It’s a dilemma faced by many a diner – you’re at an Italian restaurant and you can’t decide between pizza or pasta.
Well, over in San Francisco they are making the choice easier by plonking pasta sauces on top of pizzas.
Before you screw your nose up at the idea of chomping down on a deep dish with seafood marinara, this hybrid appears to have been carefully thought out by the people peddling it.
Ragazza in San Francisco features Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas, two of which are topped with classic pasta sauces. There’s an amatriciana with tomato, Olli pancetta, Calabrian chilies, pecorino, oregano and an organic egg. Or, for the puttanesca lovers, an option with tomato, olives, capers, chilies, anchovies, red onion and aged Italian provolone.
Interestingly, chef-owner Sharon Ardiana seems to like pushing the boundaries of pizza toppings – one of her creations includes wild nettles and another has a British twist: Brussels sprouts with caramelised onions, thyme, Italian chorizo and smoked mozzarella.
Another San Fran spot that has drawn on amatriciana is Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, which is inspired by a small pizzeria in Naples. Its version of amatriciana pizza has sliced aiello mozzarella, amatriciana sauce with guanciale (cured meat), onion, olive oil and grated Romano.
That’s just a small taster of the surprising menu, however, which also includes pizza dough made with honey malted stout beer and even fried kale as a key topping. Several styles of pizzas are on offer, from Neapolitan, Sicilian and pizza Romana, to classic American, New York, Detroit and St Louis. It even has seven different pizza ovens to cook them in.
Meanwhile, over in San Francisco’s historic Italian district of North Beach, Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar has created a carbonara pizza.
Here in the UK, Pizza Pilgrims appears to be dipping its toe in this area with the launch of its first new menu since its debut restaurant in 2013.
It has created an aubergine parmigiana pizza with roasted aubergine, baby plum tomatoes, Parmesan shavings, tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, basil and olive oil. (While not technically a traditional pasta dish, we would park it in the camp of a vegetarian pasta alternative to lasagne.)
Other additions to the Pizza Pilgrims menu include double pepperoni and spicy honey with two kinds of pepperoni, tomato, fior di latte, Parmesan, basil and olive oil. There’s also a pizza with a pesto base, sweet yellow datterini tomatoes, fior di latte, basil and olive oil that is topped with fresh burrata – added after cooking.
So does a pasta topping on a pizza pump up Sparkie?
It is certainly an unusual approach. With the current trends pushing towards authenticity, I am not entirely convinced that now would be the right time for it, but that won’t rule out all of the market.
I think it definitely has some novelty and if it is done well, Pizza Pilgrims will probably sell similar amounts to other novelty flavours. There may be some initial hype though, so maybe they are just trying to capitalise on the viral marketing but doing so in a very safe way.