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When Pizza Is Not Pizza: 8 Food Imposters

By Gabi Porter
September 27, 2013

First off, let us apologize, if you came here looking for pizza, you're not going to find any in this list. While sampling many pies for Pizza Week (and, yes, maybe splitting a pitcher or two of beer), we began musing about the essential nature of pizza, and which dishes from other countries are essentially riffs on the same idea - a doughy, flat, edible object with toppings. Read on to find out a few contenders, plus a few playful 'za riffs from New York chefs, and let us know your thoughts on pizza-or-not in the comments.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Tostadas

    In Italy there is pizza, in Mexico there are tostadas. Crunchy, fried corn tortillas are piled high with beans and meat and fresh salsa, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and whatever else they have that you want to pile on there. You've got your cheese, you've got your tomato (salsa), what else do you need? This is a double win because a tostada is also like a giant nacho. Nacho pizza? Yes, please.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Tarte Flambee

    Even the French have claims to pizza, with the Alsatian delicacy tarte flambee. Like a slice of Roman pizza without tomato, tarte flambee is rectangular. Tradition says you must have your tarte flambee with lardons (fancy bacon), creme fraiche (a fancy hybrid of cream cheese and sour cream) and onion (not that fancy), but we say you can have whatever you want on your tarte. Just don't call it pizza.

  • Lahmajoun

    For lots of people who are bored with pizza as a late-night option, Middle Eastern food beckons enticingly, but most places stop with offerings like falafel, doner kebab and hummus.  When you find a place with deeper roots and more interesting offerings, look for a crisp flatbread topped with spicy ground meat called lahmajoun. Hailing from Armenia, Turkey and Lebanon, the crispy, slightly grill-charred bread and the fine layer of delicately spicy meat (usually lamb) looks like pizza until it's served to you with a filling of salad, yogurt dressing and rolled up and handed to you in foil.

  • Keema Paratha

    And onward to India and South East Asia! If you're having a simultaneous pizza and curry craving, order a keema paratha at your favorite curry house. This is a flat round of Indian bread stuffed with meat and fried. The bread is flaky and greasy, the meat filling is redolent of fresh cumin and coriander and a touch of chili spice. Vegetarians fear not, there are versions of paratha stuffed with paneer (Indian cheese that is somewhere between feta and haloumi) and others with potato and onion. Nothing says late night indulgence like carbs stuffed with carbs. Douse the paratha of your choice with tamarind and coriander chutneys, and you'll question why you ever needed tomato or mozzarella.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Steak Tartare "Pizza" From ABV

    Chef Corey Cova likes to play with your mind when you order his food. At one point on his menu he was serving a "pizza" that wasn't a pizza in any way. It was a flatbread, with steak tartare (subbing in for the sauce), with "toppings" of anchovies, shaved pecorino and olives. He might be spending more time these days making donuts, but we won't let him forget about the pizza.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Chicken Parmesan at Quality Italian

    Executive Chef Scott Tacinelli might have just created a monster at Quality Italian. We've already mentioned the chicken parm he serves as a must-try new dish, but let's talk about this again... It looks like a pizza. If pizza dough were made with ground chicken. The idea is slightly horrifying, if super tasty. To play up the visual trick, the dish is brought to the table on a pizza rack with all the condiments you could want for a pizza. There's chili infused honey, peperoncini and a shaker full of dehydrated black olive powder. Fancy.

  • Photo by: Gabi Porter

    Mexican "pizza" at El Toro Blanco

    Josh Capon knows what party people want to eat when they're out to party, and everyone knows that pizza is a slam dunk at a certain hour. He makes this one suitable for his Mexican eatery by putting it on a giant tortilla and topping it with Mexican cheese, poblano rajas (strips of smoky and spicy roasted pepper) and slow roasted tomato. Who wouldn't want that?

  • Dessert Pizza at Max Brenner

    If you have a sweet tooth, we should start this one with a warning:  there is a lot of chocolate ahead. At Max Brenner you can have pizza for dessert. A giant cookie round is served topped with lashings of thick, melted chocolate, and you can choose between white or milk chocolates, and from there you must decide if you want crunchy hazelnut bits, bananas, peanut butter or fire kissed marshmallows as toppings. Or all of them? You can even buy it by the slice and eat it walking down the street like regular pizza.

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