Is Pizza an Open Faced Sandwich?

I have a brother-in-law who loves to come up with quirky facts no matter where we are or what we’re doing. One of the things he recently claimed was that a pizza is technically just a sandwich. So is pizza an open faced sandwich?

He pointed out that there are lots of key similarities between a pepperoni slice of pizza and, say, a ham and cheese sandwich.

At first I was stunned. Sandwiches are hardly my favorite food, regardless of whether their hot, cold, healthy or unhealthy. I’ll choose a pizza over a sandwich just about any time!

However, the more my goofy brother-in-law argued, the more I started to wonder: is pizza an open faced sandwich?

An open-faced sandwich is classified by Oxford Dictionary as a slice of bread with meat and cheese toppings, but no second slice of bread. Therefore, by that definition, pizza is, technically, an open-faced sandwich.

That is mind-boggling, especially if you’re like me and you’ve basically considered pizza its own special food group all by itself. Read on to hear the similarities between a pizza and a sandwich if you’re still not convinced, and wondering “is pizza an open faced sandwich?”

What is a Sandwich?

There are a few important points I found in my research. After all, if we want to understand whether or not pizza should be considered an open faced sandwich, we’ll have to decide what makes a sandwich a sandwich in the first place! An open faced sandwich is:

1. A single slice of bread as the base

2. Cheese on top

3. Meat on top

4. Usually Savory in flavor

Let’s take a closer look at these factors. If a pizza has these same qualities, it will be fair if you and I agree with people like my brother in-law who believe that a pizza is, in fact, an open faced sandwich!

1. A Single Slice of Bread as the Base

If you’ve ever had an open-faced sandwich at a tea party or a fancy luncheon, you’ll notice that it isn’t like most sandwiches. The key to an open faced sandwich, and the reason for it’s name, is the total lack of another slice of bread capping the whole meal off!

If you’re like me, you might be wondering, why in the world would anyone make a sandwich with just one piece of bread? The second slice of bread not only keeps the ingredients in place, but it makes it easier for the average sandwich-eater to grip their food without getting messy.

Actually, I learned that in the European Middle Ages, open-faced sandwiches were invented because people used only one bottom slice of bread as a plate for the ingredients on top. This was also less expensive than using two pieces of bread, of course.

Nowadays, people love open-faced sandwiches because you can see very clearly what is on the sandwich itself. Sometimes the arrangement of cheese slices, onions, or meat are decorative. Having food that looks good enough to eat is a great component of any party.

These slices of bread not only look great with their crowns of delicious ingredients, but the bread pieces themselves can come in a variety. One popular Smoked Salmon Mini Bagel recipe uses bagels instead of plain bread. If the sound of that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will!

The question is, does pizza fit the first descriptor of an open-faced sandwich?

Pizza has a single slice of bread as the base.

Technically, you and I both know that no pizza is a pizza without the crust! In fact, if you’ve ever made pizza yourself, you’re aware that the bread dough is the first step in creating pizza.

The bread making up the pizza’s crust is also a large, edible plate which all of the ingredients sit on top of. Without the crust, which is a type of bread, pizza would just be a type of delicious cheese-and-tomato soup, and we’d have to eat it with a spoon!

And of course, there is no topping piece of bread on most pizzas. So, it looks like open-faced sandwiches and pizza share this particular classification.

2. Cheese on Top

The vast majority of open faced sandwich recipes include cheese on top of that single-slice bread base. One example of a popular cheesy open faced sandwich is the Tuna Melt.

A Tuna Melt is usually made up of an English muffin as the base, loaded with tuna and a veggie of choice…and to top it all off, a coating of cheddar. Like the name suggests, it’s even melted, just like a certain Italian pie we all know and love.

Cheese on open faced sandwiches might not be a staple for the food, but it is popular in most recipes. This is because not only does cheese make just about everything better, in my opinion, but melted cheese also does a great job of keeping ingredients in place without a second slice of bread.

Does pizza fit the cheese-on-top descriptor for an open faced sandwich, too?

Pizza has cheese on top.

Of course, pizza isn’t usually considered pizza without cheese! The standard flavor for pizza is, after all, just cheese with marinara sauce on a bread crust base.

There are some cheese-free options when you’re looking at what type of pizza to order. For example, many dairy-free eaters like to make something called Moderna Margherita Pizza. The Moderna Margherita is dish that looks and smells like pizza, but actually replaces cheese with shreds of veggies, like olives.

Still, a pizza without cheese is generally considered an exception to the rule. So it looks like pizza checks this box right alongside the open faced sandwiches!

3. Meat on Top

Unless you’re a vegetarian, you may share my experience: I haven’t had as many open faced sandwiches that are meat-free as I have meat-featuring open faced sandwiches!

One of my favorite open faced sandwiches, besides the yummy Tuna Melt we already covered, is the simple open faced Ham and Cheese recipe. I like mine on a thinly sliced French Baguette base, toasted to a melty, golden-brown delight! Are you hungry yet?

Open faced sandwiches with meat are popular and offer great variety! Meat is an excellent source of protein, and between fish, chicken, beef, and even pork, there are open faced sandwiches for every occasion!

So, how about our pizzas? Do they fit the description of having meat on top?

Is Pizza an Open Faced Sandwich?

Pizza has meat on top.

Not all pizza lovers subscribe to the Meat Lover’s style. However, if you’re looking for the most stereotypical pizza besides regular old cheese, look no further than the pepperoni pizza!

Here’s what I thought about in the debate considering “is pizza an open faced sandwich?” If you’ve ever asked a little kid to draw a pizza, nine times out of ten, that little kid will add circles to represent pepperonis.

Pepperoni, of course, is a meat; pepperoni is even in the same family as the ham on the Ham and Cheese open faced sandwich recipe I love! If you think about it, you could even make an argument that the Ham and Cheese open faced sandwich is just a pizza without the red sauce.

This is blowing my mind, how about you?

4. Usually Savory in Flavor

This isn’t a complete given for all open faced sandwiches, but the majority of well-known open faced sandwich recipes are savory in flavor.

For example, not only are the Tuna Melt and Salmon Mini Bagel recipes we’ve discussed savory, but even those without meat tend to fit this description. A Roasted Tomato Tartine has the savory smokiness of it’s roasted vegetables, and so does the Crab and Avocado Toast my mom loves to order at our local deli!

Yes, there are some sweet open faced sandwiches, like the Strawberry and Granola recipe found on, but you’re less likely to find these available at lunch restaurants.

So how about it: do pizzas also come in a savory flavor?

Pizzas are usually savory in flavor.

Yep, if you stop and consider the default flavor for pizza, it is usually savory. Pizza is, after all, an Italian dish known for savory notes that come from cheese, garlic, and the meats on top.

Of course, marinara sauce does tend to add a level of sweetness, but this is typically just to balance out the savory cheese elements. It makes pizza delicious, but it also places it on the same side of the flavor spectrum as open faced sandwiches.


Open faced sandwiches and pizza just have too much in common to ignore the facts! Is pizza an open faced sandwich? Yes, it looks like it! Between the savory flavors, addition of cheese and meats as toppings, and only one bread component as the base, there’s no denying it. Pizza is an open faced sandwich!

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Sam Brett

Sam Brett is the founder and editor of Pizzachefhq, a pizza enthusiast who writes about what he's learned on the way of being a pizza creator and sharing his advice, tips, and research.

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