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Panuzzo: The New Pizza?

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Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images

In the Campania region of Italy, they have a pretty major food innovation: the panuzzo, a sort of hybrid of pizza, sandwich, calzone, pita, and other delicious combinations of carb, dairy, and fillings.

Los Angeles’ 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria is reviving the panuzzo, and owner Anthony Carron gave Rico all the details on the dish that started as a staff-meal for pizza chefs – and could become your next Italian obsession.

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Rico Gagliano: So, tell me a little about the panuzzo. What is it?

Anthony Carron: What it usually refers to in the Campania Region is sandwiches that are made on pizza dough bread. And this really grew out of the fact that if you work in a pizzeria, you tend to get a little bit bored of pizza after a time. So-

Rico Gagliano: Perish the thought.

Anthony Carron: I know, right? So the pizza makers wanted to do something else just for themselves, and they would take the dough, bake it off in the oven, stuff it with meats and cheeses, and then re-bake it so it got nice and crispy. And that’s kind of what we’re doing here.

We are taking a pizza dough, we’re baking it naked, and it puffs almost like a pita dough, because there’s nothing to hold it down. So you get this big, puffy bag of air. We cut it in half, and then we take each half, fill it with meats and cheeses, pop it back in the oven to crisp it back up or do it on a panini press, either way.

Rico Gagliano: But this is a traditional thing. It’s been around, you’re not like making this up or anything,

Anthony Carron: Yeah, it’s very traditional, especially in Campania, the region around Naples where pizza got its start. But you know, we haven’t seen much of it in the US, there’s just a couple of places that I’m aware of.

Rico Gagliano: I’m assuming the stuffings and the meats are not your standard pepperoni.

Anthony Carron: Right. Well one of the most typical combinations around that region is what we call SalSiccia e Friarelli, and Friarelli is kind of a unique type of sprouting broccoli. It’s really similar to broccoli rabe. Sausage and Friarelli, broccoli rabe is a really common combination there.

You’ll see it as a plate, you’ll see it on a pizza, you’ll see it in a sandwich. So we took that idea and are doing it here. We have a great, spicy Italian sausage. We stick it inside our panuozzo bread, some sauteed broccoli rabe, and just a little fontina cheese.

So it’s funky, it’s spicy, it’s bitter, it’s earthy, it’s got everything.

Rico Gagliano: Man, I saw also on the menu there a like, a lamb, which seems more almost Greek Mediterranean than Italian Mediterranean.

Anthony Carron: Yeah, I mean, you certainly see lamb in Italy. That one, it has some Greek overtones to it for sure. We’re putting feta cheese on it. We are using Calabrian chilies from the Boot Hill of Italy, and then we’re braising lamb shoulder and kind of picking it and putting it in there.

Rico Gagliano: I can’t stand this for a second longer. Can I try one of these things?

Anthony Carron: Let’s try them all.

Rico Gagliano: By the way, it smells as usual, one of my favorite smells of the world is the inside of a pizza joint. We’re standing right in front of a wood-fired oven, so I could practically live here if it wasn’t so hot.

Anthony Carron: Yeah, it’s amazing. We love it. We come home smelling like pizza. My girlfriend loves me.

Rico Gagliano: All right, what are we doing here?

Anthony Carron: The first one is a porchetta, and porchetta is basically you take a bacon or the belly of a pig and wrap it around the loin, season it with a lot of fennel pollen, and then roast it on a wood spit.

So we’ve taken porchetta, shaved it really thin, some fresh mozzarella for that melty ooey gooey effect, and then we take pickled cherry peppers, chop them up to make a relish and put a little spread of that for some sweet and sour.

Rico Gagliano: It looks, by the way, my first thing as soon as you took this thing out, it looks like a small calzone.

Anthony Carron: In a way, it’s sort of a hybrid of a calzone and almost a quesadilla, a calzone would only be baked once, and here we’ve baked the dough and then stuffed it, and then re-baked it so it’s nice and crispy.

Rico Gagliano: All right, I’m gonna try this. Oh man, the word that springs to mind is savory. It’s really savory with just a little bit of saltiness. It’s awesome.

Anthony Carron: Yeah, we try to keep that one, that one’s just very simple. It’s just all about pork and cheese and peppers. There’s nothing else going on there, but the combination is magic.

Rico Gagliano: All right. I could eat this all day, but I’m gonna hold off a second. Yeah, let me try one more of these. Maybe the- do you have the broccoli rabe one?

Anthony Carron: Here’s the SalSiccia e Friarelli.

Rico Gagliano: And I’m sorry, this- is this actually broccoli rabe, or it’s something like it?

Anthony Carron: Friarelli is really close to broccoli rabe. There’s nobody really growing it in the US, we’re trying to sneak some seeds in, but-

Rico Gagliano: I’ll keep your secret. I’m just a journalist.

Anthony Carron: Broccoli rabe, basically identical. It’s a leafy, bitter broccoli that we saute.

Rico Gagliano: All right.

Anthony Carron: You can see we take a whole sausage and just cut it in half, so it’s almost like our version of a bratwurst or a hot dog or something.

Rico Gagliano: This reminds me of my East Coast upbringing actually, a sausage sandwich.

Anthony Carron: Right?

Rico Gagliano: They would say a sausage sandwich with a red sauce. They wouldn’t tell you what it was in.

Anthony Carron: You know, we played around with, we almost did a meatball with a red sauce, but then it was just a little too wet and little too gloppy. We wanted to keep them in Italy, it’s usually a pretty restrained sandwich, it’s not a lot of stuff jumping out at you and messing your hands and your face, because it’s something you want to eat on the go.

Rico Gagliano: All right, I’m gonna- I’ll take a bite of this guy. Oh wow. That’s really, it’s kind of surprisingly sophisticated. The bitterness is really forward in that.

Anthony Carron: The bitterness really cuts through the richness of the fontina and helps balance out the spiciness of the sausage itself.

Rico Gagliano: Do you remember when you first ate one of these? Was it kind of the Eureka moment?

Anthony Carron: We actually learned about panuozzo from some of our pizza makers who are from Naples who are here working with us, and they would make this as a little snack to eat, you know, for all the cooks and for the staff to eat at lunch.

Rico Gagliano: Do they a cut of the profit?

Anthony Carron: Yeah, I pay them every two weeks.