I lived in Italy for a little while, and I found that the key to Italian cooking is simple and fresh. Pizza is a very simple dish, but it is taken very seriously by the Italians.
The best pizza that I've ever had was a tiny little place right around the corner from my apartment in Florence.
According to the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, a group dedicated to preserving and promoting authentic, high quality pizza preparation by conferring the Italian government-granted D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status on qualifying pizzerias worldwide, modern pizza was invented by a Neopolitan, Raffaele Esposito, for Princess Margherita di Savioa, in 1871. Esposito baked his masterpiece of tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala cheese, and basil leaves on a disc shaped dough and called it a pizza margherita, a patriotic dish resembling the red, white, and green tricolore flag of the newly unified nation of Italy. Many Mediterranean countries have a variation of the precursor to modern pizza, namely pita or focaccia bread covered in olive oil and spices. Europeans did not have the tomato, arguably the most important pizza ingredient, before Christopher Columbus brought it to Europe 15th century and Europeans began eating 300 years later. The poor of Naples have always eaten some version of pizza, and Neopolitan emigrants brought pizza to the world in the early 20th century.
Neopolitan vs. Roman pizza
Pizza purists in Naples go to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, a simple establishment making legendary pies and that bills itself as the city’s oldest pizzeria. Naples’ pizzaioli (pizza makers) make the crust thin but chewy, with a smattering of sauce made from the region’s San Marzano tomatoes, a few melted pools of mozzarella (often mozzarella di bufala), and topped with a few basil leaves. A tiny dash of salt enhances the rich flavor of the tomatoes. Pizza in Roman restaurants is often slightly thicker and usually has a bit more cheese. For a slightly different take on pizza, the Pizza al Taglio shop on the corner of Rome’s Campo di Fiori offers traditional cheese pizza, pasta pizza, veggie pizza varieties, tomato-less pizzas, and meat pizzas.
I like a think crust pizza, oven baked, with very fresh tomatos, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. When a pizza comes out of a brick oven you can even taste a little bit of the ash left on the bottom of the crust. It gives a nice hint of smoke. Amazing.
In terms of crust, I think NY Style pizza is the best in the US. Not really crazy about deep-dish Chicago Style. That just makes it a different dish all together.