In pizza, we crust

Going beyond the renowned chains, ahead of National Pizza Day (February 9), here’s a look at popular variants offered in the city, with a side of history
In pizza, we crust

CHENNAI: Whether picking the right-to-go meal, succumbing to late-night snack attacks, or elevating intimate dinners with loved ones, choosing to have pizza stands unparalleled. Ahead of National Pizza Day (February 9), the world becomes a smaller place, bound together by the simple yet profound pleasure of a well-crafted pizza. This story delves into the diverse ways of how the cheesy pie is celebrated across continents, exploring the unique twists and regional variations that make every slice a cultural ambassador.

The origins of the gourmet can be traced 3,000 years back to the ancient leavened flatbreads topped with ingredients like cheese, meat, and dates in Europe and West Asia. Originally peasant food, pizza was baked in communal ovens to save time for the proletariat classes. The word ‘pizza’ stems from the Greek pita (bran bread), and later emerged as slang.

Around the 1800s, Chef Raffaele Esposito marked the period by serving the first pizza topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil to welcome Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita to Naples. The culinary innovation represented the national colours of Italy, popularly known as the Margherita Pizza today. Being a popular stop at the door of the Decumano Maggiore, Antica Port’Abla was the first pizzeria in the world, converted from a laboratory for traders and tourists to hop in. With large swells of Italians stepping into the US, the cheesy pie left its flavour to alter the American culinary landscape. Taking the centre plate, it became a fast food staple during the early 1900s through franchises like Domino’s that made it a mass commercial product.

As we traverse the culinary map, the pie uncovers a fascinating tale of how gracefully it has embraced the nuances of each region. Far beyond the iconic duo of crust and cheese, what lies at the soul of the flatbread is its adaptability. Crafting a delectable narrative that transcends borders, it has become a canvas for local ingredients and add-ons from the vibrant streets of Naples to the eclectic corners of New York.

Highlighting the global interpretations of the pie, Dylan Pereira, an Indo-Italian Chef shares, “Being a globalised food for the past 300 years, pizza has been seamlessly adaptive to local cuisines around the world. It unveils a symphony of distinct ingredients and regional add-ons to every boundary it touches.”

The cheesy delight has reached new heights with the recent surge of artisanal pizzerias today. These restaurants embrace sourdough crusts paired with locally sourced toppings, paying homage to the humble roots of the pie while pushing the envelope of creativity. Thus, we raise our slices to toast the remarkable evolution of what we know as pizza today — a true conqueror of hearts. Kindling the taste buds of Chennai, CE takes you on a tour of traditional pizzerias to select from the variety of doughy, melting masterpieces they offer.

you ‘knead’ to know

  • There is an official professional sporting event for pizza dough spinning. The World Pizza Championships gather pizza teams to compete in the match for acrobatic dough spinning.

  • The worldwide favourite pie has a Pizza Theorem. This mathematical theorem refers to the equation used in the technique of slicing pizzas.

  • Hawaiian Pizza traces its roots not from Hawaii, but Canada. Sam Panopoulos, a retired cook, gave a twist to the global craze by simply adding shelf-stocked pineapple in his store. He served the iconic pizza variation at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario.

  • Pizza Margherita got its name from Italy’s Queen Margherita. During her visit to the city, the Queen stopped for some pie at Da Pietro Pizzeria or as known today as Pizzeria Brandi. Pizza chef Raffaele Esposito then whipped up three recipes, but the one with the Italian flag colours caught the Queen’s eyes. Pizza Margherita features green basil, white mozzarella, and red tomato sauce and remains to be a staple in pizzerias to date.

  • Sweet pizzas are a timeless trend in Brazil. Their dessert pizzas have chocolate, ice cream, and coconut as topping varieties.

  • The shape of the original Italian pizzas was square. Today, it is more recognised as the ‘Sicilian cut.’ They also used Romano cheese on the pies at first before switching to modern-day favourite mozzarella.


Tuscana Pizzeria

Inspired by the central Italian region of Tuscany, the pizzeria imbues itself to tailor the personal choices of its customers, providing them with to choose their sauce, base and toppings. The Alwarpet-ECR outlet offers a variety of exquisite homemade sauce and crust options — the Classic Thin, Multigrain, Whole Wheat Atta, and Gluten Free. Carrying the authentic flavours of Italy, Tuscana spells their pizzas with the wood fry, leaving a smokey blend to the creamy and tangy elements of the dish. The dine-out serves two sizes of pizzas — the 9 and 12 inches, with a diverse range of options including the Siliciana (topped with sun-dried tomato, buffalo mozzarella, olives and pesto), Vendure Miste - a garden on a crust (garnished with spinach, zucchini, colour peppers, olives and broccoli) and Diavola filled with marinara sauce, pepperoni, jalapeños etc. Apart from this, the menu also provides a Mickey Mouse 6-inch pizza for kids to cherish their outing with excitement and joy.

Basil With A Twist, T Nagar

Capturing the slow-grandma traditions of cooking, Basil With A Twist not only ensures a delightful taste but also promises to preserve the nutritional value of the pizzas with the essence of carefully selected herbs and mixed flour wheat. “Our restaurant’s name is associated with the sacredness the herb basil carries. Beyond the cultural significance, The twist lies in the meticulously crafted recipes, harmonising the rich flavours of the Indian palette,” says Bhagheerithi, curator of the restaurant. Thin-crisp crust, coloured peppers, and pepperoni with prunes are a few elements that make the oven-based goodness of the spot, providing a unique contrast of sweet and savoury. While their bestsellers include Veg Harmony, Serbian (topped with chicken pepperoni, bacon, and jalapeño) Pleasing Pesto, the cuisine also serves the gourmet pies of Indiana ( an Indian tapestry of cottage cheese, onions, and olives) and Go Hawaiian (zucchini, pineapple).

La Pizza Loca, Egmore

From trying out the slices at the New York City to bringing it to our doorsteps, Neha Gupta, the chef-founder of La Pizza Loca, crafts the classics with a combination of thin golden crust, flavourful sauce, and premium toppings, ensuring perfection in every bite. The stand out at the hotspot is their hand-pressed-tossed style of making the pie in different contours, especially the Stuffed and Classic Detroit squares, leaving a sensational crunch to the taste receptors. Stern towards the high-quality ingredients of Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil from Italy, Neha masters the sense of uniformity in the sauce-cheese ratio, enhancing the overall texture through each bite. The bestsellers at the cloud kitchen are New York Pepperoni — with authentic American-style pork pepperoni — Margherita The Classic with San Marzano tomato sauce, topped with fresh basil leaves, and the Indian flavour of Butter Chicken and Makhmali Paneer, with the house special makhani sauce.

Pedrino’s, Mylapore

In the bustling streets of Mylapore, what welcomes you at the Pedrino’s is not just the aroma of freshly baked crust but the promise of diving into a global fusion of culinary. The Godfather-inspired pizzeria serves the intercontinental flavours in four sizes catering to every occasion. Renowned for its tomato sauces and oregano, the spot commits to its authenticity by sourcing the ingredients from northern Italy. Ranging from the classic options of Margherita, Authentic Veggies, and Corn Pizza to the more exotic varieties of Mexicano Nachos, Quatro Formaggio, and Peri Peri Veg, Pedrino’s has it all. “We’ve explored a rich tapestry of global flavours, crafting a gastronomic adventure for our customers. With our exclusive ‘half-half’ add-on, we provide a tantalising opportunity for individuals to indulge in a symphony of tastes that align with their personal preferences,” says Veena Krish, founder of Pedrino’s.

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