Think pizza, and what comes to mind is a melange of crunchy toppings on a bed of gooey cheese, baked to a perfect golden-brown texture. What was initially flatbread with savouries, served to those on the go, is now a foodie favourite worldwide.
While savoury-topped flatbread has been served since centuries, it was in the late 18th-century Naples that the pizza we now know came into being. In a region struck by poverty, it was served as quick food with inexpensive ingredients. Later, in the early 1900s, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Italy, on a visit to Naples, were served three kinds of pizzas, of which the one with tomato, mozzarella and basil appealed to the queen the most. Thus, pizza margherita was born.
Cut to today, the humble pizza has undergone an exquisite revamp, with a host of new options of toppings, crusts and cheeses. A report by Technavio, a leading global technology research and advisory company, states that the global pizza market is expected to grow over $40 million by 2025. Though US remains a key market, consumption in developing countries, including India, is said to be a driving force, too.
The health factor
The increasing demand for vegetarian pizzas will also drive the market, the report mentions, with more people becoming aware of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. This renewed focus on health and well-being is also resulting in many scouting for healthier alternatives for guilt-free indulgence.
“From deep dish variations to thin crusts, diners today are spoilt for choice. Many kitchens have gravitated towards using multi-grain flours, quinoa and more, for the base. These offbeat flours have gained popularity, with people wanting to choose healthier ingredients, and with dietary allergies on the rise. Gluten-free flours, for instance, have grown in demand over the last few years,” says Rajesh Wadhwa, executive chef at Taj Palace, New Delhi. He adds, “At Capital Kitchen, we create healthy, wood-fired pizzas with variety of toppings such as capers, basil grown in our herb garden, confit garlic, fresh asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, etc.”
A culinary nod to sustainability
The quest to lead life more sustainably has also given rise to variations of pizza made using leftover rotis, tortillas, etc. “We, as a society, understand multigrain flatbreads like none other, so it is easier for us to identify and experiment with pizza bases or simply get creative with leftover flatbreads (like rotis, paranthas). Our traditional culinary practices involve sustainable practices and discourage food wastage,” notes chef Ranveer Brar.
The resolve to go back to basics has also driven the trend of scouting for alternatives. “Ragi, jowar, bajra, etc. are coming back. Chefs are replacing wheat with almond flour, seed flour, peanut flour and coconut flour. There is also a demand for cauliflower base as a gluten-free option. Flax seeds-enriched base is also doing well,” says Afaj Biswas, head chef at Esora, Mumbai.
Farm to table
When it comes to toppings, greens and proteins are gaining an edge over the regular onion-mushroom-bell pepper variants. Many outlets are also adopting the farm to fork approach. Saniya Puniani, co-founder of Baking Bad, says: “Greens — be it spinach, asparagus or kale — are sourced from farms. At our restaurant Como in Gurugram, we are setting up a veggies garden as well.”
Catering to vegan needs
There is something in it for vegans, too. “We source vegan cheese made with plant-based milk. We also do bases made of eggplant, zucchini, etc., for our vegan customers,” says Arush Malik, co-founder of Narcos Pizzeria, adding, “We have our in-house farm in Delhi where we grow veggies like broccoli, basil leaves, spinach and tomatoes.”
“Pizzas are simple, yet difficult to master. It presents a chef with incredible opportunities to invent and evolve. We do an untra-thin crust and a special crust, which is a hybrid between a Neapolitan and hand tossed. We also have a vegan option including plant-based proteins and cheeses,” adds Zorawar Kalra, founder, Slyce Pizza.
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk