The History of the Pizza

You have probably been in a small trattoria or pizzeria perusing the pizza menu and selecting from deep pan, stuffed crust or crispy based variations of the delectable pizza. But have you ever stepped back and thought how traditional the food selection is, or where the humble pizza even originated from? The translation for pizza in English actually means pie, and that is where the expression originates from, a slice of pizza pie.

But was the very first pizza Italian?

Where did Pizza Come From?

There is a theory that the pizza dates back to ancient times, possibly in the Middle East. There is evidence that the Egyptians, Greeks, Armenians and the Babylonians were making some sort of “pizza” well before the Italians. These were primarily a type of flatbread that common people ate s it was cheap and convenient to make. Later the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were topping this bread with spices and covering it in olive oil, this today is called focaccia.

The Addition of Tomatoes

The next stage of the development of the pizza came about in the early 1500’s when tomatoes first arrived in Europe from South America. And the people of the Italian city of Naples were the first to adore this new exotic fruit. It was the Neapolitan’s that first added tomatoes to their pizza dough, and this is the first semblance of the common pizza we know today.

Naples

Naples was originally a Greek settlement and was a thriving port and city. The dockworkers demanded a cheap form of food as they were very poor, and this food had to be available really quick. Thus flat-breads with various topping became in vogue, sold by many street vendors on the thoroughfares of Naples. The legends say that pizza first developed in Naples when the bakers had excess dough and wanted to use it up. By throwing their excess into the oven and selling it to the poor workers they inadvertently developed one of the world’s favorite foods.

Raffaele Esposito

The Italian Raffaele Esposito is credited in making the first ever true pizza as we know it today. He mixed tomatoes, cheese and various other ingredients and put this topping on dough, producing the classic dish. The very first documented pizza shop was in Port Alba in Naples and unbelievably still operates in the same location. Raffaele Esposito was then contacted to construct a new version of his creation for the visit of King Umberto and his queen to Naples. In a taste sampling Queen Margherita preferred the pizza with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.

And it that day that the most famous of all pizza’s was named, the Pizza Margherita. Today the variations of the once poor man’s food, the pizza are unbelievable. Much of this has to do with the Italian immigrants in America experimenting with the classic recipe and each trying to be more flamboyant with their creations.

The true Italian pizza has a crisp base and relatively few toppings. Italians believe by putting on too many toppings to the dough the flavors clash, and it destroys the simplicity of the dish, and who really should argue with them, after all they invented it!

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