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Sep 2, 2010 09:39 PM

Pizza toppings - over or under the cheese?

My son has developed the habit of putting all the toppings under the cheese. To me, it tastes like pizza mush, I can't tell what I'm eating.

Obviously my preference is to put toppings on TOP of the cheese.

Does it make any difference to any of you, and if so, why?

BTW, he says the reason he started doing this is because it keeps the toppings from flying off the pizza when he tries to slide it off the paddle and into the oven. I should have given him my superpeel I guess.

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  1. I'm of the cheese on top school, but then I grew up in STL (common practice there) so it just seems right. I think it also affects (magnifies) the flavor and texture of the cheese as opposed to the other things.

    1. Yes, it makes a difference. Pizza is a layered preparation; it is not goulash. Sauce, if used, is the first layer. It helps to maintain a moist tender texture for the pizza dough. Cheese, if used, is the next layer. It separates the sauces from the other toppings so that each bite of the finished product tantalizes the taste buds. Putting toppings onto the pizza first creates a mushy goulash covered dough that is unappetizing and unpleasant to eat.
      Toppings, as long as they go on top of the cheese, should represent a compliment to and with the cheese. A careless choice when mating toppings/cheese can ruin an otherwise well prepared pizza.

      43 Replies
      1. re: todao

        What todao said.

        Many people commit crimes against pizza that would make them almost unrecognisable to an Italian.

        1. re: Harters

          Yeah . . . not to offend your sensibilities . . . but I hope my pizza is unrecognizable to an Italian!

          Italian pizza is undoubtedly the original, but it's American style pizza I'm talking about.

          Mozzarella cheese. Pepperoni. Bell peppers. Onions. Lots and lots and lots of onions. No anchovies or mushrooms though.

          Sorry. I'm plebian that way.

          1. re: ZenSojourner

            "but it's American style pizza I'm talking about."


            You ask a question about toppings over, under or round the cheese. Surely the question is not nationality specific.

            But just to help out any pedants, isn't the answer here in the original question. A *topping* is a topping not an "undering"

            1. re: Harters

              They are topping the dough either way.

              1. re: Harters

                Second tommy: the viewpoints turn on whether cheese is itself a topping or if it is what you put toppings on. I call cheese a topping.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  "I call cheese a topping"

                  I suspect you'll be in a minority. :-)

                  1. re: Harters

                    The definition of true pizza does not necessarily include cheese.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      "The definition of true pizza does not necessarily include cheese."


                      I'm not necessarily doubting you, but I have yet to see or find a "definition of true pizza" ...

                      For whatever it's worth, wikipedia seems to suggest that cheese is in fact an ingredient in pizza.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Well, the wikipedia link does say "typically" in regards to cheese, and then lists the pizza marinara (no cheese) under the three offical variants of pizza napoletana. So ospreycove's post is correct, it does not 'necessarily' include cheese.

                        In the NYC area I see pizzas without either cheese or sauce all of the time.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Wikipedia, is whatever anyone wants to post and certainly is NOT an authority.

                          As a native of New Haven, Mozzarella was/is an option on Apizza (Sally's, Pepe's etc.) Grated Romano would be the cheese of choice.

                          I have had hundreds of pies over the years that had no cheese, just dough, sauce and veg or meat toppings. Or Seafood pies made with dough, oil/garlic and seafood. I certainly wouldn't want cheese with shrimp or clams or lobster.

                          Just because the vast majority of pizza sold in the USA has cheese, doesn't make cheese a requirement of Pizza.

                          There are segments of the population who look for pizza made without cheese, my oldest daughter is lactose intolerant. Vegans don't usually eat dairy.

                          Years ago, I was taken to a kosher pizza restaurant that was meat, not dairy. NO cheese on their pies either.

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            Nevertheless. It's the "vast majority" type of pizza that I'm discussing here.

