• Wood-fired pulled lamb panuzzo from Vanto. (Vanto)Source: Vanto
Think Naples, think pizza. So, it makes sense that a neighbouring town in Italy created a sandwich inspired by pizza.
By
Renata Gortan

3 Sep 2020 - 9:31 PM  UPDATED 9 Feb 2021 - 10:44 AM

A panuzzo is a little-known street food born in Gragnano, a small town half an hour south of Naples. It uses the philosophy of pizza to create a sandwich that could sate the biggest hunger.  

The bread is made with the same twice-leavened dough used to make a pizza base,  baked in a wood-fired pizza oven, and filled with meats and cheese. It then goes back into the oven to melt the cheese and give the bread the  kind of crispy exterior reminiscent of pizza crust.  

THE WORLD FAMOUS PIZZA
Frying pan Neapolitan pizza

Baking your pizza in a super-hot cast iron pan will give a beautiful, golden base and crust, though it's hard to mimic a true Neapolitan pizza, which has been named a national treasure of Italy.

Neapolitan pizza chef Luigi Peluso says it's traditionally a quick, late-night feed.  

"You eat the  panuzzo, drink a beer and have a glass of wine. You don't eat it at a restaurant," he says.  

Unlike most street food, this sandwich has a relatively recent history.  

According to Peluso, "Gragnano, on the coast of  Naples, is famous for its pasta. The panuzzo was made in 1983 for the first time by Giuseppe  Mascolo. He wants to make something different  for his  family, he put a little bit of pizza dough in a log shape, about 30cm long and no topping, in the oven.

"The dough wasn't full up. He cook it at 75 percent, not all the way through, and he put some  topping  on it, fior di latte and pancetta.

"He introduce it to a pizzeria in Naples, it was success and everyone started to make their  own, some with pizza dough and some with bread. It has to be double-cooked, one to do the bread and the second one to let the  cheese  melt."  

A panuzzo follows the same minimalist philosophy as pizza.

Mascolo's daughter gave the sandwich its name. In Italian, pane means bread. A panino is a little sandwich and a panuzzo is a big sandwich. 

Peluso believes he was the first person to put in on the menu in Sydney at Vanto 12 years ago, and it now has a local following.  

"When I opened this place in the city, I wanted something  quick  to eat. Something when you not feel like pizza, so I put it on the menu. We sell lots of them during lunchtime, people don't have to eat it at the table and it can stay warmer than a pizza because it's folded," he says.  

"People don't have to eat it at the table and it can stay warmer than a pizza because it's folded."

The distinction between a calzone and pizza fritta, which are also folded, and a panuzzo, is important.     

"Calzone is made like a pizza and then folded. You put  ingredients  inside and then  fold it.  Pizza fritta is a calzone deep-fried," he says.  

"For a panuzzo,  the dough puffs up in the oven (like bread) then you cut it all the way through, fill  it  up then put it back in the oven to melt the cheese," he says.  

You can fill a panuzzo with whatever you like, but this isn't like a muffaletta – more is not better. A panuzzo follows the same minimalist philosophy as pizza.  

SNACK TIME
Muffaletta

Move over ham and cheese. This American-Sicilian favourite showcases three types of sliced meats, provolone, roast capsicum and a tapenade-style olive salad, all encased in a hollowed-out cob.

"Usually no more than three ingredients, maximum four. Don't overdo it or it will be too heavy," Peluso says. "I'm traditional, I like salsicce (pork sausages) and fiorelli or mozzarella, prosciutto and rocket but you can put the ingredients you wouldn't put on pizza. There's no chicken on pizza, but we do chicken in panuzzo, it's a good compromise. 

While it's traditionally made with pizza dough, Peluso changed the recipe for the lunchtime crowd to make it lighter.  

"I want to make it crunchier on the outside and soft inside, with 70 per cent flour wholemeal it caramelised first then becoming crunchy," he says.  

"You can have it with the same pizza dough, but can feel the difference with wholemeal later."  

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @RenataGortan, Instagram @renatagortan. Photographs by Vanto restaurant.

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