Pizza fritta, or fried pizza, is a relative of the puffy, wood-fired Neapolitan pie that Italians regard as so sacred that it was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 2017.
You don’t often see it in restaurants in America, which is a shame, because who doesn’t love any version of pizza, and a fried one, at that? Pizza fritta uses a similar dough to Neapolitan pizza, except after it’s kneaded out, it’s filled like a dumpling with various ingredients, sealed, and fried. The BBC has an introduction to this style, along with a brief history.
Like so many dishes that have withstood the test of time, pizza fritta is a dish that came from hard times, in this case during World War II when Naples was bombed more than 200 times by the Allies and many homes, businesses, and pizza ovens were destroyed. It was originally cobbled together with odds and ends that Neapolitans wouldn’t normally use in other dishes, like artichoke stems or vegetables purchased out of season. Some street vendors even sold it on payment terms for those financially struggling as “a ogge a otto,” meaning, eat now, pay eight days later.
But as delicious as fried food is, not everyone was enamored with all the heaviness of the oil, so pizza fritta slowly fell out of favor in the 80's and 90's when health trends started sinking in. Like a lot of dishes, however, pizza fritta made a comeback when chefs started tinkering with the equation, adding fancier fillings and turning it from a street food into something worthy of a higher-end menu.
Anyway, this piece is well worth the read, and it even features an Italian grandma smoking a cigarette on a plastic chair in an alley, so you know it’s the real thing.