How Pizza Works

By: Alia Hoyt

Pizza Styles

Americans eat almost 252 million pounds of pepperoni a year.
Ciarin Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

People have strong opinions about pizza -- in terms of passion, it seems to rank right up there with politics and religion. Some pizza lovers treasure the taste of true Chicago-style pizza so much that they have it shipped across the country. Neapolitan pizza purists in Italy lobbied recently to pass a bill protecting the style and restricting pizza vendors from using the Neapolitan name unless they meet specific guidelines (see sidebar). But those of us who enjoy variety certainly have plenty of pizza styles to choose from, including:

  • Neapolitan: Features a very thin, bubbly crust. Basil and mozzarella do not cover the sauce, as is common in many American pizzas. Instead, they accent it. It is usually cooked in a brick or wood-fired oven.
  • New York: Also thin-crusted, an authentic New York pizza features sweet tomato sauce topped with a layer of cheese. New York pizza enthusiasts don't ruin the purity of the slice by asking for a lot of toppings.
  • Chicago: The opposite of New York and Neapolitan pizzas in many ways, Chicago-style pizza boasts a thick crust that is baked in a pan, rather than directly on the bricks or on a sheet. The application of cheese and sauce is also reversed. Cheese goes on the bottom, followed by toppings. Sauce finishes off the creation, which is so thick that a fork and knife are necessary.
  • Greek: Greek pizza is also baked in a pan. One trademark characteristic is an oily crust. It is often topped with traditional Greek toppings like spinach, feta cheese and olives.
  • California: Superthin crusts and seasonal toppings are trademark components of California-style pizzas. They're typically topped with whatever veggies are in season in the Golden State.
  • Sicilian: There are Italian and American versions of this style. The American involves a thick square or rectangular crust. Toppings are placed on top of the dough. The version made in Sicily actually places the toppings, such as pecorino cheese and anchovies, inside the crust, rather than on top.

Topping Trends

It probably won't come as much of a shock that pepperoni is the No. 1 pizza topping in America. According to the National Association of Pizza Operators (NAPO), Americans consume almost 252 million pounds of pepperoni every year. Other perennial favorites are extra cheese, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. Americans also enjoy ham, bacon, ground beef, chicken, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, eggplant, olives, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli.


On the flip side, NAPO reports that anchovies consistently maintain their place as the least popular pizza topping, although they are very popular in some countries. In fact, the world has decidedly eclectic taste in toppings.

  • India: pickled ginger, tofu and minced mutton
  • Russia: "mockba" (a blend of tuna, mackerel, sardines, onions and salmon)
  • Japan: squid and a combination topping called "mayo jaga" (mayonnaise, bacon and potato)
  • Brazil: green peas
  • Costa Rica: coconut [source: Domino's Pizza]