If I told you that Italian cuisine wasn’t part of the reason I decided to study abroad in Italy, I’d be lying. In fact, it was probably the deciding factor when I started narrowing down my choices, besides the incredible history, plethora of art sites, and ancient ruins. I think it’s also important to highlight that I see myself as quite the pizza fangirl/connoisseur, before it was cool to love pizza.
I grew up in New York, so I’m a pizza brat of sorts, and anything outside the East Coast's “pizza belt” I barely consider to be real pizza. That doesn’t mean I won’t participate in ordering a late night pie from Domino’s, but it doesn’t even come close to the glory that is real pizza.
Needless to say, trying different kinds of pizza was pretty far up on my bucket list of things to do while abroad, and I didn’t waste any time. The first day we arrived in Rome, the cheapest and quickest thing to eat was pizza. There was a decent place only a few blocks from our apartment and I quickly became a regular customer; I even grabbed a bite before I went grocery shopping on Sundays (because everyone knows you don’t shop for food on an empty stomach). This pizza place was our first encounter with Italian pizza, and it was heavenly. Pizza to the Italians is usually considered an on-the-go option, much like how we view fast food. Formed in the shape of an elongated oval, this pizza ranges from your basic margherita (basil, marinara and mozzarella) to more hearty creations like patatine fritte e salsiccia (french fries and sausage or what looks like pieces of hot dog). While I usually went for margherita, I had a ton of fun trying a bunch of different options. I’d have to say one of the best aspects of Italian pizza is the combination of natural ingredients because the EU has a ton of regulations on GMO’s, pesticides, and preservatives, so everything is fresh and usually local. However, what I love the most about Italian pizza is the way they serve it to you. They take the rectangular piece (of the larger oval) and fold it together, placing the cheesy sides together and wrap it in a piece of wax paper and it becomes a little pizza panini to go!
When we visited Pompeii, my roommate and I decided to wait on a two hour line to get into Italy’s number one pizza place, L’antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples (because true pizza lovers are fiercely dedicated). This restaurant shaped the pizza into personal circular pies and specialize in two types to meet demand: classica napoletana and margherita. There's a reason this pizzeria is rated as number one in the country and well worth the wait!
American pizza is something that I didn’t exactly miss while I was abroad, but it holds a special place in my heart for sure. It seems that I only needed a small portion to tide me over when I ate in Italy, but I missed giant American portions and buffalo chicken. Below is a slice of buffalo chicken pizza from my favorite local place in Chester, NY.
All in all, my international pizza experience didn’t disappoint, and although I love a slice of thin, greasy, foldable New York pizza, I often miss being a regular at my favorite Italian pizzerias for an easy way to enjoy my favorite food. I encourage all pizza lovers to do your research if you ever find yourself in Italy; you won't be disappointed!