The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Proposal: A Definition for Focaccia and Pizza

G-man's picture

Proposal: A Definition for Focaccia and Pizza

Hello TFLers!


Pizza and Focaccia are both subjects near and dear to me. I have seen so very many arguments arise from the subject of how to discern one from the other, and I don't like to see my fellow TFLers consumed by the fires of wrath. We are a community, after all, and a community we shall remain forever after. If you would all be so kind as to follow along with me on this journey...

I would like to be able to claim some fair amount of impartiality in this decision, and so if you will allow me, I will open with my qualifications.

I state for posterity that I am a proud and very happy mutt, being of Mediterranean and Scandinavian descent. I believe that the Mediterranean predeliction toward passion and exuberance in all things, combined with the Scandinavian predeliction toward dispassionate objectivity, provides a somewhat rare qualification for this decision. I am passionate about food to the point that I will make a stubborn stand on where to have dinner on any given night. When I state that "bread is the staff of life" I mean that bread is that from which life itself flows. Humanity is as nothing without our ability to process food, to turn raw, edible materials into readily-accessible nutrients. Without bread, our species would be simply one among countless thousands.


My passion and background firmly established, the conclusion follows.

The difference between pizza and focaccia is twofold:

One! It is a difference in toppings. A pizza's toppings must cover all or a vast majority of the bread's surface area. A crust may be visible and readily available for gripping. The crust may be foregone in the event that the toppings are thick enough to render a crust redundant, as in the case of a "Chicago-style" pizza. A focaccia, therefore, will have the lower layer of bread readily and amply visible through its toppings, regardless of the nature of toppings or the formula from which the bread itself has been constructed.

Two! It is a difference in width. A pizza's inner crust (that portion of crust which is covered with toppings) must not ever exceed 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) in width. The focaccia, therefore, will have an inner crust with a width equal to (or nearly so) or greater than that of the outer crust (that portion of crust which is not covered with toppings). 


Thank you for your time, I love you all.

asfolks's picture

Ok, that all seems reasonable.

Do you think that there is a maximum height for focaccia?

I share your passion,


G-man's picture

I believe that there is a maximum height for focaccia of about two inches.

However, that comes with numerous caveats.


If a bread if relatively flat and has ingredients covering its surface, it is a focaccia until it forms a dome rather than a flat "roof". When a dome forms, it becomes a loaf.

If there are no toppings, it is a bread. It is a flatbread (and not simply a "bread") if it is relatively flat (not obviously shaped into a "loaf" form).

If there are toppings, default to the topping-coverage option for deciding whether or not it is a pizza.

Additionally, a loaf and a pizza or focaccia are different in one very important respect: A loaf has all ingredients incorporated (or very nearly incorporated) into the body of the bread itself. That is, a garlic focaccia has garlic as a topping, while a garlic loaf has garlic within the border of the crust.

PastryPaul's picture

Big diff: focaccia is served cold, pizza is served hot

focaccia is a thick, bready crust with MUCH less toppings. Pizza can range from thick bready crusts to thin crackery crusts and is usually heavily topped

focaccia is usually square or rectangular in half-sheet sizes where pizza is usually round in standardized sizes, 8" to 18" in 2" increments.


MangoChutney's picture

I don't think you are going to get people to give up their notions of what is one or the other, although I laud your intent.  The amount and type of toppings on either seems to be a matter of taste, or in some instances custom and even law.  While I feel that cities have the right to legislate the contents of their regional specialty in order to protect the reputation and preserve the value of the product, any claims subsequently made that their product is generically the only "real" one should probably be ignored for the aggressive marketing attitude that it is.

I like your definition that when the surface of a bread is domed, it is no longer a flatbread.  It also seems that it would be very difficult to garnish a domed bread with topping.  Therefore both pizza and focaccia are flatbreads.  Pizza may have started as a thin flatbread, after what has been proposed as its namesake "pita".  I don't know the date of origin of the name "focaccia".  I have read that "ciabatta" is a fairly modern bread, and I don't honestly see a lot of difference in the doughs.    I know the hydration level is supposed to be different, but I have seen recipes for the two overlapping in hydration.  Remembering that tomatoes were not available in Europe for as far back as breads were used as plates, and that bread was used as a plate in many countries, it would probably be more sensible to agree to simply say "this is how I make flatbread yay-thick with thus-and-such filling/topping/post-baking dip", and respect others when they depict a method which is not your own.  If it is supposed to be a regional version then people can argue whether you have followed the regional constraints.  Otherwise it is just something made after the style of something, or even out of the blue.

