Neapolitan pizza is a beautiful thing. Thin, springy dough, tempered with tangy tomato, creamy mozzarella and the herby kick of basil combine in a comfort food classic that is rightly loved around the world.
While Naples’ original blueprint is staunchly defended by traditionalists, the basic principle behind pizza is so successful that chefs and cultures all over the world have come up with their own designs. While some attempts have been unsurprisingly rubbish, a few have arguably managed to improve on perfection.
Gathered from countries around the world, these are the best pizza riffs of all time.
1. New York
Probably the closest variant to the Italian original, New York style pizza features a thick crust, tomato base and cheesy topping. The thing that really sets a New York pizza apart is size. A fully-fledged New York pizza is a monstrous construction, meaning that helpings are typically served by the slice. With over 400 specialist pizzerias in New York alone, this style has rightly become a celebrated institution.
Also known as “Turkish Pizza”, the lahmacun is living proof that the Italian formula of “dough plus toppings” can apply equally to a host of different cuisines. Featuring a thin piece of flatbread dough, topped with minced lamb or beef and liberally seasoned with spices such as cumin and cinnamon, lahmacun delivers a far more floral and complex flavour than a typical pie. A staple in Turkish restaurants around the world, lahmacun is a must try for the uninitiated.
3. Chicago Deep Dish
Few pizzas are more contentious than the Chicago deep dish. With its distinctive high edge and controversial design, this classic looks more like a pie than a traditional pizza. In a subversion of tradition, cheese forms the base of the pizza, which is then topped with thick tomato sauce and baked. It may not look like what you’d expect, but the Chicago deep dish is undeniably delicious.
It’s not just Western cuisines that have embraced the pizza concept. Despite ignoring almost all of the principle ingredients, the Japanese have created something equally tasty. Okonomiyaki is a savoury main course, featuring a thick pancake loaded with a variety of seafood, vegetable and meaty toppings. It might look unconventional, but there can be little doubt that okonomiyaki delivers a slice of pizzary comfort in an original way.
All over the world, pizzas and their ilk are closely linked with tradition, and the Spanish coca is no exception. A dough-based street snack, cocas are perhaps the most diverse pizza variants in the world, with sweet and savoury options co-existing in markets and stalls across Spain. Eaten to celebrate special occasions such as Easter, Christmas and the festival of St John, coca is a key touchstone in Iberian culture.
One of the joys of pizza is its simplicity. To that end, despite the huge numbers of toppings that many of us now add to our pies, some of the best recipes are the most stripped back. The manakish is probably the prime example of traditional expedience when it comes to ingredients. Featuring a simple dough topped with thyme, cheese and occasionally meat, manakish is popular across Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and is a simple family food that can be eaten for breakfast lunch or dinner. The manakish proves that you don’t need a million toppings to make a pizza delicious.
That pizza has been able to conquer countries around the world just goes to show the genius behind the invention. Many foods are popular in different places, but there is something special about dough, cheese and tomato that makes it universal. If pizza evolution has taught us anything, it’s that there seems little sign of humanity’s love affair coming to an end any time soon. Long may it continue.