Grandma Pizza vs Sicilian Pizza: Uncover the Delicious Differences

Everyone loves pizza, especially a nice square corner slice. But have you ever stopped to think about the nuances that differentiate Sicilian style from Grandma style? Well, I have, and here’s what I found out.

Sicilian pizza is known for its thick, pillowy crust, baked in a rectangular pan, often with a generous amount of toppings and a pronounced layer of cheese and sauce.

Grandma style pizza, on the other hand, is a thinner, rectangular pie with a crust that’s crispy on the bottom and chewy in the middle, typically topped with simple, fresh ingredients like mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, and garlic.

While both originate from Italian traditions and are baked in similar-shaped pans, the key differences lie in the thickness of their crusts and the simplicity of grandma pizza’s toppings versus the heartier toppings of Sicilian pizza.

A slice of grandma style pizza with the sauce on top of the cheese.
Photo: A slice of grandma style pizza. Notice the sauce on top of the cheese and the thin crust.

Comparison of Grandma Style & Sicilian Style Crusts

Sicilian style pizza boasts a crust that is the epitome of hearty indulgence. It’s thick and pillowy, with a soft and airy interior that contrasts beautifully with its slightly crispy and caramelized bottom. Baked in a rectangular pan, the crust’s edges often rise high, creating a sponge-like texture that’s both chewy and substantial, making it perfect for holding a generous amount of toppings.

Its depth is a result of a longer fermentation process, which not only contributes to its pronounced height but also imparts a deeper flavor profile.

Grandma style pizza, in contrast, offers a crust that strikes a delightful balance between thin and thick. Baked in a rectangular pan like its Sicilian counterpart, the grandma crust is noticeably thinner, resulting in a bottom that’s consistently crispy with a slight chewiness in the middle.

The dough is typically stretched by hand, ensuring an uneven surface that leads to pockets of airiness. Its simplicity in preparation gives it a homemade, rustic charm, reminiscent of pizzas made by Italian grandmothers, hence its name.

ComparisonGrandma StyleSicilian
OriginSouthern ItalySicily, Italy
Crust ThicknessThin to mediumThick
Crust TextureCrispy bottom, slightly chewy middleSoft and airy interior, slightly crispy bottom
ToppingsSimple, fresh ingredientsOften more varied and generous
Sauce and Cheese LayeringCheese beneath the sauceOften sauce over cheese
Cooking MethodBaked in a rectangular panBaked in a well-oiled rectangular pan
Historical SignificanceNamed after the homemade pizzas made by Italian grandmothersOriginates from the island of Sicily
PopularityGained popularity in the U.S. in the late 20th centuryWidely popular in the U.S., especially in the Northeast

Historical Origins of Grandma and Sicilian Style Pizza

Photo: A classic Sicilian style cheese pizza.

Sicilian Pizza’s Deep Roots

Sicilian pizza, as its name suggests, has its origins in Sicily, Italy. This style of pizza was traditionally a peasant dish, made using simple, locally available ingredients. The thick crust was designed to be filling, ensuring that workers had enough sustenance for their long days.

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Over time, as Sicilian immigrants moved to the United States, they brought this beloved dish with them, adapting it to the ingredients and tastes of their new home. The result is the Sicilian pizza we know today, which, while reminiscent of its Italian ancestor, has its own unique characteristics shaped by American influences.

The American Interpretation

In the U.S., Sicilian pizza underwent several changes. For instance, while the traditional Sicilian pizza in Italy might have toppings like anchovies, herbs, and tomatoes, the American “grandma” version started incorporating a wider variety of toppings, reflecting the diverse palate of its new audience.

The crust, while still thick, became even more pillowy and soft, a texture many Americans came to love. This evolution of Sicilian pizza in America showcases the adaptability of food traditions and how they can be reshaped by different cultures and tastes.

The Birth of Grandma Pizza

Grandma pizza, on the other hand, doesn’t have as ancient roots as the Sicilian. This style of pizza is believed to have originated in the homes of Italian grandmothers, primarily in the Long Island region of New York.

These grandmas, drawing from their Italian culinary heritage, would make pizza using leftover dough, stretching it out in a rectangular pan, and topping it with simple ingredients they had on hand. The result was a thinner, crispier pizza that was a stark contrast to the thick Sicilian slices.

Over time, this homemade dish began to gain popularity, moving from home kitchens to pizzerias, and eventually becoming a staple in many pizza joints across the U.S.

A Homage to Simplicity

The beauty of grandma pizza lies in its simplicity. It’s a testament to the idea that sometimes, less is more. The thin crust, combined with minimal toppings, allows each ingredient to shine, creating a harmonious blend of flavors in every bite.

This style of pizza is a reminder of the days when food was made with love and care, using whatever was available, resulting in dishes that were both delicious and heartwarming.

Crust Distinctions: Grandma vs Sicilian Style Pizza

A square cheese pizza cut into square slices in a tray.

The Hearty Foundation of Sicilian Pizza

The crust of Sicilian pizza is its defining feature. Thick, pillowy, and soft, it’s a crust that demands attention. Originating from the island of Sicily, this crust was designed to be substantial, providing a hearty base for a variety of toppings. Made using high-gluten flour, the dough undergoes a fermentation process that contributes to its depth and height.

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The result is a sponge-like texture that’s both chewy and substantial. When baked in a rectangular pan, the edges rise high, creating a crust that’s soft on the inside with a slightly crispy and caramelized bottom. This combination of textures is what sets Sicilian pizza apart, offering a bite that’s both satisfying and indulgent.

