Pizza + deep fryer = love?

Italy has no shortage of delicious food, from pizza, to handmade pasta, to fresh seafood and delicious meats. But did you know that they also have fried pizza?! It’s called a panzerotto, and it’s a dough-wrapped pizza pie like a calzone, but instead of being baked in an oven, it’s deep-fried. Apparently it’s a staple of Italian home cooking, as popular and delicious as the rice ball is in Japan. Upon learning about this, we assumed it must be a heavenly food, so we had to try it.

That’s why we had to go check out the popular Milano eatery specializing in panzerotti that just opened up a branch in Tokyo’s trendy Daikanyama neighborhood. If panzerotti are supposed to be as good as rice balls, well, that’s a claim we have to verify, so we paid a visit to Il Panzerotto to see if the pizza pockets lived up to their reputation.

This restaurant just opened in January, and is located just a stone’s throw away from Daikanyama Station. The menu, which is posted outside the restaurant, is full of delicious looking fare at reasonable prices, ranging from 400 to 650 yen (US$3.70 to $6) each. We couldn’t decide what to eat, because it all looked so good.

In fact, we enjoyed the act of just looking at the pictures of the panzerotti so much that we spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the menu trying to pick one. We were pretty torn between the “Classico”, a delightful, classic combination of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, and the “Salmon” which was stuffed with its name sake as well as cream cheese and tomatoes. The classic sounded like something we just had to try, but the salmon was calling out to us, too.

Then we noticed the chalkboard just to the side of the menu. “The staff recommends the Salmon Panzerotto!” it said in cheerful colors. Apparently the flavor combinations in that one are “the best”. Well, that had us sold, so we went ahead and ordered one, plus a Classico for good measure.

Inside the store they have some ready-made and waiting for you to eat, but if you’re willing to wait five or ten minutes, they’ll fry some up fresh for you. We wanted to test the full potential of the panzerotti, so of course we ordered ours fresh.

Then we went to the downstairs dining area to wait, and when just about ten minutes had gone by the staff appeared with our piping hot fried pizza pockets. Salivating with anticipation, we pulled the Classico out of its bag first.

Unlike a regular flat pizza, the panzerotto puffs up, which makes it look like one of McDonald’s triangle pies, or even like a gyoza dumpling. It sounds like a weird comparison, but in reality those are the first impressions we got when we took the first one out of its bag.

Since we were given a knife and fork, we assumed we were supposed to use them, so we cut into the Classico carefully. When we pulled apart the pieces, the cheese came oozing out, slow and tantalizing. Our whole body trembled with the pleasure of seeing it. That’s certainly not something you’ll see with any ordinary pizza.

The more you cut into it, the more cheese comes bubbling out. The sight of it was so tantalizing; it was probably the highlight of our day. We quickly decided to take the plunge and go for a bite, before the panzerotto lost all of its cheese. But when we picked it up, we were rewarded with our second best highlight of the day: stretching strings of melted cheese.

No longer able to stand it, we bit into its cheesy goodness. It was hot, and instead of being crispy the dough was soft and fluffy. The salted flavors went straight to work, and the thickness of the melted cheese and the deliciousness of the tomato burst onto our tongues, and suddenly we became mesmerized by the masterful combination of dough, cheese, and tomato.

It actually had a much better flavor than a regular pizza. The dough doesn’t get lost within the intensity of the fillings; it has its own potent flavor that adds to the complexity of the whole. That’s why we never got tired of eating it, and before we knew it, it was half gone, then three-quarters gone, and then suddenly there was none left.

Blown away by what we had just eaten and hungry for more, we were eager to try the Salmon flavor, which came with the lofty recommendations of the staff. When we drew it out of the bag and cut it with the knife, and the aromatic scent of the salmon wafted up and hit us like the gentlest punch in the nose ever. As we watched the small shreds of salmon meat tumble from the openings, we were stirred with a strange excitement to taste something new but equally delightful. We could not resist it; without waiting, we took a big bite.

The rich taste of the fatty salmon and its cream cheese partner provided a completely different decadence from the Classico. But there was one thing they had in common: the addictive, puffy dough and a potent flavor palate that hovers just on the edge of being too much, which continued to hold us captive to its deliciousness.

The panzerotto is an undeniably heavenly dish. After trying it, we can absolutely understand why a simple food that originated in the southeastern Italian state of Puglia became such a popular nationwide dish. Panzerotti have many charms that just draw you in like a moth to a flame, so we’re pretty sure that this could become a popular dish all throughout Japan. Their versatility gives an added bonus: you can just eat one if you’re not that hungry, or order two for a hearty meal; plus, you can take them home with you, to eat on the go. We highly recommend them!

The only thing you must do is order them fresh if you have the time. If you experience the full potential of the panzerotti, they’ll absolutely make your day. You won’t regret it!

Restaurant Information
Il Panzerotto Daikanyama Shop
Address: Tokyo-to Shibuya-ku Daikanyama-cho 20-9
Open: Every day from 11:30 to 20:00 (last order at 19:45)

Photos © SoraNews24
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