Pizzapedia: A Pizza Vocabulary

You don’t need fancy words to eat good pizza, but some pizza people do use fancy terminology to help illustrate aspects of their obsession. What follows is a list of pizza vocabulary culled from books, experts, and articles in print and online — words that are useful and of interest (though perhaps esoteric at times), that help communicate passionate pizza experience.

If you know of a term that you think should be listed among the others in the Pizza-Pedia below, or think that one of the terms below should be amended or ameliorated, please reach out with suggestions.

—Arthur Bovino

al libretto: The frequent forefinger-indention induced method of eating a slice of pizza where the center of the slice becomes a valley and the sides touch at the top, most famously demonstrated on film (as cut by Slice founder Adam Kuban) by John Travolta as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever after visiting Lenny’s Pizza in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn,  “al libretto,” meaning “folded over like a book” (Pizza: A Global History, by Carol Helstosky).

apizza: New Haven-style pizza, originated at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Wooster Street by an Italian immigrant from Maiori, Italy, named Frank Pepe in 1925. New Haven apizzas are cooked in coal-fired ovens and are characterized by a very thin crust and an attitude toward mozzarella (“mootz”) that treats it as a topping that must be requested. The clam pie, an apizza without sauce or cheese, but topped with fresh clams with grated cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano, is the most famous style of apizza. The style has since proliferated in New Haven at pizzerias like Sally’s, Modern and Zuppardi’s, and has increasingly spread beyond Connecticut in recent years.

Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (AVPN): the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association or AVPN) is a non-profit organization founded in Naples in 1984 with the mission to promote and protect the “true Neapolitan pizza“ (“verace pizza Napoletana“) in Italy and worldwide. For pizza to be considered “Vera Pizza Napoletana,“ it must be made in accordance with the characteristics described in the AVPN’s international regulations for obtaining a collective brand mark by a pizzeria that pays annual dues to the AVPN (see ‘Vera Pizza Napoletana’).

autolyse method: a method of “presoaking” flour before baking thought to give breads and pizzas a better crumb and stronger structure, to shorten the final mixing period and to reduce the chances of oxidation if too much air is incorporated into the dough. As 11-time world pizza champ Tony Gemignani notes in The Pizza Bible, soaking flour in water for 30 minutes or even up to 8 hours, “gives the flour a head start on hydrating before  you add the other ingredients. The enzymes in the flour begin to break down its starches and proteins, which helps gluten develop.” Gemignani suggests mixing just the water and flour in your recipe on a low setting until combined, then covering in a bowl with plastic wrap at room temperature for a half hour before proceeding.

avalanche: what happens when a slice of pizza fresh from the oven is picked up and all the toppings immediately slide off the crust. A term difficult to attribute beyond a guide to pizza slang published by First We Feast.

bag-and-board: as Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours notes in his book Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, some old-school pizzerias like Grimaldi’s still load pizza onto a corrugated cardboard circle that’s then inserted into a thin paper bag. Steam can escape the bag, preventing a soggy crust and the cardboard taste a box can produce, but it lacks support for pizza stacking pizzas unless paired with plastic “Package Savers.”

best pizza: a pizza featuring a balanced sauce, not too sweet, not too salty (assuming it has sauce); high-quality, evenly-distributed cheese (assuming it has cheese); worthwhile and well-paired toppings; a flavorsome, savory crust; and perhaps above all, other than the overarching quality of the ingredients, a prudent, symmetrical and enjoyable ratio of sauce, cheese, toppings, and crust that maintains a structural integrity whatever the pizza style.

