Most diners would be repulsed to find pulverized crickets in their pizza crusts, but it doesn’t bug Chef Carlo Del Buono one bit.

Del Buono, owner of La Rambla in Maccarese, Italy, recently said he’s looking forward to adding cricket powder to the dough for a specialty pie he’ll market as a “protein pizza.”

“Crickets fall completely within the range of Italian tastes,” Del Buono told CBC News. “It’s a nutty taste with a hint of anchovies—perfect for a vegetable-covered pizza.” He also said the powder adds elasticity to his dough and “makes it easier to work with.”

Jose Cianni and Fabrizio Lunazzi, the founders of Nutrinsect in the Marche region of Italy, want to normalize crickets as a food ingredient. Of course, they do grow crickets for a living, so you can’t blame them. They’re working to position crickets as an advance in green farming—harvesting the jumpy little chirpers requires a fraction of the land and water used in standard agricultural practices—and as a nutritional boost for folks who need more protein in their diets. “Emissions in insect farming are negligible,” Cianni explained to CBC News. “If you think that traditional farming makes up 14% of global greenhouse emissions, we need solutions like this.”

Nutrinsect’s crickets are processed into a brownish powder termed “cricket flour,” which can then be integrated into a pizzeria’s regular flour blend for added protein and flavor.

It’s all perfectly legal, by the way. The European Union authorized the use of powdered crickets in early 2023. Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy’s agricultural minister, opposed the move, however, and the Italian government only approved cricket flour for human consumption in late December 2023.

For his planned signature pizza at La Rambla, Del Buono’s dough includes a maximum of 15% cricket powder. “I roll out the dough and sprinkle cricket flour on top,” he told DW News recently. “We do our best to ensure it mixes well with our regular flour dough.”

He then sauces the dough and tops it with mozzarella, several veggies and another light sprinkle of the cricket flour.

So far so good? Maybe? Then he takes it one step further. He adds actual dried crickets as the final garnish to “make the pizza even crispier.”

He pronounces it “very good….If I can eat crickets, anyone can.”

Strange as all of this might sound (did we say “might”?), Woodpecker by David Burke, a New York City pizzeria, offered the Cricket-rita Pizza as a specialty item in 2018. It featured cricket powder in the dough as well as dried crickets, mozz and tomatoes as toppings on a jalapeño pesto base. Woodpecker closed in 2020, and Burke now owns The Goat by David Burke in Union Beach, New Jersey, with an artisanal menu that seems to be entirely insect-free.

Featured, Food & Ingredients