Okay, full disclosure: I have never really enjoyed personal pizzas. I’ve disliked these pizza experiences so much that it has led me to wonder why they exist in the first place.
When I order something like a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza, I find an undesirable ratio of crust to toppings, with crust being the majority of each bite. More often than not the little pizza is served unsliced, so the options are to either slice it up yourself (and the slices are never as clean as when an employee does it) or go at it like a pull-apart bread rather than a pizza.
Suffice it to say I prefer eating one larger slice over a miniature whole pizza, but maybe this is just because my personal pizza experiences haven’t been wholly authentic.
There have always been heated, life-or-death debates about which regional style of pizza is best (I will not touch the Chicago vs. New York debate today), but the funny thing is that, strictly speaking, by Italian standards none of them qualify as pizza at all.
The earliest pizzas started off as more of what we would now define as a flatbread. A simple dough made from flour, water, and herbs, similar to the modern-day focaccia, was eaten by Greeks and Phoenicians and used as an edible plate to be eaten with stews or broth.
In Italy today, you do not ask for pizza by the slice. Pizza comes in a consistent size, served whole on the plate, as it always has been. A Neapolitan-style Margherita pizza is widely recognized as the authentic pizza style of the region. To qualify for that authenticity and earn the Neapolitan title in Italy, a pizza must meet certain qualifications set forth by The Verace Pizza Napoletana Association. These guidelines are extensive, dictating particular ingredients, production methods, and storage, but one crucial regulation that stands out immediately reads, “The diameter of the disc should not exceed 35cm.”
Now, take a look at what is credited as the first licensed Pizzeria in New York City: Lombardi’s Pizzeria. Although it’s been argued that Lombardi’s was not the first-ever pizzeria in the U.S., it was still one of the very first and was run by an Italian immigrant named Gennaro Lombardi in 1905. Pizza History Book has a collection of media excerpts from over the past century regarding Lombardi’s pizza.
In 1938, Stage Magazine wrote, “They serve the usual Italian menu, no dish costing more than a quarter, but the wise ones concentrate on the Lombardis’ famous pizza. Pizzas are pies. They’re tailored to fit the size of your tummy and made up on the spot...”
Then, in 1996, Pizza Today noted, “The first pizzas that Lombardi pre-baked at the bakery in Brooklyn were of the thin Neapolitan variety.”
So it turns out that, while the Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza is nowhere near an Italian Neapolitan, it’s still a testament to the original American pizza, which was, in fact, the “personal” pie, not a jumbo slice. And whenever a personal pizza arrives uncut, I guess instead of being annoyed, I can consider that a nice nod to tradition, too.