B flute: flutes are the waved inner medium of a corrugated cardboard sheet used to give a pizza box strength. In his book Viva La Pizza, Scott Wiener notes that B flutes measure 154 +/- 10 flutes per linear meter (3.2mm thick)

blank: A single sheet of finished fiberboard that includes the perforations and scoring required to build a final, pre-folded pizza box. In his book Viva La Pizza, Scott Wiener traces key designs critical to the modern-day pizza box to Dominos founder Tom Monaghan’s innovations of the late 1960s.

caciocavallo: a salty, earthy Italian pasta filata cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk and often used on sfincione (the thick-crusted pizza of Palermo, Sicily), caciocavallo literally means “cheese on horseback,” getting its name from being tied together with a rope and dangled over a wooden board to drain and age. Caciocavallo’s history is said to go back to 500 BC when Hippocrates first mentioned the cleverness of the Greeks in making it. According to Pizza: A Global History, caciocavallo was initially a horse milk cheese.

calzone: a stuffed and oven-baked pizza usually served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Unlike a stromboli, which is rolled over itself to create layers of dough and filling, a calzone is more like a folded over and sealed pizza. Typical calzone “toppings” (fillings in this case) include ricotta, mozzarella and pepperoni. Le Ricette Regionali Italiane (1967) by Anna Gosetti della Saldane is one of the most cited references to the origins of calzones. Gosetti attributes the calzone’s origins to Naples.

California-style pizza: (also see “pizza styles”) a thin-crust pizza, often without tomato sauce, notable for its use of fresh, nontraditional toppings not typically found in Italian cuisine, but bountiful thanks to California’s access to great produce. The style, punctuated by fresh vegetables and memorable flavor combinations including ingredients like avocado, smoked salmon, goat cheese, peanut sauce and barbecue chicken was first popularized in the 1980s by California chefs like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and Wolfgang Puck and his pizza chef Ed LaDou (the godfather of the style, who also helped develop the menu for California Pizza Kitchen) of Spago in Los Angeles.

char: the slightly or partially burned parts of the pizza cornicione. For most pizza cognoscenti, a certain amount of charring is not just acceptable, but desirable, the idea being that it adds textural variation, flavor nuance and a dynamic, enticing appearance and contrast. Some might argue that the difference between the right amount of charring and too much is the definition of the pizzaiolo as craftsman. Others just call it burnt.

cheese pull: the stretched, stringy connection of cheese from a slice pulled away from the rest of the pizza. Some would argue that the “cheese pull” is a sign while a pizza is being cut that indicates a pizza will be good. In the food stylist world, the cheese pull, whether attempted with pizza or other dishes featuring cheese, is said to be one of the most difficult effects to achieve. The ideal cheese pull typically features “nice long strings that cling to the slice as it is lifted from the whole pizza.” According to Delores Custer, author of Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera, part-skim mozzarella achieves the best cheese-pull affect.

cheese drag: usually a sign of enough sauce on a pizza for the cheese not to have attached to the crust, “cheese drag” is the sliding off of a large sheet of cheese from the slice. Cheese drag is a problem that can often be encountered while eating frozen and delivery pizzas.

cheese lock: the distribution of cheese so that it sticks to the crust above and around the pizza toppings so that they hold in place, with the idea that they are placed evenly on the pie so as to ensure a well-balanced flavor experience and consistent topping spread in each bite.

Chicago-style pizza: (also see “pizza styles”) Chicago-style is a heavy, pan-cooked pizza typically eaten with a knife and fork and baked in a gas oven like a casserole (usually for about 45 minutes), whose thick and buttery crust is pressed up along the sides of the pan and covered with about an inch of mozzarella, toppings (sausage is classic) and a chunky, canned tomato sauce. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, there is some doubt around who created the original recipe, but it’s generally agreed that Chicago-style pizza was popularized by partners Ike Sewell and Richard Novaretti (“Ric Riccardo”), who opened a restaurant serving deep-dish pizza called The Pizzeria in 1943. The Pizzeria’s name changed to Pizzeria Riccardo before settling on its iconic appellation Pizzeria Uno, in 1955.

coastline: a term difficult to attribute beyond a guide to pizza slang published by First We Feast, that describes the area of exposed sauce between the end of the cheese and the beginning of the cornicione.