tananaBrian's picture

I think you mean "thickness" not "width" on the inner crust right?  And I wonder if the ingredient list for the dough ought to come into play as well?  I don't know enough to say, but I wonder about it.  And ...does the use of pizza-type sauce have anything to do with it?  Foccacias that I've made in the past were devoid of sauce but pizzas are nearly never without sauce.  Again, I don't make either often enough to call myself an expert, but these are the thoughts that first struck my mine.  BTW, I have a recipe for foccacia that can be made in 2 ways, one with nothing but coarse salt on it, and the other with rosemary and salt on it.  Seems like the salt-only one wouldn't really qualify according to the above definition but when you look at it, you think "Foccacia!" right off.  I wonder why?  The bready flat-bread look?  Dunno... hope this thread continues for a bit.  Should be interesting.  Oh, and maybe some historical perspective, where each style came from, might be of assistance??  It would be good to see a definitive definition (is that redundant?).





G-man's picture

I've seen numerous suggestions that focaccia has olive oil in the dough, while pizza doesn't. I've seen just as many (if not more) recipes for pizza dough that include olive oil in the dough. Which is correct? We can argue for centuries about this and never come to a decision, because people believe very firmly that their way is the correct way. Changing the nature of the discussion may just allow it to progress. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but in any event I feel that it's valuable to discuss.

As for toppings, I personally don't like sauce nearly as much as I prefer olive oil as a base. Does that mean I'm not eating pizza anymore? Am I inadvertently eating inadequately-risen focaccia? Olive oil is an option on nearly every menu in town here in Seattle, except the national chains. At least on the menus I've looked at.

This proposal circumvents the issue by making the difference one that can be easily measured. Yes, I do mean "thickness" or perhaps "height". The issue of toppings does come into play when you're talking about coverage. A pizza is more frequently intended to convey toppings. On focaccia, the toppings are accents to the bread.

PastryPaul's picture

Olive oil ( or other "specialty" oils ) is often found in formulae for both Focaccia and Pizza, so I don't think that is the determining factor. Similarly, the use, or lack thereof, of tomato sauce as a base can't be it since both Focaccia and Pizza can be made with or without it. Personnally, my favourite Focaccia is based with a primavera tomato sauce with nice chunks of tomatoes. (As I'm reading this over prior to posting it, I realize that we use much more sauce than would normally be used on a pizza. Maybe that is due to the fact that there is no fear of toppings sliding off.)

I come back to the basic difference I proposed... Focaccia is meant to be served at room temperature while Pizza is meant to be served piping hot. This does not mean you can't enjoy hot Focaccia or cold Pizza. Nor does it mean that if you eat cold pizza it has magically become a Focaccia.

The intended service temperature is what governs the crust, how much/many toppings and forces all those other differences. Consider a nice super cheesey pizza served hot with the cheese lightly browned and practically bubbling.... YUM! Now, consider that same pizza eaten as a cold leftover. The browned cheese is now sort of rubbery, and I usually pick it off. The crust is, for lack of a better term, "wilted". It may still hit the spot, but it is only a cold reminder of its former glory. On the other hand, eating a Focaccia straight out of the oven is like eating bread fresh from the oven. It's pretty good, but not as good as when it has had time to cool properly.

We started selling Focaccia a little while ago. We found there was a definite market reluctance to the minimalist approach to toppings, so we increased them by about 50%. They are still Focaccias although a purist will likely consider them overloaded. FYI:We avoid most cheeses except buffalo mozz. We do use parmesan, romano, and others that don't melt well. We also make sure cheeses never brown.

I have an issue with a 2" Focaccia thickness. IMHO I find that way too thick. We keep our Focaccia about the same thickness as the edge of a pizza crust, say an inch to an inch and a half max. That being said, we also have a Focaccia-ish product that is batard shaped with green and black olives, roasted garlic, caramelized onion, procuitto, and pancetta.


Dave323's picture

In many of the areas I have lived or visited, there is ALWAYS pizza made in a bakery and cut into squares. In some places they simply call it "Bakery Pizza"; in others it is referred to as "Tomato Pie". As I say, it is always made in a sheet pan and cut into squares. As to the toppings; there is never anything but tomato sauce on top. NOTHING! And, it is always eaten at room temperature, as the baker intended.


So, again, to each his own. Bake. Eat. Enjoy.

dabrownman's picture

Our favorite pizza dough is a Focaccia Romana recipe that is super thin 1/16" to 1/8" where the toppings go, very crispy and 1 to 1 1/2 " on the edge where the toppings don't go.  It can be round or rectangular.  When made that way it is pizza.  This same dough when 1 to 1 1/2" thick all over and topped by far and away more sparingly than pizza.   It is usually rectangular but can be round too.  Both are eaten cold or hot around here too.    So to us, the dough is the same but it is only the method, thickness and amount of toppings that make it one or the other.

semolina_man's picture

Or is focaccia the base on which pizza can be made?  I answer yes to this question.