I Tried Pizza Sushi – It Tastes Better Than It Sounds

I visited Tuscan pizzeria La Fenice to see if this was genius or a crime against two great culinary traditions.
Sushi Pizza – bite-sized pieces of focaccia bread shaped into sushi-like ovals and topped with salmon, white cream and almonds
Pizza Uramaki "Rosso di Sera". Photo: Umberto Santos courtesy of La Fenice 

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

Pistoia is a lesser-known medieval city of about 90,000 in Tuscany, Italy. As a food-obsessed Tuscan, I find its culinary offer slightly disappointing, particularly when it comes to value for money. The most interesting exception, in my humble opinion, is the pizzeria La Fenice, a historic establishment that was taken over by pizza maker Manuel Maiorano about three years ago. 

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Maiorano decided to freshen up the restaurant’s menu with some innovative and contemporary dishes, while retaining a wide choice of classic pizzas. As a dough enthusiast, Maiorano likes to make both thick-crusted Neapolitan-style pizzas and crunchy, thin-crusted Roman-style pizzas. But there’s one item on the menu that piques interest: the uramaki pizza fusion. Basically, it’s sushi made out of pizza.

“How is that even possible?” you might ask. “How does one even come up with this??” Well, just like many other extremely questionable but oddly satisfying food combinations, the dish was actually born during lockdown, when the restaurant had to close and rely solely on delivery.

Pizza sushi, pistoia – 4 groups of small, oval, sushi-shaped mouthfuls of bread, topped with different ingredients and laid out on narrow rectangular dishes in a row.

Photo: Umberto Santos, courtesy of La Fenice

Looking at the delivery market, Maiorano noticed the two most popular orders were pizza and sushi and decided to try combine the two. “I wanted to create a fusion dish that could be eaten cold and give you a different sensation,” he tells VICE. “When you put pizza in a box and take it home, it does not maintain the same quality that you enjoy at the restaurant. So I thought about looking into the different elements that make up sushi and applying them to pizza.”

Pizza sushi, pistoia – bite-sized pieces of focaccia bread shaped into sushi-like ovals and topped with tuna, pistachios and a white decorative cream.

Pizza Uramaki "Marco Polo" with tuna sashimi. Photo: Umberto Santos​ courtesy of La Fenice

The main challenge was replacing the uruchimai (sushi rice) with dough, and do it in a way that won’t make you miss the original. Maiorano opted for steamed focaccia, using a baking method that keeps the dough crispy even when it’s cold. “Moving on to toppings, I mainly used Italian products, but arranged in a way that it looks like sushi,” he continues. Although there’s a lot of local produce in the dish, some ingredients are also borrowed from Japanese cuisine.

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At the moment, there are four sushi pizza options on the menu: “Rosso di Sera” (“Red in the Evening” in Italian) with salmon sashimi, Philadelphia cheese, toasted almonds, guacamole and lemon powder; “Marco Polo”, with tuna sashimi marinated in soy sauce, wakame seaweed, sesame, chive mayo and pistachio; “Radici” (“Roots”), with beef tartare, crispy onions, pecorino fondue, teriyaki sauce and sriracha; and “Ebi”, with tempura-fried prawn, sweet and sour sauce, spicy stracciatella and corn salad.

For Maiorano, the point was never to create something that tasted just like sushi, but rather to have the dish be its own thing. “What you get is a product that can be paired with a cocktail or a bubbly, and that will surprise you when you eat it,” he explains.

On top of that, the dish is also a way for customers to “create a sense of conviviality, open up the meal, comment on what you are eating and share it,” Maiorano adds. “If you order a pizza margherita, you’ll eat it and be done. This is more of a journey. You get the first course, you taste it, and you start talking about it with the diners. It gives a different note to the evening.”

Scroll down to see more photos:

Steamed pizza – small piece of fluffy yet crispy dough, topped with cheese and chopped up nuts.

Steamed pizza with stracciatella cheese, shrimp paste, saffron and black truffle, another dish on the La Fenice menu. Photo by the author

Steamed pizza – six slices of pizza with a dough that's fluffy inside and crispy outside, topped by cheese and anchovies with a small bowl of orange ice cream in the middle.

Steamed pizza with burrata cheese, anchovies, served with bell pepper gelato, another dish on the menu. Photo courtesy of La Fenice