cold cheese slice: (also see “pizza styles”) the practice of heaping a mound of cold shredded mozzarella atop a hot slice to make it extra cheesy and prevent burning the roof of the mouth. The cold cheese slice was invented in the mid-80s at an upstate New York pizzeria in Oneonta called Tino’s opened by Agatino Garufi in 1985. Tino’s was the post-bar destination for hungry students from SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College who asked for cold cheese so they could eat hot slices immediately without searing their palates. Tino’s was sold by Mr. Garufi’s son, Tino Jr. (the practice is said to continue at the original pizzeria, renamed Cosmo’s), who opened a new Tino’s in Cooperstown, New York, where they retain the claim as “Home of the Cold Cheese.” The most famous cold cheese practitioner may be Little Vincent’s in Huntington, Long Island, initiated there by college students returning home from Oneonta.

cornicione: pronounced “cor-nee-CHO-nay,” the word is Italian for cornice or moulding. In pizza terms, it means the rim or edge crust on a pizza.

crumb: the soft, webbed, inner portion of the crust made up of the bread’s hole structure.

cut: (also see “Old Forge pizza”) the name for a slice of the style of pizza native to Old Forge, Pennsylvania, a quasi-Sicilian style cooked in pans that give the pies there the moniker “trays.”

deep-dish pizza: (also see “Chicago-style pizza,” “pizza styles”)

deep-fried pizza: (also see “pizza styles”) called “pizza fritta” in Italy and a “montanara pizza,” deep-fried pizza in this instance doesn’t refer to the state fair practice of battering and frying a preexsiting slice, but to Neapolitan-style dough that’s shaped, its rim docked, then entirely deep-fried in oil for about a minute before being covered with sauce, cheese and toppings then baked in a wood-burning oven. The result is a crispy, light crust with a vague flavor of fried dough absent greasiness. In America, the practice was perhaps first brought from Naples to New York City by Naples-born pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani in 2011 at Forcella (now closed), at PizzArte and by Kesté Pizza & Vino’s Roberto Caporuscio at Don Antonio by Starita.

D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllate): Italian bureaucracy is about as easy to explain as New York City’s pizza family tree, but essentially, D.O.C. is a quality assurance label for Italian foods, wines and spirits that authenticates their origins. The system of applying D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllate Garantita, a stricter category) designations (created to apply to wines in 1955 and effected in 1963) was modeled on the French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) designations and (as noted in J. Patrick Henderson’s About Wine) overhauled in 1992 to reform what had become a lenient system and to comply with European Union law on protected geographical designations of origin effected that year. Under a new E.U. wine law effected in 2008, both D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. classifications were placed under a new designation, D.O.P. (Denominazione Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin) without outlawing their use.

“What does this have to do with pizza?”

Just a sec. The E.U. officially gives a D.O.P. to mozzarella di bufala di Campania and pomodori di San Marzano, the mozzarella and tomatoes necessary to make authentic Neapolitan pizza that are native to Italy’s southwest region of Campania. But it does not give a D.O.P. to Neapolitan pizza. Rather, pizza is certified as Specialità Tradizionale Garantita (“Traditional Specialty Guaranteed” or TSG), and listed in the European Union’s database of protected products.

“For the love of all things holy…”

Alright, alright. Folks (read wine producers) have clung to the original designations, so D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. along with “D.O.P.”  appearing on labels for mozzarella or tomatoes (or on menus referring to them) attests that these ingredients are native to pizza’s birthplace, the ones the Italians regulating all of this say you need to make “authentic” Neapolitan pizza. When referring to pizza, the abbreviations assert that pies will be made using authentic ingredients, with approved techniques (see “Vera Pizza Napoletana” and AVPN). It’s as close to eating pizza in Naples as you can get without visiting lo Stivale (the Boot).

