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PIZZA

‘Pizza makes me happy’: More than half of Italians say pizza is their favourite food

52 percent of people surveyed said pizza was their favourite dish, with 39 percent saying it satisfied them “on an emotional level.”

'Pizza makes me happy': More than half of Italians say pizza is their favourite food
Photo: DepositPhotos

It’s difficult to find people who don’t like pizza. And here in Italy, pizza-haters are so rare they’re almost mythical.

But the full extent of the country’s love for pizza has been revealed in a study by the Osservatorio Buitoni Culinary Lab, who surveyed some 2,500 Italians aged 20-55, Italian media reports.

52 percent said they ate pizza “at least once a week” and 34 percent said they gave in to the temptation to eat pizza “whenever they wanted.”

Most people said they enjoyed sharing, and ten percent said they often have pizza for Sunday lunch. But only four percent said they’d eat pizza every single day.

Proscuitto e funghi, or ham and mushroom, was the most popular pizza topping chosen by 32 percent of people surveyed. A classic margherita was the preferred choice of 27 percent, while 34 percent prefer their pizza piled high with different toppings.

Photo: Depositphotos.

But of course, not all pizza is created equal. And the survey shows that Italians are, to absolutely no-one’s surprise, extremely fussy about their pizza.

42 percent say they’ll only eat pizza with a ‘very thin’ crust, while 12 percent prefer a thicker base – as long as the dough is well risen. Three Italians out of 10 (33 percent), on the other hand, consider the typical thick Neapolitan crust to be fundamental.

42 percent prefer to eat at a pizzeria, while 39 percent would rather order delivery and 12 percent get takeout.

Apart from the taste, respondents said they loved pizza because it’s cheap, portable and satisfying. 

One Italian in ten said pizza made them feel happy.

And there may be a scientific explanation for pizza’s huge popularity in Italy and beyond.

The combination of pizza's ingredients “seem to be especially rewarding and do not occur together in foods found in nature … and this may contribute to its association with addictive-like eating behaviours,” said to Erica M. Schulte, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan, who authored a study on food addiction which ranked pizza as the food “most associated with symptoms of addiction.”

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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