The American Touch

In the U.S., the Sicilian crust has been adapted to suit local tastes. While it retains its thick nature, many pizzerias have made it even softer and more pillowy, catering to the American preference for a softer bite. Additionally, the use of different flours and variations in the fermentation process has led to subtle differences in flavor and texture, making the American Sicilian crust a unique entity in its own right.

The Delicate Balance of Grandma Pizza

In contrast to the robust Sicilian crust, the grandma pizza crust is a study in balance. Thinner than its Sicilian counterpart, the grandma crust offers a unique texture that’s crispy on the bottom with a slight chewiness in the middle. Hand-stretched dough ensures an uneven surface, leading to pockets of airiness that add to its charm.

The use of bread flour, combined with olive oil, gives it a distinct flavor profile that’s both rustic and refined. Baked in a rectangular pan, the crust doesn’t rise as much as the Sicilian, resulting in a flatter, crispier base that perfectly complements the simple toppings it’s often paired with.

A Nod to Tradition

The grandma crust is a nod to traditional Italian cooking. Its name, “grandma pizza,” is a tribute to the Italian grandmothers who crafted this style of pizza in their home kitchens. Using leftover dough and simple ingredients, they created a pizza that was both delicious and practical.

Today, this crust remains a testament to the beauty of simplicity, offering a bite that’s both light and flavorful, making it a favorite among those who prefer a less doughy pizza experience.

Cheese and Sauce Layering

The way cheese and sauce are layered on a pizza can significantly influence its taste and texture. Traditional methods of layering, especially for Sicilian and grandma pizzas, have their roots in Italian culinary practices, but with their migration to non-Italian regions, some variations have emerged.

Traditional Layering Methods for Both Styles

A square Sicilian style margherita pizza.
Photo: A thick Sicilian style pizza with hearty toppings.

For Sicilian pizza, the sauce often takes precedence. It’s generously spread over the thick crust, followed by a hearty layer of cheese. This method ensures that the robust crust is complemented by the rich flavors of the sauce and cheese.

Grandma pizza, on the other hand, typically starts with a layer of cheese directly on the crust, followed by a spread of tomato sauce. This reverse layering technique allows the fresh ingredients on top to shine, emphasizing the pizza’s rustic charm.

Flexibility in Layering Due to Non-Italian Origins

As both pizza styles made their way outside of Italy, chefs and home cooks began experimenting with the traditional layering methods. In some places, the Sicilian pizza might feature cheese beneath the sauce, while others might add an extra layer of cheese on top for a gooey finish.

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Similarly, grandma pizzas in non-Italian regions might see variations in sauce thickness or even the addition of more diverse toppings. This flexibility in layering showcases the adaptability of these pizza styles, catering to local tastes while still paying homage to their origins.

Making Pizza Tomato Sauce

A great pizza demands an exceptional tomato sauce. The foundation of any good pizza, the sauce can elevate the entire dish, especially when it’s homemade. A well-crafted sauce brings out the best in the toppings and crust, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.

Importance of Homemade Sauce

Store-bought sauces might offer convenience, but nothing beats the fresh, vibrant taste of homemade tomato sauce. Making your own sauce allows for customization, ensuring the right balance of sweetness, tanginess, and depth.

It’s also an opportunity to use high-quality tomatoes, herbs, and other ingredients, ensuring that the sauce is free from preservatives and artificial additives. This commitment to quality can make a noticeable difference in the final pizza, enhancing its overall flavor profile.

Ingredients and Procedure for a Basic Tomato Sauce

A basic tomato sauce for pizza typically includes ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and fresh basil or oregano. To make the sauce, begin by sautéing minced garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and herbs, then let the mixture simmer until it thickens and the flavors meld.

Once done, blend the sauce for a smoother consistency or leave it chunky for added texture. This simple yet effective recipe provides a robust base for both Sicilian and grandma pizzas, ensuring every bite is bursting with fresh, authentic flavors.

Final Thoughts

In the grand world of pizza, the nuances between Sicilian and Grandma styles might seem subtle, but they make all the difference.

Whether you’re a fan of the thick, pillowy crust of a Sicilian slice or the rustic charm of a crispy Grandma pie, there’s no denying that both have earned their rightful places in the pizza hall of fame.

Next time you’re at a pizzeria, why not order one of each and savor the distinct flavors and textures that set them apart?

Key Takeaways:

  • Sicilian pizza features a thick, pillowy crust, often with generous toppings, while Grandma pizza boasts a thinner, crispy crust.
  • Traditional layering methods differ, with Sicilian often having sauce over cheese and Grandma featuring cheese beneath the sauce.
  • Homemade tomato sauce enhances the overall pizza experience, emphasizing freshness and authenticity.
  • Both pizza styles have evolved and adapted to local tastes outside of Italy, showcasing their versatility.
  • Regardless of your preference, both Sicilian and Grandma pizzas offer a unique and delightful culinary experience.

Related Questions

Which pizza style is healthier, grandma pizza or Sicilian pizza?

While both grandma pizza and Sicilian pizza can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, their healthiness may depend on personal dietary needs and preferences. Grandma pizza usually has a thinner crust and less cheese, making it a lighter option. Sicilian pizza, on the other hand, has a thick crust and may be topped with more cheese and toppings, making it more filling. If you’re looking for a healthier choice, opt for grandma pizza with lighter toppings and enjoy it in moderation.

Can I make grandma pizza or Sicilian pizza at home?

Absolutely! Making homemade grandma pizza or Sicilian pizza can be a fun and rewarding experience. There are numerous recipes available online that provide step-by-step instructions on how to make these pizza styles from scratch. From preparing the crust to choosing your favorite toppings, you have the freedom to customize the pizza to your liking. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and ingredients to create your perfect homemade pizza.

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