As a journalist, I am friendly with some of the people who have passed through Vice’s doors. So it was not surprising, but certainly amusing, when I saw a piece on their site in 2017 by Drew Brown that laid out a reasonably compelling argument for the reason why pizza is a sandwich.
So is pizza a sandwich? Pizza can indeed be considered a sandwich, but you’ll have to loosen your definition of what is a sandwich in the first place. For example, if you consider something like a hot chicken sandwich to count as one, then there’s no reason why a pizza can’t be considered an open faced sandwich.
But this has already sparked a lot of controversy. I was initially against it as well. But let me lay out the case for such a designation. You may be surprised and find yourself agreeing.
Is Pizza a Sandwich?
To properly unpack this, we first have to look at both concepts individually. So let’s define our parameters. There must be certain standards met in order for something to qualify as a sandwich (at least, I’d hope so).
So perhaps we should start by looking at another food item that’s sparked some debate in the past – the hot dog.
In 2014, writer Jeb Lund largely settled this debate in The Guardian by laying out the very definition of a sandwich. A sandwich is, in its essence, a simple, portable meal of dough, meat and possibly vegetables and other toppings. Sometimes, it comes in two slices of bread, sometimes one.
If that’s true, then that means that all wraps are sandwiches. But you may have also noticed another interesting sticking point. That definition largely also applies to pizza.
Pizza rests on dough, covered with cheese (which is often used in sandwiches), tomato sauce (also common on some sandwiches such as meatball submarines) and often meat or vegetables. The fact that it’s open-faced is where the confusion lies.
Though in Canada, it might be a little easier to draw the connecting dots. After all, in Quebec, a popular traditional staple is a hot chicken sandwich, which is covered in gravy rather than tomato sauce (though some restaurants offer that option as well – they also put tomato sauce on some poutines).
But whether the sandwich is open-faced or not is irrelevant. A hot dog can similarly be described as open-faced, as the bun is only one slice of bread.
And think about it this way – in New York, one of the most famous draws to their style of pizza is the fact that their slices are large and easy to fold so the dough forms a bun. Are you not making that slice more like a sandwich?
Hamburgers also often use tomato sauce, and I don’t see a lot of debate about whether or not they can be called sandwiches. The only reason we may not use the term generally is that Hamburgers are often thought of as a dinner meal, while sandwiches make for a quick lunch.
To be perfectly honest, it’s a debate that I’m sure if you disagree, you can find equally convincing reasons to argue that pizza is not a sandwich. And what we call something really doesn’t factor into what matters – and that’s taste.
Of course, if you don’t want to ever hear of pizza thought of as a sandwich, you don’t need to. And there’s a happy middle ground that can make even the most fervent debater settle. That’s the pizza sandwich.
The pizza sandwich, or panzerotti, has the same ingredients of pizza, but the dough completely seals the ingredients. In my opinion, having no opening on the sides makes it even less of a sandwich, but I’m in the minority. And there’s another option if you have issues like me.
There’s a way to make a pizza literally look like a sandwich, using different bread than what is traditionally used for crust. Using individual French or Italian split rolls is a great way to keep it closer to what you’re used to.
From there, all you need to do is add the same ingredients you would on your pizza – pepperoni, shredded chicken, green pepper, onion. Add some mozzarella, some pizza sauce and let it sit in the oven on high broil for 30-45 seconds.
It might offer some of the same flavours you enjoy on pizza, though you’ve officially converted it into an ordinary, Americanized sandwich. It’s one way of enjoying things, but it’s a far cry from the classic, original taste of great Italian pizza.