Menu Development

Take inspiration from sandwiches when designing pizzas

By Pasquale "Pat" Bruno
The idea of creativity, vis-a-vis pizza, continues to unfold. The challenge of taking basic ingredients you might find in sandwiches and applying them to pizza has become a subject of discussion. Why not give it a try? Philly Cheese Steak pizzas, after all, have fared well on many menus.

What would you such a creation? "Pizza sandwich" just doesn’t do it for me. So, I have come up with a word that has a lot more romance attached to it. That word is "Pizzini." As you have probably already figured out, this is a word forged from the combination of "pizza" and "panini."

To enhance the message here, I will show you some actual sandwich listings taken from menus of a few Chicago restaurants. Taking some of the ingredients that go into those sandwiches, we will construct several Pizzini.

• The Neapolitano: Served with fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and Italian dressing.

• The Italian Sub: A combination of Genoa salami, capicolla, mortadella, provolone, lettuce and tomato.

• Eggplant Parmesan: Thinly sliced eggplant topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

• Muffaletta: Famous New Orleans stuffed sandwich with an olive salad of incomparable flavor.

• Ham and three-cheese: We add an extra kick to our basic ham and cheese sandwich by piling on two additional cheeses.

• Cuban Sandwich: A classic Cubano sandwich made with pork, pickles, ham, and Swiss cheese.

In each instance I will leave it up to you to determine the size of the crust and the amount of ingredients you choose to use. The basic idea behind all of this is to be creative and to explore some possibilities that you might not have considered until now.

Now, let’s put some together.

Ham and Three Cheeses Pizzini

The idea here is to build layers of flavor. No tomato sauce on this Pizzini. Layer the ingredients on the pizza crust in the order shown.

Ingredients: Thin slices of provolone, roasted red peppers, dried oregano, grated Parmesan, thin slices of prosciutto, grated mozzarella

Neapolitano Pizzini

This Pizzini is similar to a Caprese Panini, which have become very popular.

However, to zip up the flavor profile, the crust is brushed with an Italian dressing instead of olive oil (though you can use olive oil as an option). Layer the ingredients on the pizza crust in the order shown.

Ingredients: Italian dressing, chopped fresh Roma tomatoes, grated Parmesan, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella.

Italian Sub Pizzini

In this Pizzini, I bring in all of the tasty cold cuts that are used in an Italian sub. No lettuce, though. And, the oil or dressing would be a sub sandwich dressing. (To make your own sub sandwich dressing, combine extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper.) Layer the ingredients on the pizza crust in the order shown.

Ingredients: Sub sandwich dressing, provolone, Genoa salami, mortadella, sliced fresh tomato, oregano.

Eggplant Parmesan Pizzini

Incredible flavor through and through. A classic Italian sandwich that works great as a pizza. Layer the ingredients on the pizza crust in the order shown.

Ingredients: Thin layer of marinara sauce, slices of grilled or cooked eggplant, another thin layer of marinara sauce, grated Romano cheese, shredded mozzarella.

Muffaletta Pizzini

The secret to the great flavor of this Pizzini is the olive salad **. This pizzini is a terrific example of a sandwich idea that translates beautifully into a great-tasting pizza.

Ingredients: Layer the ingredients on the crust in the order shown. Note: this Pizzini works great in a deep-dish version as well.

Ingredients: Olive salad, shredded mozzarella, thinly sliced Genoa salami, shredded provolone, thin slices of mortadella and capicolla, shredded mozzarella.

Recipe for Olive Salad
Yield: 2 quarts

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup green "salad" olives with pimientos, chopped

1 cup pitted, chopped black olives

1/2 cup finely-chopped pepperoncini

2 cups roasted sweet red peppers, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup capers, rinsed

1 teaspoon each of white and black pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put all of the ingredients in a non-reactive container (glass, stainless steel, or plastic). Mix thoroughly to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Use after 12 hours. It will keep for about 1 month in the cooler, tightly covered.

Pizzini alla Cubano

There is nothing tastier than a well made Cuban sandwich. Wow your customers with this Pizzini version of a classic Cubano. Layer the ingredients on the pizza crust in the order shown.

Ingredients: Pizza crust, painted layer of yellow mustard, thin slices of roasted pork (shredded pork can be used), sliced dill pickles, thinly sliced ham, shredded Swiss cheese.

Note: Do not overdo the Swiss cheese; sprinkle it on lightly to allow the heat from the oven to heat the ham. For the roasted pork, I use boneless center-cut pork loin that has been roasted with garlic, salt, oregano, and onion.


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