There is a plethora of pizza styles today. Some are modern variations on traditional versions while others go way outside the box. But, some people want the real deal types of pizza that come from Sicily. For instance, you may have seen a Corleone pizza on some menus throughout the United States. So, What is a Corleone pizza?
In its most basic terms, it’s a Sicilian-style pizza that either comes from the village of Corleone in Sicily or a Sicilian pizza made by someone who’s ancestry hails from that area. This is a thick, doughy yet slightly crunchy crust typically topped with tomatoes, cheese, onions and sausage or anchovies.
Basically, the different types of pizza you can find in Sicily are regional. Therefore, a Coreleone pizza is one specific to that area of Sicily, which is in the Palermo province on the western side of the island. Contrary to popular belief, a Corleone pizza doesn’t have any correlation to the famous movie franchise, “The Godfather.”
About Corleone Pizza
When you order a Corleone pizza, you’re being specific in the type and toppings that go on it. This is a Sicilian-style pizza, called a sfincione (pronounced sf-een-key-ohn-ay; try and say it three times fast). This has a thick, flat crust similar to focaccia and it’s often rectangular or square in shape with the appearance of a sheet.
Actually, this is a traditional wintertime food most commonly consumed around Christmas. However, it’s become more popular in recent decades to eat all year round. But, if you want to stick to the time-honored way of eating it, only get it around the holidays.
It has a modest amount of cheese they call “caciovallo,” which translates literally “cheese on horseback.” It’s a stretch curd type of cheese that looks like parmesan with a taste similar to that of provolone. It has a tangy flavor because of its sheep’s milk base. This is a delicacy due to how rare and expensive it can be.
Toppings ; Taste
Oftentimes the toppings go right on the crust, followed by tomatoe sauce, then sprinkled cheese and topped with breadcrumbs. They do this to prevent the crust from getting too soggy due to the softness of the crust and the thinness of the sauce.
Modern versions of a Corleone pizza can have any kind of topping such as sausage, pepperoni or even Alfredo sauce. However, traditional fare dictates lots of tomato sauce heavy-laden with sweet onions along with a little bit of cheese and things like olives and/or anchovies.
Once finished baking in the oven, the crispy crumbs match the crunchiness of the crust. The inside toppings melt together in your mouth, which emphasizes the taste of the crust and complements the components of the sauce. Truly, it’s a pizza experience you won’t get with any other style.
Sicilian Pizza vs. Sfincione
The best way to understand “what is a Corleone pizza” is to know the difference between a sfincione and what Americans term a “Sicilian pizza.” These are not quite the same things. While they may look incredibly similar to one another, there are some poignant differences to note.
In the US, “Sicilian pizza” has a huge layer of melted cheese with a very fresh tomato sauce sweetened with sugar. Most people equate this to a deep-dish pizza, like what you can find in Chicago or Detroit. The crust is an inch thick, presenting a massive-sized slice.
Sfincione only has a little bit of cheese, if any at all, and the sauce takes its sweetness from an abundance of onions, which is what makes the sauce very thin.
The reason why Sicilian pizza is different from sfincione is due to its importation from Sicilian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They made it more palatable to American customers along with working within the limitations in being able to obtain traditional ingredients.
Types of Sfincione
In Sicily, the type of sfincione will largely rely on what region or province from where it comes. Therefore, Corleone pizza means it comes from Corleone, which is in the province of Palermo. In fact, Palermo is where sfincione originated. Therefore, you could also term a Corleone pizza a “Palermitan” type.
To illustrate the difference and deepen your knowledge of “what is a Corleone pizza,” there are varying types around the country. For instance, in Solarino and Sortino in the province of Siracusa, they make “pizzòlu,” which is a stuffed pizza.
In Catania they make “scacciata,” which is much like a calzone but this comes stuffed with cheese and undergoes frying. Another kind of calzone comes from the province of Messina they call a “piduni.” They stuff this with tomatoes, endives, cheese, eggplant and anchovies.
Where to Get a Corleone Pizza
The best place to get a Corleone pizza is, of course, in Corleone, Sicily. Otherwise, there are a handful of places in the US do feature this style of pizza. The most famous and bona fide spot is in two places around Hamilton, New Jearsey: “Marcello’s Pizza” and “Pizza-Grill.”
The owner of both places, Marcello Mandreucci, grew up eating this pizza as a child and brought it to the US. He calls it a Corleone-style pizza and offers several types to feature the various regions of Sicily. They offer sfinciones such as:
- Palermo: Artichoke, black olives, garlic and ham
- Messina: Garlic, shaved parmesan, spring mix lettuce and white proscuitto
- Trapani: Ham, hot peppers, mushrooms and salami
- Catania: Garlic, ricotta, roasted peppers and while eggplant
- Sfincione: Onions and anchovies
Therefore, to answer, “What is a Corleone pizza?” It’s essentially a Sicilian-style pie called a “sfincione.” This is often a rectangular sheet comprising a focaccia-like crust with cheese, tomatoes and anchovies. The name “Corleone” refers to the village beset in the province of Palermo.
However, sfincione is a popular style of pizza throughout the island of Sicily. Therefore, many cities, towns and villages throughout the country serve their own versions of it.