Food In Italy
Pizza Fritta: Napoli’s Hidden Street Food
Pizza has become one of the most recognizable and distinguishable Italian dishes. Although many people are familiar with pizza, most people don’t know about pizza fritta (fried pizza).
The Napoletana-style pizza, known for its thin fire-kissed crust, rich and sweet San Marzano base, and perfectly melted Bufala, is hailed as the “Doge of Naples” (Duke of Naples) in terms of pizza and has become the gold standard of the pies throughout the United States. While the Napoletana style dominates the mainstream, there is a lesser-known style of pizza that hails from Naples. One could call it Napoletana’s secret stepbrother.
Pizza Fritta Dubbed the “Pizza of the People”
Pizza fritta’s origin stems formerly from the economic conditions of Naples after world war two, a region that suffered hundreds of Allied air raids. Air raids destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure and agricultural abilities and resources became scarce. Many of the ovens used for making pizzas were destroyed. Napoletano’s limited access to finer traditional pizza resources led to people beginning to fry dough, utilizing lesser quality ingredients such as out-of-season, even spoiled vegetables, and typically adding anchovies. The idea was that frying made all foods palatable, a valuable resource in the post-war kitchen.
Throughout the economic regrowth, Napoletano kitchens began offering pizza on credit or, more famously, the saying “a ogge a otto,” meaning “eat now, pay eight days later.” The pizza fritta became a staple among the Napolitano’s working-class and sprung as a staple street food of the region spreading throughout Italy.
So Much More Than Pizza
The modern pizza fritta comes in various shapes, sizes, and fillings and can be found in numerous cities beyond Naples. A basic pizza fritta is a traditional dough filled with simple fillings such as ham, cheese, or tomatoes, and is served in small shops, sometimes even out of people’s homes. The flavors differ from a traditional pizza or calzone, as the fried dough gives a familiar bread fry with the warmth of rich tomatoes and fillings cooked inside the dough.
While pizza fritta offers delicious handheld cuisine, it went “out of vogue” during the late 80s and early 90s due to national food health concerns specifically targeted at dietary balance. The oily pizza fritta was relegated to hidden street food beneath the massive weight of the traditional Napoletana-style pizza.
Although, recently, many regions and kitchens have brought the pizza fritta back into the Pizza fritta’s origin stems formerly from the economic conditions of Naples after world war two, a region that suffered hundreds of Allied air raids.. Many upscale and middle-class restaurants have begun offering high-quality pizza frittas made with the highest quality doughs, filled with the best tomatoes, and fired in premium oils. Admiring this new rise, the pizza fritta as a dish has its objectors, some comparing it no less than a calzone or criticizing frying a pizza in general. But these objections lose touch with the originality of the dish and its connection to modern Italian history. Reducing the pizza fritta to a calzone loses the struggle of those lower-class individuals and the post-war Napoletanos, who, without the ovens necessary to bake calzones or pizzas, and with very little resources, made a classic Italian staple.
The Pizza Fritta is a hidden gem that can be found in many Italian cities, but truly is a highlight of the Naples street food scene and is a perfect pairing for a late-night snack, possibly entering the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to see Napoli clash with Juventus or even the ideal pairing with a bottle of fine wine.