A picture of classic Italian pizza (pizza al piatto)

Classic Italian Pizza (Pizza al Piatto) – Characteristics, History, and General Preparation

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What is classic Italian pizza (pizza al piatto), what are its defining characteristics and historical background, what can you expect when eating it, and how is it generally prepared? This post will provide you with all the details about classic Italian pizza

General Background and Characteristics

When the term “Italian pizza” is used, it refers to pizza al piato. If you hear an Italian (outside of Naples) use the term “pizza al piato,” they are likely referring to this type of pizza (although they may simply call it “pizza”).

This is the “regular” or classic Italian pizza that is found throughout Italy (except Naples, which has Neapolitan pizza). It is also the most popular type of pizza in Italy and Europe in general (Americans have their own styles of pizza, which we will discuss later).

The name “al piatto” (“on the plate”) comes from the fact that it is served on a plate.

This pizza is round, thin, and crispy. The level of thinness and crispiness can vary because, as mentioned earlier, each region has its own unique style of pizza. However, in general, if you’re thinking of a “classic” Italian pizza – it’s likely pizza al piato.

If you were to place pizza al piato on a scale between the soft Neapolitan pizza and the crispy Tonda Romana (which we will discuss later in this post), it would fall somewhere in the middle. It is typically baked for 2-5 minutes in either a wood-fired oven or an electric oven.

Roots and History of Pizza al Piatto

Since pizza al piatto is not a specific style of pizza (as mentioned earlier, it varies across regions in Italy), it becomes challenging to determine its exact origin.

Historically, we know that the roots of the original pizza (or at least the first pizza defined as “pizza”) can be traced back to Naples. We also know that round pizzas (or at least a flatbread resembling a round pizza) did not exist outside of Naples until after World War II. It is widely believed that following the war, residents of Naples started migrating to central and northern Italy (particularly Rome and the province of Lazio), where they began opening pizzerias. Unfortunately (or fortunately), they did not have the traditional tools to make Neapolitan pizza as they did back home, so they had to make do with the tools available to them. The result: the classic Italian pizza we all know today – pizza al piatto.

Eating Characteristics of Pizza al Piato

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve tried pizza al piato at least once in your life. It is round, thin, and moderately crispy, and it can be topped with a variety of toppings, making it a delight for any pizza lover.

The sauce usually consists of fresh tomatoes with minimal seasoning, while the cheese is fresh mozzarella cut into relatively large chunks or strips and placed sparingly on the pizza (see picture above).

Preparation of Pizza al Piato

In general, it is a ‘simple’ dough: 55-60% dough hydration, 0-3% oil, and 0-2% sugar. The dough should be stretched by hand and baked for 3-7 minutes at a temperature range of approximately 280-330C (530-620F).

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