izza, like so many other foods, did not originate in the country for which it is now famous. Unless you have researched the subject, you, like so many people, probably always thought Pizza was strictly an Italian creation.
The foundations for Pizza were originally laid by the early Greeks who first baked large, round and flat breads which they “annointed with oil, herbs, spices and Dates.” Tomatoes were not discovered at that time or, very likely, they would have used them as we do today.
Eventually the idea of flat bread found its way to Italy where, in the 18th century, the flat breads called “Pizzas”, were sold on the streets and in the markets. They were not topped with anything but were enjoyed au naturel. Since they were relatively cheap to make, were tasty and filling, they were sold to the poor all over Naples by street vendors.The acceptance of the tomato by the Neapolitans and the visit of a queen contributed to the Pizza as we know and enjoy it today.
In about 1889, Queen Margherita, accompanied by her husband, Umberto I, took an inspection tour of her Italian Kingdom. During her travels around Italy she saw many people, especially the peasants, eating this large, flat bread. Curious, the queen ordered her guards to bring her one of these Pizza breads. The Queen loved the bread and would eat it every time she was out amongst the people, which caused some consternation in Court circles. It was not seemly for a Queen to dine on peasant’s food. Never the less, the queen loved the bread and decided to take matters into her own hands. Summoning Chef Raffaele Esposito from his pizzeria to the royal palace, the queen ordered him to bake a selection of pizzas for her pleasure.
To honor the queen who was so beloved by her subjects, Raffaele decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He baked a Pizza topped with tomatoes, Mozarella Cheese, and fresh Basil (to represent the colors of the Italian flag: Red, white, and green).
This became Queen Margherita’s favorite pizza and when word got out that this was one of the queen’s favorite foods, she became even more popular with the Italian people. She also started a culinary tradition, the Pizza Margherita, which lasts to this very day in Naples and has now spread throughout the world.
History has not made it clear whether Rafaelle began to sell this creation from his own pizzeria but it is known that the Pizza, in much the same form as we now know it, was thereafter enjoyed by all the Italian people. Variations began to be made in different parts of the country. In Bologna, for example, meat began to be added into the topping mix. Neapolitan Pizza became quite popular and it brought garlic and crumbly Neapolitan cheeses into the mixture as well as herbs, freshvegetables, and other spices and flavorings.
About this time the idea of baking in special brick ovens came into existence and the bread, as it is today, was a rather simple combination of flour, oil, salt and yeast.