The past year has seen a couple of interesting things happening in the Italian pizza world, not usually dominated by major news. Yet, since the pandemic, there’s been a further boost of attention to a food that is sort of living a second renaissance (the first one happened more than a decade ago, with a focus on Neapolitan pizza).
The word pizza is in everybody’s mouth. That’s why is not hard to see how some trends of past years are actually paving the way to a bright 2022 that will see an even major interest four our favorite meal on the international scene.
Neapolitan kingdom. Probably in Italy, the main protagonist in the news has been the AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana): the entity that preserves and promotes the traditional art of Neapolitan pizza. “Traditional” is the right word, as the association has always been renowned to be not always open to innovations.
And yet, in just one year, AVPN went beyond its view secluded inside the four walls of a pizzeria and embraced the rising phenomenon of homemade pizza: on July 2021, they announced a new category of equipment recommended for domestic use, with the multifuel oven Karu 16, made by the UK company Ooni, as part of their partner products.
That established a trend already initiated the year before when the association finally opened itself to the use of the electric oven (so far, the only company providing a certified model is Izzo, with its Scugnizzo Napoletano oven).
But that’s not it. A few months later, AVPN announced the introduction of the category of pizza trucks, giving their 900th plaque to Alessio Lacco, a Neapolitan pizza maker in Atlanta. And, by the end of the year, they made the announcement that plaques would be given also to Neapolitan pizzerias reputed for their pizza fritta (fried pizza).
It’s worth noting that AVPN didn’t intercept any innovation, as homemade pizza, pizza trucks and fried pizza are long-established realities. The real news, here, is that when such a conservative association decides to make so many announcements, it’s because they realized first how important is to communicate the totality of the Neapolitan pizza realm to a world that is more and more eager to absorb information on the topic from the source. Giving those seals of approval is a clever way to establish their authority on the subject, and we can foresee this won’t stop in 2021.
Crust no one. Another 2021 trend that emerged on the Italian and international pizza scene was the capitalization on the pizza crust left-overs meme. Yes, we’ve been joking by ages about a world divided into two factions: those who eat the whole pizza, and the criminal minds who leave crusts on their plates.
Well, we’ve seen so many of these jokes turned into a clever marketing move last year. Pizza Hut started to sell a whole pizza made just by a round crust filled with cheese. Whereas Hellman’s, in the UK, wanted to fight this food waste selling from a pop-up truck pizza crusts with special dips on the side.
What about Italy? We didn’t stay put. More than one pizzeria felt the need to present their take on the meme. One particularly clever creation was made by Raffaele Boccia at his pizzeria Nanninella. “Margherita al cucchiaio” (Margherita by the spoon) is a ring of dough cooked three times (steamed, fried and then wood-fired) and served with two sauces to dip in it: a thick, well-cooked tomato sauce, and a fiordilatte cream.
These kinds of novelties, though, serve the news for the time they come out, but I wouldn’t really see them as a new trend: if everyone started to copy them, it would be no news anymore, and it would be time to surprise and delight with the next big invention.
Don’t pan my pizza. What I really started to see appearing more and more in Italian pizzerias is the pizza nel ruoto. This is actually a sort of focaccia that has different regional varieties in Italy. They all differ by texture: sometimes spongy, sometimes crispy, sometimes pillowy with a hint of crunch on the surface. It’s actually a great way to showcase different ways to work the dough.
But they all have one thing in common: they’re cooked in a round pan, which takes different names. Ruoto, rutiello, rutino, tegamino… And also the way of cooking has several nuances. In the electric oven, or by the flame of a wood-fired oven a vucca e furn’, and so on.
I’ve seen several pizzerias starting to dedicate a side of the menu to this pan-style pizza, showcasing a range of gourmet toppings with alternative flours. I reckon we will see way more of them in the pizzerias, if not fully-themed pizzerias.
What’s mine is yours. And speaking of regional varieties: 2022 saw contaminations and exchanges all over the place. Roman-style pizza has become more and more popular in the US (even with varieties like scrocchiarella). Whereas a huge capital like London has started to embrace American styles, and we’ve been seeing pizza places devoted to New York style and Detroit style. What next?
Go green. I couldn’t but finish my forecasts for 2022 with a topic I really care for: vegan pizza. It’s not a new trend per se, but strangely it has not been popularized yet. In Italy, we have very few examples of notable vegan recipes made by pizza chefs, not to mention vegan pizzerias. From this point of view, Italians have done way better in the UK. But this will actually be the topic for another article.
That said, vegan pizza is on the rise, and 2022 will definitely see more and more vivid examples of how to enjoy a plant-based pizza without giving up flavors. Creative examples are shared every day on social media throughout the month of Veganuary, the vegan January. Let’s just expect to see more of these pizzas even through the remaining eleven months.
I discussed this topic live on Clubhouse in my weekly room Pizza Cultura, part of the Pizza Club schedule. If you want to replay the whole conversation, you can do it at this link.