A chef is kneading dough for Pinsa Romana on a table.

The Shape Of Healthier, More Flavourful Things To Come

By on August 29, 2023

Like most food lovers, I have my fair share of pizza indulgences. From the countless topping combinations to the variety of styles, I love everything about it. Be it the hearty Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, New York’s thin ‘fold’em and eat’em’ pies or the Sicilian-style with its thick pillowy dough, pizza’s versatility, to the delight of pizza aficionados worldwide, is seemingly endless. However, conventional pizza is commonly known to be high in calories, carbs and fat. Not to worry, a healthier and more flavourful pizza is on the horizon. Let me introduce you to Pinsa Romana, a potential game changer that could revitalize the pizza dough industry.
Truth be known, I was completely unaware that there was such a thing as a ‘healthy’ pizza, let alone one that could still provide tantalizing flavours. When I think of pizza, it brings about feelings of being comforted, satiated, and in some cases, a culprit to my ever-loving food coma. Yet, this scenario was about to change with this Roman-style pizza.

Joe Princiotta, the savvy and multi-talented home builder, retirement home builder, restaurateur and now Pinsa entrepreneur, is the founder of Canada’s first Pinsaria, Joe’s Italian Kitchen in Ottawa. The restaurant, which first opened its doors in Almonte, Ontario, now has four additional locations in the Ottawa area. With so many locations garnering so much success, I needed to better understand what makes this Roman-style pizza unique and why is it creating such a buzz.

Farm Boy and 15 Independent Grocer in the Ottawa area carry Pinsa Romana’s ready-to-eat frozen pinsas.

What is Pinsa?

The disclaimer that Roman Pinsa has less starch, less gluten, less cholesterol, less sugar, less fat, and, is made using all-natural olive oil and contains no added shortenings, additives, or preservatives definitely caught my attention, and why wouldn’t it?! Since pizza is typically quite the opposite in that regard and is oftentimes the answer to our cravings, a healthy alternative is very much welcomed. And, if this sounds too good to be true, perhaps a deeper dive into this appetizing dough is required.

“It will no longer be round but oval, I will no longer call it pizza, but pinsa”. It is with these words that the inventor of Pinsa, Corrado Di Marco, a member of one of the oldest families of Roman bakers, announced his greatest discovery, the invention of Pinsa in 2001. Princiotta explained that “Di Marco has been in the flour industry for more than three generations. He was in search of something that was easier to digest than pizza, something that was lighter, more flavourful, and just different in general. He researched and studied and came up with this combination of flour.”

At its artisanal laboratory, Pinsa Romana Canada produces pinsas for restaurants, grocery stores, and supermarkets.

So, what exactly is this special combination of flour? It’s a combination of sourdough, soy, rice, and wheat flour which makes Roman Pinsa a much healthier alternative to traditional pizza. Traditional pizza is made with 00 flour, making it heavier and harder to digest. The dough production process also differs from your usual pizza as it’s fermented for up to 72 hours and baked at a lower temperature. This ensures the dough is highly hydrated as it contains up to 85% water. Additionally, Princiotta added that due to the higher water content, “Pinsa dough is not rolled out or spun in the air like traditional pizza dough. Instead, it’s simply pressed flat by the chef’s fingers into an oval shape. The name Pinsa comes from the Latin “Pinsere” which means to stretch, press down, and extend.”

How exactly did this Italian invention make its way to Canada, let alone to the National Capital? Princiotta said that for him, it all started back in 2019. “When I discovered Pinsa, I traveled to Rome to meet with the creator of the amazing flour. I learned about Pinsa for the first time during this trip to Italy and discovered this product that I was completely unaware of.” Upon returning to Canada, he learnt that no one was producing the “PINSA”. So, he started to produce it for his first restaurant and when “his patrons tried Pinsa, they did not want any other type of pizza.” Princiotta also stated that the “combination of the characteristics and the quality of the Pinsa, as well as the excitement of bringing something to Canada for the first time” served as his motivation to bring it to Canada and become the first certified Pinsaria maker in North America.

As a talented and progressive entrepreneur, Princiotta wanted to branch out and initiate everyone to this “new” and innovative product. From a small area within the retirement home that he built, Princiotta’s team was processing the Pinsa dough for his restaurants when Farm Boy took notice of this healthy pizza crust. Fast forward to the fall of 2021, when Princiotta started experimenting with the frozen dough to see if the Pinsa crust would still hold true, particularly in regards to texture and flavour, when toppings were added. And sure enough, it did. Impressed by this new product, Farm Boy in addition to 15 Independent Grocers in the Ottawa area, including Smith Falls, Almonte, Kemptville, Carleton Place and Manotick, now carry Princiotta’s ready-to-eat frozen Pinsas for patrons to enjoy.

Taste Test Time

So, with all this Pinsa information, I needed to know what a Pinsa crust tasted like, for credibility and research proposes of course. And who better to join me, as I sank my teeth in this ever-so-light and airy crust of several Pinsa products than Joe Princiotta himself and Joe Sturla, Director of Business Development at Pinsa Romana Canada. As I listened to them chat, I couldn’t help but notice how passionate they both are about this new business and now I understand why. For a crust that is ridiculously light, holding loads of air pockets, it still achieves a delicious flavour profile. I can appreciate its cloud-like ‘lightness’, a feeling that contrasts the fullness typically brought on by traditional pizza. The caption of “an explosion of flavour that won’t weigh you down” literally rings true for the Pinsa.

To be honest, I was actually waiting for that sluggish carb feeling that I normally feel after my pizza indulgences, and it just never happened. Princiotta explained that “because we’re using less grain, Pinsa dough has less gluten. It’s light and crisp, has an exceptional airy and bubbly crusts”. Scientifically speaking, it is Pinsa’s higher water content that contributes to the absence of the sluggish carb feeling. Princiotta went on to explain that their crust is easier to digest due to the highly hydrated dough, in addition to the fact that during the maturation period, complex sugars and proteins break down into simple sugars and amino acids and that their 72-hour fermentation process also breaks down starches. All of these contributing factors help food naturally pass through the digestive system faster. It’s a win-win all around!

The different variety of pinsas at Jose’s Italian Kitchen

Next Phase

Seeing how impressed I was with this Pinsa crust and its numerous potential applications, I couldn’t resist asking what other products can consumers expect in the future. Princiotta shared that they are working on making buns with the Pinsa dough and thus far, their test-market results have been phenomenal. They are currently working with a company in the United States to expand this new product line. And if that wasn’t enough, there are plans on adding another Pinsa Romana Canada production facility, this time in Prescott, to cover their processing deliverables for all of Canada. Aspirations of having restaurateurs purchase their Pinsa crust is something that Princiotta hopes for. However, the ultimate goal or as Princiotta eagerly called it his “home run”, is to have a big pizza company buy their certified Pinsa crust and be the first one in Canada to have it. Needless to say, with such forward thinking and planning, the sky is the limit for this business venture and the entrepreneur behind it!

**This article was first published in the lifestyle magazine Luxe Ottawa Magazine and was given permission to post on the author’s site.

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