                            MY pizza certainly does require cheese. Mozzarella cheese in fact. A little provolone wouldn't be out of the question either. But cheese, nevertheless.

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              Hey Bagelman01........I am a native of Hamden and fondly remember Pepe's as well as another place, the name of which escapes me at the moment...I think it began with a "C" and was around Wooster St.. Cappy's??? It's been 50 + years since I've eaten it tho. There were a couple of other places, too; one on Dixwell near the Hamden line and the other in Hamden.

                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                The one on Dixwell at the New Haven Hamden line sounds like Venice Bakery(Bread)/Pizza/Italian Restaurant

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  I'm racking my brain to remember the name; it took me a while to remember Cappy's. It wasn't a bakery, though. We'd go there for pizza and beer. For some reason the name Farrell's sticks out in my mind. Does that ring a bell? Don't forget, I'm talking about back in the late '50's.

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    Farrells was a bar that did have Pizza.
                                    Venice was a pizza restaurant next door to a bakery owned by the same people with the same name. It was 2 blocks south of Arch Street.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      How the hell did I remember that name after all those years????????? I guess I don't have 'mad cow' disease after all.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              One of my favs in Puglia is fresh tomato with anchovies, oil cheese

                          2. re: Harters

                            A minority in the USA, perhaps. But I've seen pizzas without sauce and also pizzas without cheese (though I admit I don't think I've had a pizza with neither sauce nor cheese, unless we count some delicious things I had in Wiesbaden Germany, a few times which were basically pizza crust topped only with a rub of garlic and then salt and olive oil and herbs).

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              Ah - but that's not pizza - that's bread with tomato sauce (or bread with cheese).

                              My local pizza chain serves one with olive oil & garlic but without cheese or sauce. They call it "garlic bread". Pizza, it ain't.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I totally agree. Again, I'm talking about good old, peon-style, plebian, pizza as it is known and loved by the masses here in the USA. Where sauce is only left off for the sake of allergies, and a cheeseless pizza would be looked at with fear and disgust. LOL!

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Old thread, I know, but somebody bumped it and when I saw this little exchange I realized I have to point out that a standard form of pizza in Rome is simply the dough topped with olive oil, thinly sliced potatoes, more olive oil, and chopped rosemary. It was my late wife's favorite, and don't try telling a Roman that that's not a pizza!

                                1. re: Harters


                                  As you can see if you look at the menu from Frank Pepe's (established 1925 in New Haven, CT) Mozzarealla is a topping. The original tomato pie did not have any and it still costs extra.

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    I would guess that when pizza first started to get popular here it was probably more like it's European forebears.

                                    So not having cheese included back then wouldn't have been so surprising.

                                    Now, however, most people would define Pizza as a crust varying from thin to deep-dish style, with tomato sauce and cheese and then any of several toppings, most common being sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, onion, bell pepper, banana pepper, anchovies, and mushrooms (not limited to those but those are the most common).

                                    Most often round, occassionally square. Rounds usually cut into wedges, but sometimes square. Sometimes using corn meal, sometimes flour, rarely (in my experience) coarse salt as a, I don't know, a "loosening agent"? LOL!

                                    Pizza when I was a kid was still somewhat "exotic" (I grew up in the era of chinese food defined as Chun King Chow Mein and Polynesian-themed restaurants that served food identifiable as no particular nationality but nominally "asian"). It was actually not quite the same as it is now, and there was probably a lot more regional variation (and more distinct regional variation) than there is now.

                                    In my area (midwest, SW Ohio), crusts were thinner than they are now. There was no "deep dish" pizza. It was nearly always round. Crusts were always thrown. It was almost always cut in squares. I was in college before we started seeing thicker (but not thick) crusts and pizza cut in wedges - at least where I lived. In the pizza place where I worked (when in college), it was in transition - the default was squares but customers could request wedges. By the time I quit that had reversed, and more people expected pizza cut in wedges than in squares.

                                    Although there's been a lot of homogenization, there are still strong regional preferences. A locally family owned pizza chain (dozens of restaurants scattered across the area) was bought by a chain. They had been very successful with their original thin, yeast-less salted crust cut in squares pizza.

                                    The national chain changed the recipe to be the more "typical" pizza, more like Pizza Hut and Domino's and all the other chains (thicker yeast crust, cornmeal, etc).

                                    They lost customers. Eventually the original family bought all the restaurants back and still own and run them today, using the original recipe, gradually building the business back up.

                                    I guess my point is that pizza is a wonderful thing. The fact that "American style" pizza is not much like "Italian style" really doesn't matter to me. At this point, they are two different things, regardless of their common roots.

                                    I don't see one as inherently "better" than the other. That's like deciding which is better, apples or oranges. They're both good. They're just different. And preferring one over the other is entirely a matter of taste, in the physical sense and having nothing to do with notions of propriety or aesthetics divorced from the physical sensation.

                                    So arguing about whether or not cheese is a topping, or whether a pizza is still a pizza if it has neither sauce nor cheese, is an exercise in futility.

                                    For the purposes of the original question, a piece of flat bread with no sauce and no cheese is NOT pizza. I didn't ask about European-style pizza. I asked about what the vast majority of people in this country consider to be pizza, and that means crust, sauce, cheese, and assorted other toppings.

                                    Also, does no one realize how silly it is to argue about whether or not "toppings" should go under or on top of the cheese on an item that HAS NO CHEESE?


                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                        Zen.....ah, but in Italy the questions posed here would keep the argument going for weeks, yes weeks, at the local coffee bar. Tradition is paramount to each house, street, town; and of course, "Ours is the best", is the standard answer. If one talks to a Italian about food and you ask "Where is the best (whatever) available"?; invariably, the answer is "At my Mother's" I have used this question over and over and almost always get the same answer. BTY, this applies to married men as well, they always give the honor to their Mother over their spouse.

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          Of course, not limited to Italy.

                                          The brother in law is from Mallorca and he will often see a local dish being cooked on TV and will say it's not authentic. What he means is that it's not how his mother would have cooked it.

                                          Now my mother was a lousy cook and you could definitely say that whatever she cooked wouldnt be authentic - more a wave in the vague direction of authenticity.

                                      2. re: bagelman01


                                        it is very hard for people outside CT to understand NH apizza in a similar manner to people outside of TX/KC/NC not understanding "Q", people outside of NOLA not understanding beignets and people outside the left coast not understanding, well understanding Cali-cuisine. Just a fact and a great reason to eat local when traveling to learn.

                                        jfood is a traditionalist with pizza, and cheese and sauce is a staple. the toppings go on top of the mozzy (if that is part of the toppings) and include traditional pep, sausage, meatball, bacon, plus some veggies icluding mushrooms, onions, peppers. What is does NOT include, whether on top or hidden by the mozzy is pineapple, thai stuff, mexican stuff, name-your country stuff. There is NO Thai Pizza, NO Mexican Pizza, NO Asian Pizza, NO South American pizza, NO African Pizza, NO Caribbean Pizza, all of those are flatbreads. Jfood apologizes if he missed a region, but you understand the point.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Hear, hear.

                                          "On Chowhounds humor is verboten by ORDER!"

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            The finest pizza I have ever eaten was in a non-touristy place in Bardolino, on Lake Garda. Mushroom was the only topping - with a small handful of rocket placed on top and slightly wilted in the heat.

                                            The short pizza menu only had toppings that were rooted in Italy - and this makes for my "gold standard" of pizza toppings. If I can't imagine it on the menu of that restaurant, then I don't want to eat it. Chicken tikka pizza is an abomination as, like jfood finds, is pineapple.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Mushroom is my favorite topping, although I can only get on half the pie due to DHs deep rooted beliefs on pizza toppings (see below). Yours sounds so delicious, wish I could taste it.

                                              I myself can't tolerate meat toppings, especially the greasy ones everyone seems to love, just reminds me of chain pizza too much. And pineapple? ham? etc. Long ago, I heard rumors that's how they do it in California/Hawaii, like a rumor or a joke, is it really everywhere now?? The other thing I've heard about is salad pizza, people tell me "I know it sounds gross but it's really good". Never seen it in real life though. But maybe it's like your small handful of rocket, then you don't need a side dish!

                                              1. re: coll

                                                During my time in Japan there was a downtown Shakey's Pizza (Remember that chain, who tried to combine arm-banded piano players along the old-time saloon theme, to boost the sales of fresh hot pizza?).

                                                It felt somewhat quirky and weird to be in there, but the mid 80's was a time for lots of American emulation, including the arm-banded piano playing pizza pushers.

                                                Their fait accompli, their proudest and finest pizza, was topped with squid cut to calamari rings, with thin chunks of ham, lots of free kernels of canned corn, and liberal layers of chunk pineapple. Not at all greasy, but God I wished for something like arugula, or better yet some simple sliced 'shrooms. A few years later, it had become a plaintive wail of "My kingdom for a slice of pepperoni!", but that's another story. Such aged and air-dried sausages were at that time an impossbility in Japan.

                                                1. re: FoodFuser

                                                  did the Japan version also have the silent Keystone Kops and Buster Keaton movies running? I never understood what compelled them to do that anachronistic mess of media and costume.

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    They didn't do the Keystone Cops; instead they plugged into the early wave of MTV energy... Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was what I remember.

                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                      that would be more Japanese I s'pose (although really it should have been Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes'). in the midwest 70's it was oddball silent B+W film.

                                                  2. re: FoodFuser

                                                    The calamari part sounds good to me.

                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                      Shakey's "Mojos" (a type of fried potato round) were outta sight. Their pizza was great by Papa John's standards, but by everbody else's (including Totino's), only so-so.

                                        2. re: Harters

                                          I asked a question about toppings over or under the cheese on an AMERICAN STYLE pizza.

                                          Things may very well differ for a different style of pizza.

                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                            Oh goodness. You don't like stuff under your cheese. We get it.

                                            1. re: tommy

                                              Apparently not, since you're responding to an explanation of why cheese needs to be present at all, and not where (in relation to that cheese), other toppings ought to go.

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  Sorry. Don't think you're all that trustworthy. >:D

                                  2. I usually put my toppings under the cheese - for the same reason. Of course, my toppings and cheese are fairly minimal - to me, the pizza is all about the crust!

                                    I seldom use sauce - just a light brushing of good olive oil, then toppings (currently, fresh herbs and sliced garden tomatoes, allowed to drain for a bit first) then the cheese. I use enough cheese so as to completely cover the toppings - just enough to keep everything together.

                                    1. I'm mainly a toppings over the cheese person, but often I'll add a fne layer of cheese over certain toppings, both to keep them in place coming off the peel and also to accomplish whatever flavoring effect I'm after. Also, of course, when cooking Naples-style with fresh mozzarella, it's really more like toppings and cheese side by side in a patchy network (there is not cheese everywhere, that is).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        I'm with Bada Bing on this one. Cheese on the sauce, toppings on the cheese and the fine layer over the top (you can still see all the toppings) just to hold on the toppings. Of course, I like Salami, Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, Mushrooms & Olives on my pizza. So that's a lot of stuff.

                                      2. Traditional pepperoni pizza - toppings on top. Otherwise you miss out on those crispy pepperoni. Mmmm

                                        Fancy pizza - it all depends, no hard fast rules.

                                        But generally speaking, the toppings belong on top. Why do you think they call them "top"pings. Hello? :-)

                                        3 Replies
                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                            'cuz they're on "top" of the crust?

                                            Which is on "top" of my plate!