Pizza is a word that never needs translation -- it's recognized all over the world. Although you can find pizza almost anywhere you travel, it probably won't taste like what you're used to in the United States.
In Brazil, the crust, sauce, and toppings vary depending on the local cuisine and preferences, and anything served on a slice of flatbread qualifies as pizza. And another big difference: Brazilians eat pizza with silverware; if you do that in the U.S., others look at you like you are from another plant.
How Pizza Arrived in Brazil
As in the U.S., pizza arrived in Brazil with Italian immigrants who made Brazil their new home between 1880 and 1930, about the same time they came to the U.S. Before 1950, pizza was eaten nearly exclusively by Brazilians of Italian descent who mainly lived in Sao Paulo, but since then it's become a national favorite, albeit with a Brazilian accent.
Crust, Ingredients, and Toppings
One of the main differences in American and Brazilian pizza is the crust. While you can find thin, hand-tossed (somewhat thick) and deep-dish or pan pizza (very thick) in the U.S., pizza in Brazil always has a very thin crust. The edge of the crust is commonly filled with cheddar or creamy Brazilian cheese. Nice touch.
Brazilian pizza tends to have very little or no tomato sauce or slices of tomato instead of the abundant sauce on pizza in the U.S. In some parts of Brazil, ketchup is used as pizza sauce. That has to be a stunner for an American the first time you bite into it.
Brazilians are a bit more creative with their pizzas than Americans are, and the diverse local ingredients and flavors of Brazil show up on the pizzas. Toppings as varied as hearts of palm, catupiry cheese, fresh corn, fresh herbs, mashed potatoes, grilled sausages, potato sticks, and curried chicken with coconut milk are mixed with more traditional toppings like olives, ham, bacon, oregano, mozzarella, and tomatoes.
Typical Topping Combinations
Some Brazilian pizza combinations are extremely similar to American favorites -- tomato sauce, mozzarella, and oregano or four-cheese, for instance, reports the website The Brazil Business. But the four-cheese pizza typically is a mix of mozzarella, gorgonzola, Parmesan and cream cheese, an unheard-of combination in the U.S.
Other favorite combos, reports The Brazil Business, are tomato sauce, raw tuna, and onions; tomato sauce, chicken, cream cheese and oregano; or tomato sauce, mozzarella, tomato slices, Calabrian sausage, ham, onions, bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and green or black olives -- the Brazilian version of super deluxe.
A Brazilian pizza feast would not be complete without a delicious dessert pizza. Plantains, bananas, chocolate, "dulce de leche" ("doce de leite" in Portuguese), strawberries, cooked apples, nutella, guava paste, cream cheese, whipped cream and even ice cream are all potential toppings that are served on a thin, bread-like crust. Often the toppings are placed decoratively, arranged in pretty patterns to make a festive party dessert.