Pizza is a popular dish around the world. There are many different types of pizza to choose from, with the most popular of course being the Italian variety where the dish originated. However, there is another popular variant that you have likely spied on the restaurant menu, and that is of course Greek pizza.
Pizza isn’t a dish that is traditionally associated with Greece and its cuisine. So you will of course be wondering, what is Greek pizza? And how does this differ from the other variants of pizza that you often find on the restaurant menu?
How is Greek style pizza different?
There are a few key differences between traditional pizza and Greek pizza. The most notable is in how it is prepared and made. Whereas a traditional Italian pizza dough is stretched and then cooked on a flat pizza pan, usually in a brick oven, Greek pizza is prepared differently.
Greek style pizza was developed by some of the Greek immigrant communities in America. The pizza that was made in these restaurants used a different method compared to its Italian cousin, and thanks to these distinct differences, earned it the name of Greek pizza. Surprisingly, the secret doesn’t lie in using traditional Greek toppings such as feta cheese, but more in how it has been made.
Different cooking methods
Greek pizza is cooked in an electric oven instead of a brick oven, and it tends to be cooked in a pan instead of being placed directly in the hot oven. The crust of Greek pizza is very different, too. This tends to be thicker and more doughy than Italian pizza.
Because of the different cooking methods, your cooked Greek pizza will be much lighter and spongier than the crisp base that you associate with classic Italian pizza. It has the same consistency and texture of focaccia, but isn’t quite as thick.
There is also lots and lots of olive oil used in the preparation process. This is to prevent it from sticking to the pizza pan during cooking. We all know how much the Greek love their olive oil, and Greece is indeed one of the top producers of olive oil around the globe because of its high quality. So it’s only natural that this ingredient would be included in the making of Greek pizza.
With traditional Italian pizza, olive oil may be used on the toppings to help crisp up the top layer of the pizza crust. Ingredients such as semolina or corn starch would be used to prevent the pizza from sticking to the brick oven. However, as Greek style pizza is cooked in a pan inside an electric oven instead, olive oil is used to prevent it from sticking,
This excess use of olive oil can of course make the base of Greek pizza very oily. Whereas you would eat most pizzas using your hands, you can of course eat Greek pizza using a fork if you would prefer to not get so much olive oil on your hands. Alternatively, you can place it on paper towels to absorb the excess olive oil.
Another distinct difference between Greek pizza and Italian pizza is in the sauce. Whereas traditional Italian pizza uses a thick tomato sauce as its base, the tomato sauce used for Greek style pizza is noticeably thinner. This is because of the addition of yet more olive oil, or sometimes water. These ingredients are added to thin the sauce out a little.
The tomato sauce used for Greek pizza is often left to simmer throughout the day on a stovetop before it is used on the pizza, too. This allows the flavors to caramelize around the edges, the flavor of which then becomes infused in that tasty tomato sauce.
It is also worth noting that Italian pizza and Greek pizza tomato sauces use different types of tomato as an ingredient. Whereas Italian tomato sauce will use the juice of the tomato to get that delicious flavoring, Greek pizza tomato sauce makes use of tomato paste. This helps to add a depth of flavor to the sauce, as well as giving it a punchy amount of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and K, as well as iron.
If you’re not a fan of tomato sauce, then Greek pizza can also be made using a white sauce as the pizza base. This will still allow the authentic Greek flavors to shine through, and will pair well with a salad as a side dish.
The dough that is used for Greek pizza is very different from the dough that is used for traditional Italian pizza. Traditional pizza dough is kneaded, then left to prove for around 90 minutes before it is then topped with a base and your favorite toppings, depending on the recipe of course.
However, Greek pizza dough is prepared without kneading, and then left to prove overnight. There is also a touch of sweetness to the dough because of the addition of sugar. This overnight proving gives you a much doughier pizza dough to work with. It also means that the skill of the pizza maker isn’t as important as it would be for Italian pizza, as the dough itself is much sturdier.
