You, like most people, probably have a pretty good idea of what pizza is. The image that comes to mind may be of a triangle-shaped slice topped with gooey cheese and round slices of pepperoni. But what about gourmet pizza? That conjures up a less specific image, and you may even be unsure of what even makes a gourmet pizza gourmet. It does vary from restaurant to restaurant, but in general, the following qualities are ones you will find in gourmet pizza.
A long-rise crust
When you make pizza crust, there are a few different approaches you can take. You can make a pizza crust that has a short rise time, such as a couple of hours or one day. This is really convenient, so it is the approach that many pizzerias take. When you see pizza advertised as gourmet, however, it is often made with a crust that has been allowed to rise and ferment for much longer — perhaps three to five days. This longer rise results in a more complex, developed flavor and a crisper bottom. It takes more effort and time, but that's why pizza with this type of crust is sold as "gourmet."
A blend of quality cheese
Standard pizza is usually topped with mozzarella, which is stretchy and delicious. But gourmet pizza is usually topped with a blend of cheeses — such as provolone, cheddar, and mozzarella. This results in a more complex flavor. You won't just taste one note in the cheese; the flavor will cascade across your tongue in layers.
Better sauce made from high-end tomatoes
There's tomato sauce, and then there is sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. This variety of tomatoes, which hail from Italy, are considered the top-notch choice for sauce, and they really do result in a sauce that is flavorful and nicely balanced. A gourmet pizza will usually be topped with San Marzanos or another tomato, which will result in a fresher flavor overall.
Carefully selected toppings
Standard pizza can be ordered with whatever combination of toppings you choose. But gourmet pizza often comes topped with a selection of pre-chosen ingredients. The pizza may even have a name, such as the "mushroom adventure pizza." The chef has carefully selected toppings that go together to create a really balanced, delicious pie, resulting in a more gourmet experience.
The next time you see "gourmet pizza" on the menu, you will have a better idea of what that means. Enjoy!