By Jim Mirabelli, NEPA Pizza Review

Editor’s note: This article was reposted with permission from NEPA Pizza Review. Click here for the original article and photos.

Old Forge Pizza vs Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza—what’s the difference? Old Forge and Pan Fried Sicilian are two regional styles of pizza unique to Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). The styles sometimes get confused or lumped together due to a similar look from the top view. However, when you dig a little bit deeper, these are two very different pizzas!

Old Forge and Pan Fried Sicilian: Similar Yet So Different!
Tucked away in the Pocono and Endless Mountains is a coal mining region home to industrial cities like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, which are rich in tradition and a wealth of pizza. Some may have heard of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, which lays claim to the moniker, “The Pizza Capital of the World,” and is home to its own unique rectangular “square” style of pizza served by the “tray” and divided into “cuts” (not slices). This pizza is available both in the tiny town of Old Forge itself and in the surrounding areas, but generally it’s not found outside of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Perhaps lesser known to those who do not reside in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, is the fact that NEPA is home to a second native style of pizza known as Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza. Some refer to this as “Back Mountain Pizza,” fried pizza, or “Victory Pig Style” pizza, as Victory Pig, located in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, is said to be the original to bring this type of pizza to the masses way back in 1942. Many local restaurants have adopted their own version of Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza. Some of those operators “branched off” the Victory Pig family tree by working there, learning the craft and ultimately opening their own shops.

this is another shot of an Old Forge-style pizza with just a thick layer of cheese on top and a little sauce peeking through, no toppings.

An Old Forge pizza from Cucina Rinaldi in Moosic, Pennsylvania

What is Old Forge Pizza?
Old Forge Pizza features a toasted crust traditionally cooked to a light brown around the edges and baked to a dark brown on the bottom. The crust is uniform, with very little bubble variation, and similar to a sponge.

Old Forge Pizza is a rectangular pizza sliced into 12 cuts. It’s made on a medium-thickness crust that has a tight crumb, is a little spongy in the middle, and has a crispy bottom. The crust is typically parbaked (partially baked) before making the pizza. The sauce is more akin to a slow-simmered pasta sauce than it is to a traditional raw pizza sauce. Additionally, the sauce is frequently made with sweet onion simmered in, but not always.

Related: Old Forge-Style Pizza Is a Cut Above the Rest 

The cheese is where it gets interesting and controversial. Many will shun Old Forge Pizza for its use of American cheese in its blend. The truth is, many Old Forge trays don’t include American cheese at all! Certainly, blends can include American cheese, but brick, mozzarella, cheddar, cooper and others are also popular cheeses to include.

this photo shows the edge of a Pan-Fried Sicilian pizza with a thick bubble in the golden-brown crust

A Pan Fried Sicilian pizza from Pizza L’Oven in Wyoming, Pennsylvania

What is Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza?
Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza crust features a fried finish, a glistening sheen from oil, and a “pork rind” texture with mini bubbles and blisters. The crust varies with bubbles throughout, with a crunchy exterior and soft chewy center.

Pan Fried Sicilian Pizza is also sold by the cut. Rather than buying a “full tray” or “half tray” like Old Forge, you simply order the number of cuts you want. The crust is typically a same-day fresh dough that goes through a highly regimented process of proofing and focaccia-like pressing throughout the day. Once the dough is ready, it’s covered with a simple, lightly seasoned crushed tomato sauce. The crust is placed in a very heavily oiled pan. The traditional oil to use is peanut oil or any oil with a high smoke point. Some places use as much as a full cup of oil in the pan! The dough is placed on top of the oil, and the crust fries while baking in the oven. The result is a pork-rind like texture that is supremely delicious and unlike other pan pizzas.

The sauce comes default with thinly sliced and diced raw sweet onions placed on top and baked. You can order it without onions, of course, but be ready to specify how you want to order the pizza when you call! Finally, the cheese can be a blend, but it’s generally a thinly sliced Wisconsin white cheddar cheese. When the pizza is complete, it’s removed from the pan and placed on a cooling rack to allow oil the oil to drain.

What Makes These NEPA Pizza Styles So Different?
To learn more, check out this breakdown of the Old Forge and Pan Fried Sicilian pizza styles. If you read it and still can’t understand the nuances between the two trays, I’d encourage you to try one of each and then try to argue that they are the same pizza, because they aren’t at all!

Courtesy NEPA Pizza Review

Jim Mirabelli created NEPA Pizza Review in 2012 to shine a spotlight on the Northeastern Pennsylvania pizza scene and share his pizza passions with the world. He is a leading pizza industry influencer and content creator with more than 16,000 followers on his Instagram account and 21,000 followers on his Facebook account. You can also follow him on Twitter and Pinterest.

Food & Ingredients