Driving through Italy you get the impression that posted
speed limits are meant to be more suggestive than a
binding law, especially after a line of Maseratis,
Moto Guzzis, Ducatis, and Fiats fly past you while
you’re doing 20 kilometers over the speed limit
Parking rules too take on creative interpretations as
bicycles, scooters, passenger vehicles, and delivery
trucks stick out of parking places in every possible
and conceivable angle, like some elaborate puzzle
that’s only understood and accepted by the drivers
involved and Momma Mia Meter maids.
However, one law that seems sacrosanct to Italians is their
rightfully proud take on what constitutes pizza and
what doesn’t. From the top of the historical boot to
its well recognized toe and heel you soon learn that
Italy pizza isn’t just pizza; it is an art form and
the real moveable feast.
Walk down almost any street and you’re bound to be hit with
a beckoning aroma from the seemingly ubiquitous
pizzerias. The smell of roasted garlic, tomato
sauce, roasted peppers, green leaf spinach, goat
cheese, artichokes, eggplant, olive oil swathed
golden brown pizza crust, red onions, fresh basil,
mozzarella cheese or other mix of tantalizing
toppings will quickly grab the attention of both you
and your stomach.
In Rome Lazio style pizza comes in large tasty squares as
well as the more traditional round pies. However,
what you won’t find in the nation’s capital or any
other reputable pizzeria throughout the country will
be anything frozen, machine-stamped or covered in
‘cheese-like’ by-products and chemical artificial
“That is not pizza,” explained a local pizzaioli (pizza
chef) when the subject of ‘good’ pizza came up and
quickly deteriorated to factory-like brands and
frozen products. “Now this, this is real pizza,” he
added, handing me an oven-hot Lazio square I had
With just one bite the taste and texture of the oven-baked
pizza and it’s rich Mozzarella, roasted peppers,
garlic, olive oil, and mushrooms easily convinced me
he was right. This was pizza!
He went on to explain how the dough had to be allowed to
rise for six hours before being hand-kneaded and
shaped into just the right thickness. “Then you must
have the right tomato sauce, the right cheeses, and
herbs so the flavor draws you in and caresses your
senses,” he said, waving a make-believe aroma to his
nose as he closed his eyes and momentarily sighed to
make his point. “Ahhhhh!” he murmured enjoying the
moment while I enjoyed the pizza.
“So, bene?” he asked already knowing his answer.
“Si, molto bene,” I said, nodding like a bobble-head
as I quickly finished the first square and ordered
another. Comparison studies, I reasoned, make for a
better article. “And a beer too!” I added all in the
name of dedicated pizza science.
Over the course of several weeks taste-testing pizza you
soon discover the pride that goes into making it as
you learn something of it’s history and more.
Pizza, or at least something akin to it, has been around
since the days of the ancient Greeks but it wasn’t
until the 16th Century when the Spanish
brought tomatoes from the New World and they found
their way to Naples that pizza as we now know it
came into being.
Also, you learn that
Naples isn’t just the birth place of modern pizza it
is its holy grail as well setting more than just the
proverbial standard. “The Margherita pizza was
invented in Napoli,” said the Roman Pizzaioli. “And
named for Queen Margherita who loved them,” quickly
adding that, “Queen Margherita was the wife of King
“Ah!” I said nodding although I didn’t know who exactly
“And the Marinara pizza was named for the sailors who
Naples and feasted on them so many times it gave it
“And the Extra Margherita?” I asked.
The Pizzaioli shrugged. “Perhaps the Queen ate too many.”
She wasn’t alone. Pizza sales run into the billions of
dollars worldwide which is why in 2004 Italy passed
a pizza law regulating the size, shape, ingredients,
preparation and baking procedures for three types of
traditional Neapolitian pizza; specifically the
Marinara, Margherita, and Extra Margherita.
The pizza law basically sets the standard for those types
thus insuring the standards remain high.
Ethnocentric pride? Maybe? But quality was undoubtedly
behind the decision. In a land where food factors
heavily into ‘La Dolce Vita’ — the sweet life — the
notion of anything less than tasty, delicious, or
savory food is an unspeakable offense, even if it is
something as simple as pizza.
Its value is more than just affordability too as one
American mother traveling with two young children
soon discovered. “If you are traveling with kids in
Italy pizza is a life saver!” she said. “On vacation
it is always a struggle to get your kids to try
something they don’t want to eat. Pizza, especially
good pizza like here in Italy, is a reliable fall
The trouble though is returning home and coming back to
factory pizzas that often times don’t quite measure
up. What then?
Simple. Get picky. Seek out the authentic pizzerias. They
are there to be found. You just have to search them
In West Seattle, in an appropriate wedge shaped store at
the southern end of Westwood Village, Giannoni’s
Pizzeria, serves up traditional Italian pizza by the
slice or whole and is freshly made and baked to Old
Owned and operated by Donna and Quentin Burns, the pizzeria
uses only fresh quality ingredients and hand-tossed
dough under the skillful direction of popular local
Chef Franco Troiano, who just also happens to be a
third generation Pizza chef from Naples, Italy.
Burns and Troiano know good pizza, whether it is
Old World family recipes or newly inspired ones that draw the
customers in and brings them back for repeat
While we can’t always get to
or Venice we can sometimes find a nice pizzeria like
Gianonni’s closer to home and enjoy a small slice of
Italy one delicious bite at a time.