There’s a reason why you can put “deep fried” in front of almost anything and people will go weak at the knees. The ultimate example of something so wrong it can only be right, quick cooking in a cauldron of boiling fat can produce food like nothing else. Crispy, juicy, salty, fatty. You name it, deep frying does it. It’s no wonder that we now dedicate whole festivals to the dark art of the deep fryer.
Despite the fact that deep frying almost anything is obviously awesome, there are some foods that make people think twice. The Scottish staple of deep fried Mars Bar is one example of a food that some think just goes too far. Of course, battered chocolate is not alone in this category. Another member of the fried family that’s often dismissed as a gimmick is the indulgently named “deep fried pizza”. For reasons that will soon become obvious, this dismissal is a terrible mistake.
It’s true that our conventional understanding of deep fried pizza might be a little OTT. Ask for the dish almost anywhere and you’ll end up with a slice of something greasy, cheesy and life threatening. In Italy however, deep fried pizza means something completely different and utterly amazing.
Pizza fritta is a far cry from a Scottish chip shop. One of the oldest forms of the ultimate fast food, it has been a staple on the streets of naples for hundreds of years and enjoys an almost reverential status amongst locals. Some say that it may even be older than its more popular baked big brother that has gone on to take over the world.
The premise behind pizza fritta is simple. Usually, a disk of pizza dough is placed in a bath of boiling oil until golden and crispy, before being removed and covered in a selection of traditional toppings. In some cases, the toppings are actually encased in a second layer of dough, making the end result more akin to a crunchy calzone. This variation is known popularly as a panzerotto. Whichever way you go, the end result is amazing.
The difference in cooking technique produces a dramatically different flavour and nutritional profile from a normal pie. If you watch what you’re doing, you can kind of kid yourself that an ordinary pizza is sort of healthy. No such luck with pizza fritta. The oil, cheese and dough combine into a calorie bomb that may be bad, but is totally delicious.
Despite the fact that it has all the hallmarks of an amazing street food favourite, pizza fritta has failed to catch on around the world. Even though it combines two of our favourite things, for now Naples remains one of the few places where you can get your hands on a really top notch example of the genre. We can only hope that this changes soon.
Often, deep frying foods is a tasty, but ultimately pointless novelty, reserved for state fairs and oily chippies. If the pizza fritta proves anything, it’s that the deep fryer can not only produce food that is itself vaguely normal and worthy of being taken seriously. If we don’t get too excited by the prospect of battering silly things, who knows what else we might discover.