Italians do everything better, including cutting pizza with scissors. Yes, scissors.
In Rome, chefs use scissors, or shears, for pizza al taglio, or “by the cut” pizza. In America, where we favor the pizza wheel, slicing pizza with scissors seems strange to pizzeria customers, but it’s actually quite utilitarian.
At Italian eatery Nostrana, in Portland, Oregon, James Beard-nominated chef and co-owner Cathy Whims has been using shears to cut her Neapolitan pizzas since a few months after the restaurant opened, in 2005. “When we opened, it was important to me that we’d be as much like a real Italian restaurant as we could,” Whims told HuffPost. “I didn’t want to cut the pizza, because in Italy, the pizzas aren’t cut.”
She found a special pizza knife from Italy that had a serrated tip and put it on the table for customers to use — some of them stole the knives. But one day, a happy accident occurred when a server got fed up trying to explain to a customer that the restaurant didn’t cut the pizza before presenting it.
“[The server] grabbed a pair of office scissors, and it took off from there,” Whims said. “So all the servers started serving pizza with scissors. Even though it wasn’t how I traditionally envisioned our pizza being eaten, I’m really happy with them now.”
Nostrana uses Slice brand stainless steel scissors. To Whims, cutting pizza with scissors is more logical than using a clunky pizza wheel. “I think it makes it really easy,” she said. “For some pizzas, fresh mozzarella on the pizza is kind of slippery on the tomato sauce, and if you’re having to wrangle it too much with a knife and fork, the toppings can come off with the pizza dough. The scissors eliminate that, because they’re much gentler.”
Whims said guests have said the scissors are “cute and clever and a little bit funny and whimsical,” though she said in the early days, people reacted to the scissors with comments like, “Are these to cut my hair?” and “Keep those away from him.”
Whims recommends using scissors at home to slice pizza, especially if you’re sharing with others, and thinks a pair of office scissors works well — you don’t need to buy food-grade shears. “I think scissors that are adequate for cutting paper are adequate for pizza because it’s a thin crust,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be workhorse scissors.” But obviously, be sure to disinfect any scissors before and after using them for food ― or better yet, dedicate a separate pair of scissors for food.
Across the country in Dobbs Ferry, New York, chef David DiBari also uses scissors to cut 12-inch Neapolitan pizzas at his restaurant The Parlor, which opened in 2013. In 2017, Delish posted a video of him cutting an everything bagel-type pizza with shears, and some viewers responded that cutting pizza that way was “disturbing.”
“People are used to doing certain things and that’s what they know,” DiBari told HuffPost about using scissors. “You take risks and you do what you believe in, and people generally catch on. And now they fucking love it.”
DiBari’s inspiration to use scissors came from an unlikely source: the 1986 Sylvester Stallone film “Cobra.” In the movie, Stallone takes a slice of pizza out of a box and uses office scissors to clip a section off. “That stayed with me for a long time,” DiBari said. “I wanted to be him just for that. Forget the artistic vision and the functionality [of the scissors] — it was really ‘Cobra.’”
Stallone aside, the appeal for the customer, he said, is they can control the portion sizes, and for the kitchen, not cutting the pizza means it keeps its “integrity.” “And there’s also just being playful,” he said. “Our restaurant group motto is, ‘eat serious, have fun.’ It’s bringing the artistry of the kitchen to the actual table with the guests being able to be a part of what we do,” similar to people scooping out steamed crab and lobster.
But in the beginning, DiBari said people didn’t know what to do with the scissors. “Just picture a lot of people picking up scissors and kind of looking at them with bitch faces,” he said. “They kind of stare: ‘What do we do with this?’”
Like Whims, DiBari agrees shears should be substituted for a pizza wheel. “[The wheel is] a lot harder than just using a pair of scissors,” he said. “When you want to share with your friends—‘Hey, let me snip you off a little one. Here you go.’” But unlike Whims, DiBari doesn’t think using office shears work, because they rust. Instead, he suggests buying food-grade shears, like the Acero pair the restaurant uses.
“I 100% believe in functionality as opposed to trendy,” DiBari said. “If I had a New York-style pizza place, I’d put the scissors on, too. It really does make sense.”