D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta): (also see “D.O.C.”) literally a “Protected Designation of Origin,” D.O.P. is a quality assurance label that ensures the product it appears on was cultivated using the approved of techniques in the manner and geographic area necessary for it to be considered authentic.

double-zero “00” flour: the required flour to make Vera Pizza Napoletana (the authentic pizza of its birthplace, Naples) according to AVPN guidelines. Italian flours are classified based on how finely they’re ground, and “double-zero” (tipo doppio zero flour)  is the finest grade of flour milled in Italy, one prized and compared, for its consistency, to the texture of baby powder. Why is “00” flour the best flour for making pizza? As acclaimed American pizzaiolo Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Pizzain Portland, Oregon notes in his book The Elements of Pizza, when blended according to specification, the flour provides “just the right properties for water absorption, dough formation, fermentation, stretchability, and the baking qualities that work best for Neapolitan pizza” to ensure it’s soft, elastic and easy to manipulate and fold with a centre that’s particularly soft to the touch and taste.

dough hook: a twisted hook attachment used to mechanically knead dough when affixed to an electric mixer or food processor so as to stretch and elongate the dough’s gluten again and again to encourage the bonding that creates gluten strength.

E flute: flutes are the waved inner medium of a corrugated cardboard sheet used to give a pizza box strength. In his book Viva La Pizza, Scott Wiener notes that E flutes measure 295 +/- 13 flutes per linear meter (1.6mm thick).

fior di latte: literally, “milk’s flower,” fior di latte along with bufala mozzarella are the only cheeses allowed by the trade group Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana for pizza to be considered made in the authentic Neapolitan style. Whereas bufala mozzarella (the most highly prized mozzarella for Neapolitan pizza) is made with water buffalo milk, fior di latte is made from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk.

flute: the waved inner medium of a corrugated cardboard sheet used to give a pizza box strength. The common flute sizes for pizza boxes are “B” and “E,” each of which refer to a different frequency of flute per linear foot.

focaccia: a tall, airy Italian yeast bread taller than but similar to pizza, and thought of as its progenitor. Focaccia, which is baked in sheet pans, is made of a dough that uses more yeast than pizza creating its higher rise, and is usually flavored with olive oil and topped with herbs, spices and sometimes vegetables. According to the Italian National Tourist Board North America, focaccia claims its origin in classical antiquity, likely originating with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks: “In ancient Rome ‘panis focacius‘ denoted a flat bread cooked in the ashes (‘focus’ meant hearth). [From] these came the term ‘focacia,’ ‘focaccia‘ in modern Italian which has branched out in various directions, both savory and sweet.”

grandma pizza: a rectangular, pan-cooked style of pizza native to Long Island that caught on in New York City and has since spread elsewhere across the country over the past decade since Erica Marcus publicized it in 2003. Grandma pizza is a light, thin, crispy-chewy pie with light crushed tomato sauce and a scattering of mozzarella. Umberto’s Pizzeria in New Hyde Park is generally regarded as the originator of the grandma slice (not King Umberto’s in Elmont—another story). Italian-born founder Umberto Corteo (from Monte di Procida near Naples) and his brother Joe opened Umberto’s in 1965, making the pizza “Mama made” for themselves and friends, without menu-iteming it. They opened satellite pizzeria King Umberto with another Corteo brother, Carlo, which upon his retirement was sold to two Umberto’s employees, Rosario and Sal Fuschetto. Pizza: A Slice of Heaven author Ed Levine reports that two pizza makers Rosario and Sal hired who’d started out at the original Umberto’s saw potential in the grandma and put it on the menu.

hole structure: the pattern of holes created by air bubbles that compose the area under the crust’s exterior. Hole structure is the webbing of the inner portion of the bread, also known as the crumb. According to New York Magazine, the more wildly inscribed and chaotic the hole structure, the better the bread. “Such a structure indicates that the dough has been properly kneaded (aerated) and/or given the luxury of a long fermentation time, both of which lead to the development of the carbon-dioxide-gas bubbles that inflate the air pockets in the dough and allow for a light and tender loaf.”

isosceles: if an isosceles triangle is one with two sides of equal length, an isosceles slice is one from a pizza that has been perfectly cut. This is a term difficult to source beyond a guide to pizza slang published in 2015 by the site First We Feast.

