For some reason, I decided to keep my car when I moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. It’s a pain to manage and I rarely use it, but sometimes its curse becomes a blessing – as it did yesterday. Since street cleaning happens every Tuesday in my neighborhood, I usually keep that day clear of pizza tours and reserved for running errands. My pizza hit list has been growing so I decided to knock off a couple names while the friendly street cleaner did his thing. My roommate and I headed toward Bensonhurst, home to so many delightful bakeries and pizzerias, but we had no idea that we were about to discover a rare cousin of pizza sitting right under our noses.
Europa has three schiacciate on their menu, which are different from both pizza and focaccia.
I first visited a pizzeria called Europa about four years ago with Tony Muia of A Slice of Brooklyn. The pizza was great but I needed to give it a revisit to find out if any major changes had taken place. We ordered the usual Margherita and scanned the menu for something unique. Aside from the standard offerings, one option jumped off the menu and made my eyes go wide with excitement: Schiacciata.
Schiacciata #3 at Europa in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Yup, it looks like a stuffed pizza. That’s because it is a stuffed pizza. Americans just have an easier time saying stuffed pizza than schiacciata (ska-cha’-ta). Similar dual-crusted dished exist all over Italy, but this version hails from Eastern Sicily. You can see all the little holes in the dough, which indicate that it has been docked. There are devices for this but some people just use a fork. By poking holes through the dough, gas pockets are punctured and prevented from expanding. At Europa, the naked dough is first baked before being sliced open and filled, so docking maintains an even thickness. It’s really like a sandwich, a gargantuan 16" diameter $19 sandwich.
The first time I encountered this pizza relative was during my recent Sicilian pizza adventure earlier this year. I found that sfincione is the widely available, pizza-like dish of Palermo and schiacciata is its counterpart in Catania. Both items are found in small hole-in-the-wall shops along the streets of their respective cities, much like the hallowed New York slice. But whereas New Yorkers love their local pizzeria, Sicilians love their local panificio. Pane means bread, panificio means bakery.
This bakery in Catania sells “pizza by the cut and scacciate to order.” I love the funky images of American pizza on the left and stuffed pizza on the right.
The schiacciate I ate at Europa in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn was a bit different from what I found in Sicily. Just like American pizza, it comes in all different sizes and variations, but I can only write from personal experience. Some that I had were more like calzone in that they were made from a single piece of dough wrapped around ingredients and baked together. Below you’ll see an example of one of the most recommended schiacciate shops in Catania, which serves them as small buns. This one is stuffed with cheese and broccoli rabe.
I remember this one being pretty greasy. Not my favorite, but extremely interesting.
Another schiacciata I tried was formed by two pieces of dough that were crimped together around the circumference around a filling. This more closely resembles American stuffed pizza. A wood-fired oven joint called Katane Pizzeria even had generic schiacciata boxes. They have to be printed locally because the word is only used to describe the dish in this part of Sicily.
These fine gentlemen from Katane Pizzeria were kind enough to model their schiacciata and give me a box to take home.
Even though we don’t use the word in the United States, schiacciata has still made an impact on American pizza culture. Tons of slice shops have some kind of stuffed pizza out on display. Chicago staples Nancy’s and Giordano’s both modified Italian pastry recipes to create their own versions of stuffed crust pizza. Similar dishes carry different nomenclature from region to region in Italy, so it’s hard to trace these connections by name alone. It should be no surprise that the pizzaiolo who introduced three different schiacciate to the menu at Europa hails from the island of Sicily.
Europa Restaurant and Pastry Shop
6423 20th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY