Italian food is an interesting oddity in the landscape of global cuisine. On the one hand, you can find something Italian, in some shape or form, everywhere. Be it a Pizza Hut pie or a Starbucks frappuccino, Italy’s influence is everywhere. Pasta with tomato sauce is a household staple in the Western World, and in Asia what started off as a European delicacy is quickly gaining ground as a common food stuff too.
But, if we can rewind this article by a few sentences you’ll notice I called a Pizza Hut pizza a pie. Why? Because while Italy’s culinary influence is everywhere, that’s not to say that Italian food is. Most Americans (and Maltese) would consider a simple, traditional Italian pizza with disdain because it’s just too plain. “Where’s the sausage? Where’s the barbecue sauce? Why is it so thin? We ordered a goshdarn pizza, not a cracker!”
I bet you read that in a Texan drawl too. The Italians are quick to make a distinction between what is Italian food and what isn’t. Carbonara with cream is a mortal sin, and a cappuccino after lunch or dinner is treason. So, considering all the rules that dictate proper Italian food, can you imagine my reaction to a carbonara pizza? And can you imagine my reaction to the fact this was being offered at one of the most authentic pizzerias in Malta? Yes, Sotto Pizzeria Italiana offers Pizza A La Carbonara. Let’s investigate.
The good news is, initially at least, positive. The crust is Sotto’s usual fantastic thin hand-tossed crust that’s crispy but not brittle, and soft enough to be malleable. The size is also, frankly, perfect for this kind of pizza, because the flavour profile is quite unique. You see, pasta a la carbonara has a certain creaminess that comes from the blending together of the pasta’s starch, then guanciale’s fat, and the eggs. Take the starch out of the equation and that creaminess is far more savoury, much more salty and lip-smacking. With the cheese and the pizza crust the result is a pizza that’s full of salty pork cheek and pecorino goodness. Every bite, and just the thought of it now gets the juices flowing, have you salivating quite badly, but you’ll be licking your lips after every bite. My recommendation is to order either a nice cold soda or a sweet wine to accompany it, as the sweet and savoury combination you’re getting is absolutely unheard of in a pizza joint.
While the ingredients are essentially the same as the pasta dish, the connection between the two is more thematic. The lack of starch really seems to transform the flavour profile into something more savoury and with a unique flavour profile that stands on its own and can be spoken of in the same breath as the Carbonara from Sotto Pizzeria Italiana’s sister restaurant, Zero Sei.
Next time I’m at Sotto Pizzeria Italiana I can’t say for a fact this will be my order by default, but it’s definitely a top three choice!