bakery is a great pit stop for breakfast. It’s called Tambo Rural (tambo is the indigenous word for kiosk) and there is no sign so you just have to pay attention and turn in at marker 52. They now have a real dirt driveway and expanded parking lot so it’s much easier to stop off the highway.

rP8ffFMWjFoeO9pHiACIZdI2I22UoepATGVvCzjeK1jnjiKTO6D5eud7lZp1Jemf9JhUZiNyBlOKncrgizEKdo_purEp-2EzpdgTud0Z_jZBpvelxPyZNharVRHQtyEq-9Iy0SWcrPclEo6sCZjc3cKNpVxObekZRGA6PHaIVypIZtViVExH2VzzjHThe coffee is amazingly creamy.

J5SvTUiS_l1c5D4XQyf8TZXgHLIYurlCGeczeKsrdUhZjX8bG6_jV1yxm3krCoGvezeKMcqLEm4Kfng8eiYMjXefhB0-eE0qHlqHwP0o6ruoaYZleuFLtxTq7Icv80sZaCt2yUUk4P6m57DQ-g39UfS1ulKOplJsL82ZHnhUu-oLEKaDEvqeQ5RhRfSpeaking of breakfast, they sell chicharron which they cook in the wood fired oven (how is that for mind blowing!?), a breakfast item in Peru.

GCByCJimKgLY6SwdvdBIKa2R9DfRMHnouDpGhwUjR90RGLffrwnLVDCTC2HnEaq4TFuyztNFg60wy-UdELbUe34bEVhXGotHOFFfhQ0MicmgNRMyasofP-WFm1ornHJD1CnaxUAEG7jZjv6F1zu01WAsDcs7f8UOkyRdmJX4bVJmzhoL85YjRFJTYIThey sell bread that you can buy to take with you including photogenic focaccia.

mEG8spfsoDGXjO0_vteyCFhAUIJR6ja7_9WqnrhBhV7r_33lJ3jvQyPnBadHt-LPWl36Sxy_yYFgDDI0vPu_x_uzEN1XNvg8z7P467UNAcD1FyTfXr2ApnLmw1MEg_tMSNnwgEP9tULJxKohbAO3tDUBTcHsDS8TKgPKAr2v04YMK9VPAPjKwVR3AmThey have toilets which work on a “bucket of water” flush system.

This place is not super fancy but it is good and covers all the bases. It’s not a secret either but TripAdvisor reviews are only in Spanish.

I enjoyed the fresh warm rolls, some filled with ham (turkey ham) and cheese, and some with olives and oregano. Plus that locally sources coffee. Yum. Great way to start a day and a trip. Go! Enjoy!