knead: the process of stretching and elongating pizza dough’s gluten repeatedly to encourage the bonding that creates gluten strength.

leopard spotting: a type of cornicione charring characterized by small black dots and spots.

lazzaroni: the Neapolitan poor so named because their ragged appearance evoked images of Lazarus. As Carol Helstosky notes in Pizza: A Global History, author Alexandre Dumas declared in his 1841 work Le Corricolo, that Naples’ lazzaroni lived on two foods: watermelon in the summer, and pizza in the winter. These days, pizza is global obsession that crosses socio-economic levels, but Dumas’ account of the lazzaroni is a reminder of the food’s humble origins.  

low-moisture mozzarella: the signature cheese used to make most American-style pizzas. Low-moisture mozzarella (sometimes referred to in shorthand as “lo-mo”) is saltier and slightly more yellow than fresh mozz, and according to the FDA must have moisture content that exceeds 45%, but is equal to or less than 50% (fresh mozzarella can have moisture content more than 52% but no more than 60%).

Margherita: any pizza topped with tomatoes, cheese, and usually basil. Not to be confused with a Neapolitan ‘Pizza Margherita,’ a pizza made with approved San Marzano tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, mozzarella di bufala (or fior di latte) and fresh basil in accordance with 11 pages of rules that detail the requisite texture, ingredients, cooking temperature and techniques stipulated by the AVPN (see Pizza Margherita).

marinara: an Italian red sauce and core pizza ingredient made by simmering tomatoes, olive oil, garlic cloves, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and basil.

mozzarella: a soft, white, unripened, mild and rubbery cheese that originated in Southern Italy. Mozzarella is made through the process of pasta filata (spinning and stretching warm cheese curds), traditionally with water buffalo milk, but now most often with cow’s milk. Fresh mozzarella—buffalo, fior di latte and mozzarella S.T.G.—is one of the required ingredients necessary for authentic Neapolitan pizza (see VPN). Most American-style pizzas use low-moisture mozzarella (see also low-moisture mozzarella).

mozzarella affumicata: cold-smoked mozzarella (usually over straw and wood chips).

mozzarella di bufala: (see also “VPN,” “mozzarella,” “low-moisture mozzarella”) the most highly prized mozzarella for making Neapolitan pizza, mozzarella di bufala is a soft, mild, Southern Italian cheese made with water buffalo milk.

mustard pie: a pizza with a thin layer of mustard between the crust and the cheese, then topped with tomato sauce. As far as anyone can tell, the mustard pie was invented in Trenton, New Jersey. It’s a tradition carried on by Nick Azzaro of Papa’s Tomato Pies (now in Robbinsville), the oldest continuously-run pizza restaurant in America. Azzaro, who says he makes about five mustard pies a week, explained its origins thusly: “I put the mustard on the crust of the pizza. It has to be Gulden’s spicy brown mustard. A guy used to [make it in his] pizzeria down the street and I don’t know where he got the idea from, but he ended up closing down, so I don’t know if that’s an omen, but when he did, some workers came in who used to visit his pizzeria. They asked me to make them a pizza this way, with mustard, then tomatoes, then cheese. You put it in oven and cook it. You ever hear of a Philly pretzel? Well, that’s what it tastes like. We cover it like you’d cover a piece of bread with mustard. The other stuff takes over. It dilutes the flavor of the cheese and the tomatoes and mixes in with it. You can smell it and taste it.”

mutz: shorthand for mozzarella, also abbreviated as “mozz,” “mootz” and “mozzarell.”

