Last night I went to visit my dad, and we made some pizza. We talked a bit about some different types and got on the subject of pizza in Sao Paulo. I was born there but moved to the US when I was little so I don't know much about it. There is very little written on it as a distinct style of pizza. So, I wanted to see if I could distill what makes the pizza there unique. It looks about the same as New York style but tastes very different, unlike anything I've had in the US. He had some knowledge of the methods from observing at pizzerias, from friends and from making it himself.
Sao Paulo is a huge city so there are tons of pizzerias (pizza
rias in Portuguese) and as one might expect the quality varies tremendously. I used to think that you could walk into any random place and get a good pizza, but like with New York that is not the case. Still, there are some very good ones. There are some famous older places in traditionally Italian neighborhoods that make pizzas closer to the Italian standard (not sure what region predominates) as well as places throughout that make the more unique style I mentioned. There are also newer gourmet pizzerias that my dad says are very overrated. The ones I remember best were not at all gourmet places, and usually just neighborhood takeout/delivery places.
The elements that he identified were:Crust
: thin crust, usually rolled out with a pin. There is usually sugar in the dough, and sometimes a little oil. There is a good amount of salt added. I think the normal size is about 14-15" with a 1/2" or less outer rim. It varies from place to place, but generally the rim is more flat than puffy. Overall, similar to most NY-style slice pizzas I've had.
My dad didn't know exactly but it seems most places do not use high-gluten flour. You can eat these by folding slices but a lot of people eat with a knife and fork. I think knife and fork is much more commonly seen at dine-in pizzerias. I don't remember the ones I've had being as firm as NY type slices.Oven
: a lot of places use WFO's. I would guess they are not as hot as with, say, Neapolitan style. Bake times are probably in the 3-4 minute range. I don't know what those without WFO's use.Sauce
: this is one point that my dad really hates about the pizza there. It is typical to take fresh tomatoes and grind in a blender. The sauce is thus basically tomato juice with salt added. I don't remember seeing seeds in the past so they are probably ground up, too. I can confirm this is what my family there does when they make pizza. I do remember the sauce being much more pale compared to Italian- or American-style sauces with much lots of fresh tomato flavor even after the bake.
This seems to be one of the major contributing factors to the fresh taste. From what I remember the tomatoes available there are of good quality for most of the year.Cheese
: Seems to be the other big contributing factor to the unique taste. Brazilian aged mozzarella (usually spelled mussarela or mušarela) is very salty and a deeper yellow color. According to the Portuguese Wikipedia (http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpt.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FMozarela&act=url
) it's made from raw milk there. The Wikipedia page has a picture of a typical Brazilian mozzarella brick.
A lot of places use big slices of cheese instead of shredded. They generally use a lot of cheese, probably what would be "extra cheese" on a typical US pizza. The pizzas I've had have had a lot of cheese, fully melted but only slightly browned.Toppings
: Oregano is almost, if not completely, universal. Some other common ones: deli-type ham slices, under the cheese; grated parmesan; basil; olives (often a few are added onto every pizza); aliche (anchovies); catupiry, a type of cream cheese; sausage; onions; tomato slices; ...
One type I remember having as a kid was only sauce and canned tuna fish, no cheese. I don't eat fish normally but I did like this a lot. I think people use this as a base like a cheese pizza, too.
I have no idea about pizza in other Brazilian cities. I'd imagine due to the ingredients available it's probably not too different, if at all, from the Sao Paulo style. Since I can't confirm I'll still call it SP-style for now.
That's about all I can think of. I hope this was interesting to you. I can't for the life of me find a decent picture of a SP pizza on Google, so I hope to get some when I go visit in a few weeks. Like I said before it's not particularly unique-looking, except maybe for the lightly browned aged mozzarella.