What is Sfincione?

Sfincione may be hard to pronounce, but it’s easy to love. Here’s why it should not be missed, even though it can be hard to find in the United States.

How is sfincione made?

Sfincione is made with a thick, sponge-like dough that is very reminiscent of a focaccia bread. At first glance, a sfincione neophyte may wonder if they’ve been gypped on the cheese, but that’s not the case. Unlike typical American styles that are covered with a thick layer of cheese, a sfincione pie is topped with a modest quantity of grated cheese.

While mozzarella – in both its fresh and shredded forms – is the most common pizza topping found worldwide, sfincione uses caciocavallo instead. In this state, it looks similar to parmesan cheese, but it has a tangier flavor profile owing to its base of sheep’s milk.

On top of the sauce and cheese, sfincione has a layer of bread crumbs. This may sound strange, but, please, don’t knock it ‘til you try it. The crumbs crisp up in the oven, giving the upper layer a crunch to match the crust and a unique flavor that cannot be found in other pizza styles.

Is sfincione the same thing as a Sicilian pizza?

Not quite. From about ten feet away, the pies look rather similar thanks to their square shape and thickness. The crusts also share a likeness in their texture and flavor, but they come to a fork in a road in terms of the toppings.

In the United States, “Sicilian pizza” is defined by a thick layer of melted cheese and a sweetened fresh tomato sauce. Sfincione, on the other hand, has only a bit of cheese (if any) and its sauce gets its sweetness from an abundance of onions rather than a pinch of sugar.

Do all sfincione pizzas have anchovies on them?

In Italy, anchovies are frequently involved in a sfincione, but they’re not as ubiquitous in the United States. Not everyone in the the U.S. is down for briny fish on their pizza, but more people probably should be. In Italy, they’re prized on the sfincione and countless other dishes for their salinity and umami characteristics.

Where can I find a sfincione pizza?

Sfincione can be found in southern Italy, specifically in the province of Palermo where it originated. Stateside, there are a number of New York pizzerias that offer the specialty, including Bklyn Pizza, Salvatore’s of Elmont, Pi 3.14, and Papa Sal’s.

If you can’t find a sfincione pizza near you, you’re still likely to find a pizza that has the sfincione’s imprints. Sicilian pizza, Detroit-style pizza, and other square pan pies owe their roots to the sfincione and they can be delivered to your door in a matter of minutes.

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