Neapolitan pizza: born in Naples, Italy, Neapolitan pizza is usually about a foot wide with a puffy cornicione (crust) and a soupy center covered with fresh mozzarella. According to the AVPN, when made per VPN guidelines, “the consistency of the ‘Verace Pizza Napoletana’ should be soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold. The centre should be particularly soft to the touch and taste, where the red of the tomato is evident, and to which the oil or for the Pizza Marinara, the green of the oregano and the white of the garlic has perfectly amalgamated. In the case of the Pizza Margherita, the white of the mozzarella should appear in evenly spread patches, with the green of the basil leaves, slightly darkened by the cooking process. The crust should deliver the flavor of well-prepared, baked bread. This mixed with the slightly acidic flavor of the densely enriched tomatoes, and the respective aroma of oregano and garlic or basil and the cooked mozzarella ensures that the pizza, as it emerges from the oven, delivers its characteristic aroma—perfumed and fragrant.”

New York-style pizza: a style of pizza that originated from Italian-American immigrants in New York City, New York-style pizza is thought to have first been born in coal-fired brick ovens with fresh mozzarella. Subcategories of New York pizza like Neapolitan-American, $1 slice, VPN Neapolitan and Neo-Neapolitan can feature extreme differences in style, but generally, the characteristics of New York-style pizza include a pie about a foot-and-a-half wide divided into eight slices with a thin, pliant crust that bends or cracks when folded but never breaks and that is layered with a thin layer of shredded, low-moisture mozzarella and thin, mildly seasoned tomato sauce that completely covers each slice out to the crust, a raised, slightly browned, crunchy end about a half-inch thick.

Old Forge pizza: a style of pizza perpetuated in the former coal-mining town of Old Forge, Pennsylvania (the self-described “Pizza Capital of the World“) two hours north of Philadelphia (and almost the same distance northwest of New York City) by eight pizzerias (including Arcaro & GenellRevello’s, Salerno’s, Sachetti’s, Rocco’s, Calogero’s and Mancuso’s) but thought to have originated at Ghigiarelli’s Restaurant in the 1920s. Old Forge Pizza is akin to Sicilian-style but higher and with a crust that is less crunchy and without color. It’s characterized by a rectangular, thick crust (an inch tall), an impervious blanket of cheese rumored to be white Cheddar or a mixture of American, Monterey Jack, Provolone and Scamorza (pronounced locally as “scamutz”), and the oil-lined pan-cooked technique that also determines Old Forge’s pizza lingua franca; pies are called ‘trays’ and slices are called ‘cuts.’ There are three Old Forge styles, white (no sauce), red (which features a sweet tomato sauce) and stuffed. The latter is usually white and covered by an additional layer of crust on top. All styles are typically finished with a sprinkling of herbs.

oven spring: the accelerated increase and final burst of dough expansion once loaded into the oven, an effect that stops once the temperature of the dough reaches about 140°F (when the yeast dies).

panetti: (see also “staglio a mano”) small balls of pizza dough weighing between about six to nine ounces and portioned by hand through the staglio a mano process and then stretched, topped and cooked.

pan pizza: any pizza cooked in a pan with a raised lip that gives the crust a hard edge. Various pizza styles can be made in this method with different effects—grandma pizza, Detroit-style pizza, Old Forge pizza, Chicago-style pizza, Sicilian pizza and certain bar pies are all cooked in pans but result in very different shapes, textures, heights and tastes.

party cut: also known as the “tavern cut,” the party cut refers to the slicing of pizza (usually thin crust, and in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago and St. Louis) in parallel and perpendicular lines (as opposed to the traditional wedge cut that creates four or eight triangular slices) to create square slices usually about two inches wide. While praised by some for allowing better portion control and making it easier to share among large groups of people, the party cut is not universally celebrated because it creates crustless slices and doesn’t allow for a greaseless pickup. For a debate on the merits of the party cut versus the wedge cut, check out this article by Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel.

pasta filata: literally, “spun paste,” pasta filata is a process that gives certain cheeses a stringy, stretchy quality. After milk is curdled, curds are cut into pieces, steeped in a hot whey (or water) bath, drained and then kneaded until they achieve a soft, stringy texture.

