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Fresh Trends for Pizza Month

Chicken is one of the many new toppings that restaurants are putting on pizza. Pizza shows up on one third of all restaurant menus, and while in a 2014 Datassential study 40 percent of consumers reported that pepperoni was their favorite topping, restaurants are going way beyond that. And, pizza isn’t just for pizzerias anymore. Today pizza and variations on the theme are showing up anywhere from Italian restaurants to trend-forward eateries. In honor of National Pizza Month, we’re rounding up some of the latest pizza trends.

Breakfast Pizza

No, we aren’t talking about leftovers from last night. It seems like putting eggs on everything is everywhere and pizza is no exception. We recently visited a pizzea and gelato joint for Sunday brunch and indulged in a pizza contadino—buffalo mozzarella, speck, yellow tomatoes, Pecorino Romano cheese, runny eggs, Calabrian chili peppers and basil on a wood-fired crust—along with a classic sgroppino cocktail made with lemon sorbetto, vodka and prosecco, and some house-made brioche donuts. The menu also included flatbreads, carbonara and frittatas (most likely baked in the pizza oven). This is an inventive way for a restaurant that’s normally only open for lunch and dinner to attract customers at a new time for something different using mostly ingredients they are already purchasing.

And breakfast pizzas aren’t just showing up at Italian joints—we also recently grabbed brunch at a James Beard-award-winning farm-to-table restaurant that offered a morning flatbread featuring chicken sausage, ham, buttered potatoes, sweet onions, cheese and eggs or a tomato flatbread topped with meatballs, goat’s milk ricotta, melting cheese curds and scallions. Speaking of flatbreads…

Pizza Variations

Call it flatbread, serve it on naan, throw it on focaccia, make it thin-crust on a pita… pizza that doesn’t look like traditional pizza is taking over, particularly on appetizer menus. Thinner crust options make pizza more share-able and less filling so customers can still order entrees, not to mention they are easier to cut into small, bite-size slices. This is also an easy place to pull in international flavors—make a hummus pizza topped with roasted veggies, use Greek yogurt as a base for an Indian-inspired pie topped with roasted tandoori chicken, take a twist on a traditional pairing by using combining steak and blue cheese. This is a place to let your creativity run wild.

Healthy and Health-Conscious

Pizza makers continue to compete for the best gluten-free crust, and they are adding “healthy” crusts that feature whole wheat, whole grains or other options to better please nutrition-conscious consumers. We haven’t seen the cauliflower crust that paleo bloggers rave about on a menu yet, but we bet it’s coming soon.

Quick Service and Customization

In the past fresh pizza meant waiting for it to cook in the oven, and this is still the case at many traditional pizzerias. However, quick service restaurants are adding a new facet to the industry and revitalizing a category that was slow growing over the past few years. Chipotle-style pizza joints offer consumers a choice of crust, cheese and unlimited choice of more than 30 toppings on pizzas that cook in just 3 minutes. Along with the traditional pepperoni and sausage, options like vegan sausage, fennel seeds and blue cheese make for endless combinations with almost no waiting. Sure, regular pizzerias have been offering build-your-own pies for years, but to capitalize on the more recent trend, you need to mix in more adventurous toppings and healthier crust options. You might even offer a personal pizza built on a Portobello mushroom for consumers who are going low carb.

Authentic and Premium Ingredients

Those millennial consumers look for quality and authenticity when they choose where to spend their dining dollars, and this definitely applies to pizza. And, just using these products isn’t enough—you have to shout it from the rooftops. Restaurant menus call out items that are imported from Italy, sourced locally or made in house—which sounds more appetizing? Margarita pizza or margarita pizza made with California Piancone Tomato sauce, house-made mozzarella and fresh basil? This is where Roma ingredients come into play. Many of our ingredients are imported directly from Italy and those that aren’t are carefully sourced from across the United States for quality and flavor. Talk to your sales rep about the items you’re buying—he or she can tell you the stories you should be sharing with interested consumers.

Non-Traditional Pies

And, on the other end of the spectrum, restaurants are going crazy with toppings. The pies showcased at this year’s International Pizza Expo included Korean beef bulgogi pizza, duck-and-sour-cherry pizza, even a cheesebread topped with oven-baked French fries and barbecue sauce. Even at our booth where everything Italian is king, we served up a Buffalo Chicken Pizza and a Gorgonzola, Beef and Bacon Pie, along with more traditional favorites.