A brief history of the most sought-after dish in Italian cuisine: Pizza, from Italy to the rest of the world

Legend has it that pizza was invented in Naples by baker Raffaele Esposito, in the 18th century, when Queen Margherita of Savoy herself, wife of King Umberto I, was sitting at her table. The chef prepared three different dishes for him, all based on breadcrumbs baked well in the oven: the first one with lard, basil, pecorino cheese and pepper, the second one with tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oregano and oil, while the third, later called Pizza Margherita, was based on tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, a tribute to the colors of the Italian flag. The latter liked the queen so much that she would write a thank you letter to the chef, and the recipe for the dish spread throughout Italy and beyond.

Also read: Pizza Margherita. The simplest Italian pizza recipe

As expected, the legend about the origin of the delicious pizza found many challengers. In fact, no one knows who invented pizza. Although Meditation cultures had early variations rooted in their diet, similar variations have also been found in Egypt, Babylon, and the Persian Empire. [wikipedia]. Also, ancient documents show that even in Ancient Greece, people ate round flatbreads on which they put various spices and ingredients.

The theory that pizza originated in the Mediterranean has also been debunked by Scandinavian ethnographers who claim that modern pizza comes from fish and vegetable patties that northern sailors have eaten since ancient times.

Origin of the word “pizza”

According to some, the word pizza comes from the Latin “picea”, which describes the baking of bread in the oven, or from the Italian word “pizzicare” (meaning “to pull”), referring to the fact that the pizza is pulled out of the oven.

The precursor to pizza may have been focaccia, another Italian specialty in the form of a flatbread that the ancient Romans called panis focacius. This bread is traditionally served with a variety of toppings, usually herbs and spices, to enhance the taste.

Focaccia turned into pizza in the 16th century, after the discovery of America, when tomatoes were brought from the New World.

World’s first pizzeria opens in Naples

If at first pizza was a street food you could buy from street vendors, restaurant-style pizzerias would only appear in the 19th century. As expected, the Italians claim that the world’s first pizzeria opened in Naples in 1830 – L’Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba – a place that operates today and traces its history back to 1738, when it was just a street food stand.

Little by little, pizza conquered the palate and spread beyond its home city limits towards the end of the 19th century, but later became famous, thanks to Italian immigrants in the United States. The first pizzeria in the United States apparently opened in New York in 1905, and was followed by other establishments by immigrants in all major American cities.

Pizza, from Italy to all over the world

After the Second World War, in the era of mass tourism, others have also discovered this particular “bread” delicacy which is impossible without olive oil, basil, mozzarella, parmiggiano or tomatoes.

And to understand how seriously Italians take this dish, they created an association – the Neapolitan Veridice Pizza Association – which has strict rules regarding the preparation of authentic Neapolitan pizza. According to the manual, pizzas must be baked in a domed wood oven, the dough must be kneaded and flattened manually, without using tools, and the diameter of the pizzas should not exceed 35 centimeters, each piece of dough should not be thicker than 1/3 cm in the center.

Of all the types of pizza available today (with ham, seafood and even pineapple), the classic recipe, the Margherita pizza, remains an Italian favourite. Download the eatzz app and try pizza margherita, pizza cardinale or pizza napoletana prepared by a professional chef from one of the delivery restaurants in your area.

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