What do they call pepperoni pizza in Italy?


Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Laura Teso

Pepperoni salami in Italy does not exist. We have something similar to Pepperoni pizza though. But in Italy it has a whole different name. So you have to be careful when you are at the pizzeria and you can’t wait to eat a pizza with salami.

Pepperoni pizza in Italy

Pepperoni can be considered a false friend because in Italy we have a very similar word, peperoni (1 p only but very similar in pronunciation). But this word means bell peppers. So if you ask for a pizza with pepperoni people will think you want a vegetarian pizza with red and yellow peppers on top. Very different from what you want.

Pepperoni pizza in Italy is instead pizza diavola, (accent on the a, diàvola, meaning she-devil) or pizza con salamino piccante, meaning pizza with spicy salami. Italian spicy salami is different from Pepperoni, though. Someone says it’s spicier, others claim the opposite. So I’m not sure, since I never had an American Pepperoni pizza.

Pizza diavola, she-devil pizza

The name she-devil is simple to explain. Pizza is feminine so she. And the salami is spicy so it recalls the flames of hell. 😉 So the name is a playful and somewhat irreverent way to describe the pizza’s fiery flavor, capturing the attention of pizza lovers who enjoy a bit of heat in their culinary adventures.

Pepperoni pizza story

So pepperoni pizza is not authentic Italian cuisine. But where does this name come from?
Here’s a more detailed explanation of the origins of pepperoni pizza:

  • Italian immigrants bring salami to the US: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a large number of Italian immigrants went to the United States, bringing with them their culinary traditions, including salami.
  • Adaptation of salami to American tastes: Italian-Americans began to adapt salami to US taste, adding more pepper flakes and spices to make it more flavorful.
  • Pepperoni nickname: The term “pepperoni” emerged to describe this newly adapted salami, as a corruption of the Italian word peperoncino (chili pepper) due to the added spice.
  • Pepperoni pizza gained popularity: In the mid-20th century, pepperoni pizza became increasingly popular in the United States, becoming a staple of Italian-American cuisine.

Types of salami used for Italian pizza

The type of salami used for pizza alla diavola is a fundamental element for the success of the dish. By tradition pizzerias should use spianata calabra, a spicy salami originating from Calabria. It is a flattened salami, obtained from a mixture of pork, lard, chili pepper and black pepper. The chili pepper gives the salami an intense and spicy flavor, which goes well with pizza. It is also possible to use other types of spicy salami, such as soppressata, a cylindrical salami, obtained from a mixture of pork, lard and chili pepper. It is also from Calabria.
In the North East of Italy, where I live, I rarely see these kinds of salami on pizza though. They are more round and less spicy. I wouldn’t know which particular salami they use. I never order the diavola, sorry.

The mystery of pepperoni pizza

When I was in my 20s I used to watch American Tv shows and movies dubbed in Italian. And invariably, every time the main characters ordered a pizza, they chose pepperoni pizza. The dubbers did not properly translate this into pizza with salami. But they wrongly translated it into pizza coi peperoni (pizza with peppers). And I remember being puzzled. At first I thought: Americans must eat very healthy, everybody orders pizza with peppers. Bu then I paid attention to the scenes. And what I saw was that those were not pizzas with veggies. And I couldn’t understand what was going on. LOL.

Other Italian pizzas

If you want to learn more about Italian pizza flavors and names, go to my article Types of Italian pizza served in pizzeria.

PS In this post cover I used a free photo by Alan Hardman aka alanaktion found on Unsplash.

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