Pizza originated in Naples, Italy and subsequently spread through the Roman Empire (yes, it’s that old!). It captured the hearts and taste buds of the world, including the United States. But when most Americans think “pizza,” what they’re usually thinking about is pizza made with a base of tomato sauce, known as “red” pizza. If on the other hand you travel to Italy, pizza’s home country, you’ll see that most menus offer you a choice of red or white pizza.
What’s that about?
Essentially, red pizza is a pizza with a tomato sauce base, while white pizza is a pizza with a cheese base. The two traditions are equally venerable; ancient Romans used to cut their white pizza in two and eat it with figs or cheese and chicory, and white pizza—or pizza bianca—was first used to check the temperature of the bricks before cooking the bread for the day.
Fun fact: Neapolitan pizza is a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) product in Europe, and the art of its making is included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage!
History of Red Pizza
The Neighborhood Neapolitan pizza we make at Pizzeria Locale focuses on a few ingredients done well, similar to the traditional pizza of Naples, Italy. One of those ingredients is crushed uncooked canned tomatoes.
Tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century by explorers returning from Peru. Many Europeans believed tomatoes were poisonous, because the tomatoes’ acidity leached out the lead in wealthy people’s pewter plates, causing deaths by lead poisoning. But then in the late 18th century the wealthy observed poor peasants in Naples topping their flatbread—no plates involved!—with tomatoes; street vendors added olive oil, sea salt, and chopped garlic. Word got out, and well-heeled urbanites began flocking to the poorer Naples neighborhoods in order to try this delicious local specialty.
But why should tomatoes be canned? Well, because of the poverty in southern Italy, people started canning tomatoes to preserve them at their peak freshness to be enjoy all year round —hence, canned tomatoes! We continue that tradition because it tastes the best, creating a sauce that’s bright and acidic. The tomato sauce stands up well to the classic Neapolitan crust, which is properly served slightly charred. That slight bitter char and the uncooked sauce create a perfect pairing.
Delicious White Pizza
As we’ve noted, white pizza is as much a classic as red, and indeed, many chefs think it’s the superior pie. You’ll find there is a wider range of toppings associated with white pizza—the ingredients really get a chance to shine when they’re not in competition with the tomato sauce—and the flavors can be more delicate and more distinct.
At Pizzeria Locale, our white pizzas are topped with what best complements our other ingredients. The standard white pizza recipe is pure Italian simplicity: mozzarella, garlic oil and oregano. Other white pizzas are less traditional, we add crème fraiche for our Mais pizza and barbeque sauce for our BBQ pizza. They all have garlic oil—a “must” in southern Italian cooking!
In the United States, white pizza is sometimes made with a sauce comprised of milk, salt, pepper, garlic, and parmesan cheese; the butter and flour thicken the mixture and create a rich alfredo sauce. In Italy pizza bianca tends to be lighter, made with mozzarella, olive oils, and herbs. Some chefs make it with a béchamel sauce. Unlike the red sauce, the white sauce is more open to experimentation.
White pizzas provide a beautiful canvas for fresh produce and delicately cured meats. You’ll notice the suggested toppings for white pizza on our menu tend to be more adventurous than those on red pizza. In fact, our most popular white pizza is the “Mais,” which includes ham and corn, not your typical or everyday pizza toppings!
Try the difference!
Why not be on both teams, red and white?
The fresh herbs and vegetables we use make both our red and our white pizzas mouth-watering good, and both can be prepared gluten-free and even vegan on request. Visit our nutrition page online for specific information about all our pizzas.
As you’ve probably realized by now, each style of pizza offers a different—and delicious!—experience. What you choose to order is up to you. Different pizzas can correspond to different moods, different seasons, and different tastes. And that gives you a lot of reasons to return to Pizzeria Locale!