Bread, Sauce and Cheese. The History of Pizza. A Delicous Story Hundreds of Years Old.


Pizza, Pizza, Pizza. Is there anything on this edible planet that is better than that first bite of that gooey, saucy, crispy pizza?

I know that you have all eaten pizza. Perhaps you eat it on Friday’s during Lent or if you are like many people I know, you indulge in it at lunch every day.

Like everything we eat, we should at least, in my opinion, have an idea of what the ingredients are and even have a slight background of it’s origin. Whenever I eat something I like to know where it’s from geographically, what’s in it and how it’s prepared. Think about your food before you just shovel it in your mouth. Look, you pay for it…might as well know all you can about it. Right? Well…that’s right, you know I’m right.

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The Italian word for pizza means any type of baked flat bread. Even though you find many types of pitas or pizzas around the Mediterranean, it is in Naples, Italy that pizza first came to be, after the tomato appeared on the table in the 1700s, that is.

Pizza comes from focaccia, which comes from the word fuoco which is Latin for fire. It’s a simple flat bread that has been prepared since antiquity in different forms and topped with herbs, olives, raisins, honey, and even nuts. You can see it’s Mediterranean influence by these toppings.

Naples has many records of pizza since around the year 1000. In those times, pizzas were dressed with garlic and olive oil, or cheese and anchovies, or small local fish. They were baked on the open fire and sometimes were closed in two, as a book, to form a calzone. Or what I call, a cheesey pocket of love.

Naples is also the home of where the first pizzerias opened up, with brick wood-burning ovens heated by the lava stones from Mount Vesuvius. The chefs of those times wouldn’t give pizza a second glance because it was considered food of the poor ,but the new style with tomato, when it entered the kitchen around the 1770s, must have raised some curiosity, even in the royal palace. The King of Naples, Ferdinand I Bourbon, loved the simple food in the royal court, but as many men experience, he was he was given the royal pizza kibosh on his idea form his friggin wife, Queen Maria Carolina. What a bitch. His son Ferdinand II also liked all kinds of common food, not just the foofie foofie royal eats and he also loved pizza to the point that he hired Domenico Testa, to build a pizza oven in the royal palace of Capodimonte.

Pizza now hit the mainstream. Pizza became very popular, earning its place in Neapolitan folklore. Simple and economical, it turned into the food for all people, common and royal.

Pizza had a jump in it’s popularity of pizza beyond the limits of the city of Naples and this is what really made it sky rocket. It was 1889, and Margherita, queen of Italy, was visiting the city. She was told about pizza and wanted to taste it. A famous cook by the name of Don Raffaele, helped by his wife Donna Rosa, was invited to cook pizza at the royal palace. They prepared three pizzas, typical of that time: one with cheese and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomato; and one with mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The queen was so jazzed by the colors of the last pizza, which had the same colors of the Italian national flag, she gave the royal nod right away. Since then this pizza is known as Pizza Margherita, and Don Raffaele is said to be the father of pizza and inventor of what we love to eat today.

At the beginning of the last century, with Italian immigrants, the first pizzerias appeared also in the United States, where pizza has become one of the most popular foods around. Today if you would go to Naples, you would find that pizza is made with buffalo mozzarella, cheese made from the milk of a buffalo. It’s perfect combination of sweet and salty make it the best cheese available for pizza or for eating any other way. The most popular pizzas are Pizza Napoletana with tomato, garlic, oil, and oregano; Pizza Margherita; Pizza Marinara with tomato, anchovies, capers, and olives; and Pizza Four Seasons, divided in four quadrants, each dressed in a different way. Pizza with hot salami, the American pepperoni pizza, is instead found in the Calabria region south of Naples, where this type of hot sausage is produced.

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