pepperoni lotus: When pizza is served with multiple pepperoni slices cradled inside each other (usually a side effect of a pizzaiolo or pizzeria prone to going heavy on toppings, or a double-meat order). Possibly invented by anonymous Buffalo pizza reviewer SexySlices.

pie: slang often used to refer to a full pizza.

pizza: per Merriam-Webster, “pizza is a food made from flat, usually round bread that is topped with usually tomato sauce and cheese and often with meat or vegetables.” The book Pizza: A Global History puts forward several theories about the origins of the word, ‘pizza.’ Some think it’s derived from the word pizzicare, to pinch, referring to the pinching of the dough to shape it to hold toppings. Others believe the word is derived from the Greek, Arabic or Hebrew terms for flatbread. Another theory is that ‘pizza’ comes from ‘picea,’ Latin “for ‘of pitch,’ a term which may have referred to the texture or color of baked bread or the bottom of the ancient pizza.”

pizza al metro: literally ‘pizza by the meter,’ the manner in which Roman pizza, usually a thin, meter-long rectangular pizza is sold. Pizza al metro, also known as ‘pizza al taglio,’ or “pizza by the cut” is often cut with scissor and then sold by the slice according to its weight. The style is thought to have originated in Rome in the 1960s as a result of requests from American G.I.s. who had tasted it after World War II.

pizza a otto: similar to the way Popeye’s Wimpy approached buying hamburgers (“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”) Naples poor managed to procure pizza, eating it with the promise of paying it eight days later. Thus, ‘pizza a otto.’

pizza bones: the leftover, uneaten crust or dough lip (also known as the cornicione) usually bare of cheese or sauce. The term, “pizza bones” can be found in newsprint since at least March of 1995, when The Wall Street Journal reported PepsiCo saying its Pizza Hut unit would offer a stuffed crust pizza with mozzarella inside the rim to avoid them, and the etymologist Barry Popik notes a reference to the term in the young adult book by Carol Snyder, Memo to Myself When I Have a Teenage Kid, published in 1983.

pizza cognition theory: a theory put forth by The New York Times Food Editor Sam Sifton that the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes becomes, for him or her, pizza. As expounded in Pizza: A Slice of Heaven:

“There is a theory of cognitive development that says children learn to identify things only in opposition to other things. Only the child who has learned what is no brown, the theory holds, can discern what is ‘brown.’

Pizza naturally throws this theory into a tailspin. The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgood, thanks-mom level), becomes for him, pizza. He relegates all subsequent slices, if they are different in some manner from that first triange of dough and cheese and tomato and oil and herbs and spices, to a status that we can characterize as not pizza.

You cannot teach a child what pizza is, this explanation of pizza cognition theory asserts, by providing him with oppositional ingredients or styles. The love of pizza simply doesn’t work that way. Invariably, if a child’s first slice of pizza comes from a deep-dish Chicago pie or is a slice, chewy, pillow of Sicilian or a half-hour-guaranteed-delivery cardboard Frisbee or frozen French-bread travesty, semolina-dusted ‘Creole’ or sweet pineapple and plastic ham ‘Hawaiian’ pie, then, well, that is pizza to him. He will defend this interpretation to the end of his life.

Is this an unfair assertion? Perhaps. Learned behaviors and taste can be, after all, unlearned. Thus are colts broken and prisoners released from jail. And, in any event, the question of what makes a slice of pizza ‘good’ or ‘right’ is so loaded with cultural baggage as to make it almost meaningless. one might as well ask: Which is the better painting, Picasso’s Guernica or David’s Marat? Who was the better baseball player, Reggie Jackson or Thurman Munson? Good pizza is simply good pizza, in a hundred different ways, for thousands of different reasons.

A brief definition of terms, then, so that you may understand what pizza is in New York City: it is, in essence, Neapolitan, a thin-crust pie, lightly slathered with a tomato sauce that one might describe, depending on mood, as herb-infused, sprinkled with mozzarella, a fine mist of Parmesan. no more. Toppings—pepperoni, sausage, lardo, artichoke hearts, onion, roasted peppers, hunks of garlic— are optional. No bad pie is made good by the presence of toppings.