Seasonings and flavors
Authentic Greek pizza will come heavily seasoned. Oregano, basil, and rosemary are some of the popular choices, and can help to give the pizza a flavorful punch. If you were to opt for a slice of Greek pizza instead of Italian pizza, you will also notice the influence of some classic Greek flavors. These can include feta cheese, olives, oregano, tomatoes, and sometimes even bell peppers.
This isn’t a must for Greek pizza, of course. The preparation of the dough, the difference in the type of tomato sauce used, and the excessive use of olive oil are the most common trademark of a Greek pizza. However, you may find that the Greek restaurants or pizzerias will opt for these classic Greek flavors in addition to the key differences of Greek pizza to give it more of an authentic Greek flavor.
How to make Greek pizza
The great thing about Greek pizza is that this is a style of pizza that you can easily replicate at home. Your oven should be able to get to a high enough temperature to cook this pizza, as it likely won’t need to get to the higher temperatures of a brick oven that is used for classic Italian pizzas.
It is super easy to make the pizza dough that you’re after as well. All you need is water, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Remember to mix all of these ingredients together, then allow your dough to prove overnight. You can then cook it in your pizza pan if you have one of these, or you can cook it in a cast iron skillet. Make sure to use lots of olive oil on the pan to prevent your pizza dough from sticking to it.
You can use the classic Greek flavors that we have mentioned in more detail above, or you can use your favorite toppings instead. The key difference between Italian and Greek pizza is in how you prepare your dough, how you prepare your tomato sauce, and in how you cook your pizza.
Types of cheese used for Greek pizza
The vast majority of Greek pizza will use a half and half mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese as a topping. This is able to stand up to the hotter temperatures needed to cook an authentic Greek pizza, and gives the dish a tasty topping.
You can also opt for some additional shredded provolone cheese to mix with your cheddar and mozzarella. This cheese will brown up beautifully, giving you that classic crisp, cheesy topping that you’re after.
Again, if you want to opt for some classic Greek flavors, you can opt for some tasty feta cheese.
What to have with Greek pizza
What’s really great about Greek pizza is that it is a super versatile dish. You can have a variety of side dishes with your Greek pizza to help complement its unique flavors. Opting for a light summer salad can help you to enjoy the heavier flavors of the pizza, and complement the flavor profile of the Greek pizza.
If you want to highlight your Greek flavors, you can opt for some classic Greek side dishes such as tzatziki, Greek salad, or roasted Greek potatoes. These should help you to maximize on the authentic Greek experience.
In terms of drinks, Greek pizza is a very versatile dish to pair with a variety of choices. If you prefer wine, then opting for a rosé or white wine will be an excellent choice. You could opt for the classic Greek wine Retsina, or for a more popular choice of Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. Depending on the flavors that you have on your topping, you may wish to adjust the wine you choose to pair with your Greek pizza.
If beer is more your kind of drink to enjoy with pizza, then a light ale will be the perfect complement to a slice of Greek pizza.
History of Greek pizza
As we’ve already mentioned above, pizza isn’t a classic dish that you will find on the menu at an authentic Greek restaurant. You’re unlikely to find this pizza on the menu if you were to go to Greece, either.
So where did the phenomenon of Greek pizza come from?
We all have a Greek from Albania to thank for Greek pizza. Costas Kitsatis, also known as “Charlie” to his friends, had a pizzeria in Connecticut way back in 1955. Whereas most pizzas were prepared to order, Costas used a very different preparation method. He would instead prepare a full day’s worth of pizza crusts in 10 inch pans so that they would be ready to go. This then of course evolved into the Greek pizza that we know and love today.
Thanks to the influence of Costas and his Greek pizza creation, around 40% of the pizzerias in Connecticut in the 1980s were owned by Greeks.
So there you have it! There are several distinct differences between Italian and Greek pizza to make them two separate entities. This doesn’t just lie with the toppings; it is more to do with how the pizza is prepared, the ingredients used, and how it is cooked. You can easily recreate your favorite Greek pizza recipe at home using your cast iron skillet and standard oven.
Greek pizza typically uses more olive oil than Italian pizza, and uses a different type of tomato sauce as the base. Greek pizzas are also cooked in an electric oven rather than a brick oven, and they are also cooked at much lower temperatures. This results in a doughy pizza that is often combined with a range of toppings.