Pizza Polonia? Polish Pizza? What’s that, you might be thinking. There are a lot of tasty dishes Poland is known for, Polish pierogi, Polish Bigos, Polish Łazanki, but Polish Pizza? Pierwsze słyszę.
My first encounter with Polish pizza
My first encounter with Polish pizza or rather pizza in Poland was a few days after I arrived in Poland years ago. I was exploring the small town where I had come to work and discovered a pizzeria not far from where I lived. Now I realize that this town is so small that everything was not far from where I lived.
I explained to the gentleman that I didn’t speak Polish, but I’d like some pizza, He told me in broken English that he remembered the American teacher who had worked in my position a few years before me and suggested that I get Pizza Americana- the American pizza. Super. Great. Wonderful. I managed to order a pizza without speaking Polish. I was gonna be ok, I thought.
The owner/pizza maker indicated that my pizza was ready, and as I got up from my seat to fetch it, he shook a bottle of ketchup and asked “Ketchup?”. The horror on my face gave me away before the word no came out of my mouth. I thought what an odd idea, ketchup on pizza. Then I sat down with my pizza and discovered an even odder idea. My Pizza Americana had hard-boiled eggs and sweetcorn on it. Not bad necessarily. but definitely not what I was expecting.
Months later, I worked up my courage to ask the owner why this particular pizza was deemed the Pizza Americana, and he said that it was the favorite of the previous American teacher, so they named it in his honor. That pizzeria is currently a photography studio run by the same owner (diversification), but 2 storefronts down, there is a new kebab bar with Kebab Filadelfia. I will check it out and report back 😉
Pizzeria Roma, authentic Italian Polish Pizza
Years later I found myself living and working in Wrocław, Poland. I rented an apartment not far from my workplace and upstairs from Wrocław’s cult pizzeria, Pizzeria Roma. I usually ordered Calzone to go and when I walked in, they gave me a nod and shouted over the shoulder, Calzone. Easy peasy and no Polish necessary.
Once I went there with an new acquaintance with a plan to eat in. I still ordered Calzone and the friend ordered Margherita. When our orders were up, the friend asked for ketchup. Then it began. The pizza maker began shouting at him that it was an authentic Italian style pizza. No ketchup! He also asked me why I hung around with such a country bumpkin (co za wieśniak, burak po prostu) who would ask for ketchup on Italian pizza. Then they kicked him out and told me I could stay. I collected my calzone and his pizza sans ketchup, and we ate at home, but until today I think this is one of the best public dressing downs I have ever seen.
Later we moved away from Pizzeria Roma and life became sad. No, I’m kidding. We moved across the street from an old bakery (Mamut), and at least I could buy pizzerki, a kind of pizza bun, at the company store. But after a couple of weeks in our new place, we noticed a strange phenomenon. Friday evenings the pizzeria, Telepizza, would call us and ask us if they should bring us a pizza. I thought it was strange, but they are called Telepizza, so apparently you don’t just call them, they call you.
Later we realized that the owners of the apartment had called so frequently on Friday evenings, that they practically considered it a standing order. And since we accepted that order a couple of times, they took it for granted that wszystko gra. It wasn’t until we looked at the name on the receipt that we realized what was happening.
PS Telepizza isn’t very good especially back-to-back with Roma.
My new ‘hood
We moved again to the apartment where we live now. Ciasne ale własne, small but all ours, so they say. At that time our neighborhood was considered the far outskirts of the city without good public transportation connections and more importantly without any pizzerias. Then one magical day, a pizzeria opened up in our building. And even more magically it said on their menu flyer – Mówimy po angielsku. Why did it say we speak English in Polish? I do not know.
I decided to test out their claims that they speak English, to which the man behind the desk said – To nie ja, tylko kolega. Kolega was out, but I still managed to order a pizza. That pizzeria still exists. Kolega is the owner. He does in fact speak English. He remembers my order and my address (and perhaps my birthday and my PESEL as well). And there is no ketchup. You can get extra tomato sauce, garlic sauce, or a lovely parsley oil, but no ketchup. And I can connect to my home wi-fi while I wait.
In the small town where we bought our house, a local slow-food restaurant offers a Pierogi Pizza about twice a year. You can see it in the picture below. I know it look like a hot mess topped with pierogi ruskie filling, but it tastes surprisingly good. You have to like skwarki though.
Another local restaurant offers this Pizza Polonia on their menu. As you can see their version of Polish Pizza has great toppings. Besides tomato sauce and cheese, it also has kiełbasa, onions, and pickles. I wasn’t brave enough or maybe hungry enough to give it a try.
While looking through my old photos, I spotted this recipe for Polish pizza that I had taken a picture of from a family recipe book on my Dad’s side. I can’t vouch for it though as I have never ever made it.
So does Poland have their own version of pizza? I guess we could consider Zapiekanka as Polish pizza. It’s something like French bread pizza with some fried mushrooms and with cheese toasted in the oven, drizzled with ketchup. Of course, you are not limited to these toppings but I think that is the original zapiekanka. On a side not the word Zapiekanka also means casserole.
I like to make Zapiekanka with Bułka Wrocławska which is wider than a French bread and cover it with garlic butter, mushrooms, veggies, cheese, and yes, the obligatory ketchup.
Bad pizza is still pizza
Really every style of pizza can now be found in Poland. True Italian style pizza is popular, as is American style pizza, including the chains. We have a Pizza Hut near us as well as a Dominos, and frozen pizzas can be found at any store. I even make pizza myself at home sometimes.
A final confession
My kids love Halloween, Christmas morning, pumpkin pie and s’mores. I worked hard for that, but…
…my kids love pickled herrings, pickle soup, think barszcz is only for Christmas, and they put ketchup on their pizza. They’re so Polish.
However you like your pizza, with ketchup or without, I wish smacznego to you!
JohnMay 15, 2021 at 10:20 pm
One of the best pizzas I ever ate was in Wieliczka in 2009. Since I am from New Jersey, I definitely know what great pizza tastes like. After touring the salt mine, we stopped at a little place in the town. We may have been the only people in there. The young lady minding the place explained that the secret was twofold – the owner (her father) was Italian and they used a wood-fired stone oven. A few days later we had a more common pizza in Przemyśl. Let’s just say that it, and the ketchup, were not up to the previous experience! At home, I knead my own pizza dough and bake two pies a week. I have to try some of the Polish variations you describe above.
ChrisMay 17, 2021 at 11:21 am
Wow, we have a similar story near us. The best pizza around uses a wood oven and the owner is from Sicily!
KasiaMay 19, 2021 at 8:06 pm
My cousin posts pictures of some fancy zapiekanki on her blog. Next time I am in Poznan, I will definitely try the place where she gets them. Apparently these days they come with all kinds of toppings. When my husband was in Poland for the first time (and he was not my husband then:)), he asked for “zapiekanka z kapusta”. The person was totally confused. He meant “z ketchupem”:) I do love the thin Italian pizza.
ChrisMay 20, 2021 at 11:25 am
They probably do make them with kapusta these days! Zapiekanki have really got a makeover. I mean you can still buy those awful frozen ones, but my favorite are the “green” ones topped with all kinds of veggies. I like them even better than knysza! Remember knysza?