Lessons Learned – Ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy

Well, less than 24-hours into our trip to Milan and I’ve learned a valuable lesson – ordering a pepperoni pizza in Italy will not yield the same results it will in America. Like most things in life, we learned this one the hard way.

Last night we went out to dinner in an area of Milan called “The Navigli” one of Milan’s most lively areas with beautiful canals lined with restaurants and bars. It looks like…this:


It was here that we had our first pasta in Italy (which was amazing) and also, later in the night, tried our first pepperoni pizza, which was, well, not what we were expecting. Here’s what pepperoni (spelled peperoni in Italian) pizza looks like if you order it in Italy:


Not what you expected? We were just as surprised. It turns out that the word “peperoni” means bell pepper in Italian. The American classic (that I had always assumed was an Italian classic!) that we call Pepperoni Pizza is called Salami Pizza.

Lesson learned, and more to come!

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Michael October 24, 2015, 4:41 am

    That is very interesting and funny but it still looks really good! haha

  • Tim October 24, 2015, 8:57 am

    Same EXACT thing happened to me first time I ordered a pepperoni pizza in Italy. My second mistake? Walking into a cafe and ordering a “Latte”. Yeah, don’t do that…

    • Gregory Wood May 25, 2018, 4:39 pm

      Unless you really want a glass of milk😉

    • Bob Wurst October 11, 2019, 12:02 am

      Also ordering 98% of what Starbucks and many other Espresso bars. sell would get you some puzzled looks in Italy. You’ll know the Apocalypse is near if you spy a Starbucks in Southern Italy. They would never stand in line for their coffee. Sugary flavored coffee drinks are an American invention to hide the unpalatable, over-roasted beans and over-extracted shots.

  • chris faron October 24, 2015, 10:15 am

    I had the same experience when I first came to Italy. I couldn’t find on any menu “Spaghetti bolognese” until I found only in Bologna do Italians call it (Spaghetti alla bolognese) instead in the rest of Italy they call it pasta Ragù.

    • Francesco December 15, 2017, 8:34 am

      Spaghetti alla bolognese is an merican invention,a shitty copy of tagliatelle al ragù, that are from bologna and surroundings. In bologna they do “tagliatelle alla bolognese”, called also “tagliatelle al ragù”. When you say ” Spaghetti alla bolognese”, people from bologna cry 🙂

  • joe October 24, 2015, 12:25 pm

    Mongan Bon appetit!

    I have traveled to Italy many times still do not understand like the tower of Pisa is not straight port. I will be put in the position to see or should I put on my glasses graduation more to see better.
    Eating in Italy is delightful why Marco Polo brought the ideas of Chinese for centuries and then the Italians themselves have combined in many sauces pasta dishes cooked al dente spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna is like a better view ….. delight yourself and your wine

    In Austin news see today as torrential rains and F1 may not be held due to the windy, and see nothing in the circuit of F1 race

    Work hard and good learning of a new place to meet.

  • Ale October 24, 2015, 1:16 pm

    Benvenuto in Italia, Morgan!
    Welcome in Italy!

    Yes, those are “peperoni” for us, actually I don’t know what a Salami Pizza is 🙂 Maybe be you can order something more classic, like a 4 Seasons pizza (4 stagioni), a Prosciutto e funghi pizza, una (una=one) Vegetariana, una Capricciosa, una Napoli, una ai 4 formaggi, un Calzone farcito, or a simple margherita or marinara etc… All the types, you can ask to put “everything” on a pizza* and choose among many types of pizza in any pizzeria, but Pepperoni (“salame piccante” or “salsiccia piccante” in Italian) pizza is one of the less commonly eated pizza in Italy 🙂

    Maybe you can go to the Expo to eat and learn something about culinary delights, these are the last days of the exposition. And maybe the next startup you will launch could be to import Italian specialties in USA (from what I know, if you find a way to avoid import caps, you will make billions…). I have the right domain 🙂

    Hoping you will have productive meetings, actually clothes are probably the only things that don’t sell easily online due to the size problem. I don’t know who you will meet, anyway I am sure you will remember that, in case large companies will not be interested, in Italy there are many little manufacturers, fairs and commercial districts for wholesale retailers, etc. Or viceversa…
    Probably it’s not this the case, but as you know often large corporations and little/medium companies have conflicting interests, I am sure you will not give up soon in case results will not be what you expected.

    * except Bologna (even because no one knows what Bologna is…we call it mortadella, but, please, we have already seen the Nutella Pizza and that is enough, thanks 😉

    • Morgan October 25, 2015, 4:45 am

      Thanks @Ale – much appreciated!

    • Cydalia Acevedo September 23, 2018, 10:15 am

      Pepperoni is pepper in Italy.
      So what USA calls Pepperoni Pizza is really Salami pizza

      now in the USA we have Salami and Pepperoni.
      so my question is …in Italy is what the USA calls Pepperoni and Salami one in same.

      • Luca Abiusi March 7, 2019, 3:42 am

        We actually don’t have a “salami pizza” because “salami” (translated in italian it’s “salame” as a singular noun, and “salami” as a plural noun, used only when there’s more than just one kind of “salame” or just one whole “salame” sausage) is just a generic term. We have many kinds of salami in Italy, so usually we call a pizza topped with slices of them with a different name according to the type of salami used. I don’t know if the “pepperoni” salami used in the USA is really spicy or not, but from what I’ve read of the ingredients (pork and beef meat, mild spicing with trace of sweetness) it’s more similar to hungarian winter salami (téliszalámi) and not to the really hot-spiced “salamino piccante” we often use in Italy. But you can have a pizza with any topping you want, just avoid to ask a pizza sweet toppings like pineapple or Nutella or mix it with any “first dishes” (like rice, noodles or macaroni that should be eaten alone and not even in the same meal as pizza) if you don’t want to be made fun of.

  • Alan Dodd October 24, 2015, 8:50 pm

    Buongiorno italiano…that looks awesome – despite the pepperoni!

  • Bubba d'Rosa February 29, 2016, 9:18 pm

    I made that mistake…. but, the pepperoni pizza was outstanding even without the meat. The closest thing you will find to ‘American’ pepperoni is ‘salami picante’ or spicy salami. It is not the same, but will do in a pinch. It is NOT available everywhere. They don’t do the ‘Pizza Peppers’ (dried red pepper flakes) much their either, but you can get those ‘pizza peppers’ mixed in olive oil, I forget what they called that… maybe picante oil or something similar. REAL Italian pizza is rather sparse on the toppings and cheese compared to American pizza… but is can be sooo very good.

  • Francesco December 15, 2017, 8:29 am

    Tourist come to milan and eat pizza and spaghetti bolognese ahah. Making a comparison, It s like eating mexican food in kansas. In milan region the typical food is not pasta, neither pizza. Risotto, ossobuco, gorgonzola cheese, panettone, and lots of other things! Italy is not all the same! And by the way, spaghetti bolognese are not a traditional italian food, are actually a fake dish. In bologna they eat tagliatelle al ragù, but not spaghetti .

  • BH June 25, 2021, 4:22 pm

    Same here, back in the summer of 1979. We stopped in a lovely little Pizza place in the mountains of Italy and we saw what we thought was Pepperoni Pizza on the menu. Now the one we got had a garlicky olive oil type sauce base, a sprinkle of cheese and the peppers. It was actually *really good*, especially the crust, like a yummy crispy thin bread with cheese and peppers. I would order it again absolutely!
    Hmm, I may try to recreate it here, I just made myself hungry….hahaha!

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