A pizza’s crust should be very close to pliant. Conversely, it should approach crackly; it should yield to the teeth with a dissolving crunch. The sauce should be neither salty nor overly sweet, and the presence of herbs in its flavor—oregano, basil, black pepper, let’s say—should neither overwhelm nor be entirely absent. They should balance, a perfect triangle of salt, acidity, sweet. That is pizza in New York City. All else—however delicious, however redolent of wood smoke or sweet clams or new traditions or old—is not.”

Sifton notes Fascati Pizza in Brooklyn, Heights as the place that every other pizza must live up to for him. And for the record, it’s a damn fine, and remarkably under-the-radar pizzeria whose slices well deserver far more celebration.

pizza Margherita: one of the two types of Vera Pizza Napoletana deemed as authentic Neapolitan pies as made in accordance with VPN guidelines, the ‘Margherita’ consists of toppings that include and are limited to tomatoes, oil, mozzarella or fior di latte, grated cheese and basil. The Pizza Margherita is said to have been invented in 1889 by pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi, founded in Naples in 1780. The pie (then known as ) was one of three prepared for Queen Margherita of Savoy (1851–1926), the wife of the second king of unified Italy, Umberto I, the other two pies consisting of one topped with caciocavallo, lard and basil, and another with anchovies. There are some who question the veracity of the story—regardless, as noted in Pizza: A Global History, the choice (or its legend) “became an important detail in the narrative of Italian nationalism: the king and queen were tired of French cuisine and wanted something authentically Italian. Furthermore, the colors of the pizza Margherita are the same as those of the Italian flag.”

staglio a mano: the process of turning Neapolitan pizza dough into small balls (‘panetti’) by hand before stretching it out and cooking it as stipulated by the AVPN.

VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana): (see also “AVPN” and “D.O.C.”)Vera Pizza Napoletana, or “true Neapolitan pizza” is limited to two types made in accordance with VPN guidelines: ‘Marinara’ (tomato, oil, oregano and garlic) and ‘Margherita’ (tomato, oil, mozzarella or fior di latte, grated cheese and basil). There are 11 pages of rules detailing the requisite texture, ingredients, cooking temperature and techniques, but the essential tenets follow.

  • Dough: The dough must be made using wheat flour type “00”, water (71.6°F with a ph between 6-7), sea salt and compressed or natural yeast, and allowed to rise twice for a total of about eight hours.

  • Technique: The dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand, or mechanical mixers with double-speed ‘fork’ or ‘spiral’ beaters (as long as the latter don’t overheat the dough).

  • Fresh Tomatoes: Fresh San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-nocerino D.O.P., Pomodorini di Corbara (Corbarino), Pomodorino del piennolo del Vesuvio D.O.P. and fresh or industrially prepared “Roma” tomatoes (“pomodoro lungo tipo Roma”) can be used.

  • Canned Tomatoes: Pomodoro pelato San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino D.O.P. are acceptable canned peeled tomatoes. They should be strained, broken up and homogenized by hand. Peeled tomatoes that are genetically modified or altered to increase desired traits, resistance to herbicides or increased crops are unacceptable.

  • Cheese: Only the following cheeses are acceptable: certified mozzarella di bufala Campana D.O.P., mozzarella S.T.G., fior di latte dell’appennino meridionale D.O.P., and other certified fior di latte.

  • Oil: Unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil) must be used.

  • Herbs: Oregano (origanum vulgare from the Labiatae family) and fresh basil must be used.

  • Cooking: The pizza must be cooked for no more than 60 to 90 seconds in a (oak, ash, beech or maple) wood-fired oven that has reached 905°F.


12 Delicious Pieces of Regional Pizza Slang, Mental Floss

How Capicola Became Gabagool, Atlas Obscura

Pizza Glossary,

Pizza Lingo Tends To Be Bit Crusty, Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Pizza Slang 101, First We Feast