The Origins of Pizza


Le origini della pizza
Neapolitan margherita pizza

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Pizza has a very long, complex and uncertain history. It is true that pizza as we know it today originated in Naples, Italy, but flatbreads with toppings were already consumed by the ancient Romans. At the time though, these flatbreads were not made with durum wheat flour, did not require any leavening and were cooked directly on the fire or on hot stones.

The first record of the word ‘pizza’ dates as early as 997. The word indicated a stuffed bread folded on itself that cooked in the oven. Toppings included lard, a few pieces of garlic and coarse salt, but also olive oil, cheese and some aromatic herbs including basil.

It is between 1700 and 1800 that pizza becomes strongly linked to the city of Naples. In a densely populated city, where many lived in poverty, pizza constituted a cheap, quick to prepare and nutritious food. It became so popular than the first ‘ovens’ dedicated exclusively to cooking pizza opened (we could say they were the first versions of modern-day pizzerias). Until around 1830, pizza was sold exclusively in street stalls and by street vendors outside the ovens.

And that is how the history of Neapolitan pizza began. Legend has it that, in 1815, King Ferdinand I invited pizza chef Antonio Testa to the royal residences in Capodimonte to prepare pizzas for the Queen and the court. From that moment on, pizza began to be appreciated also by the wealthier classes.

It is only during the 18th century, when the tomato arrives in Italy that the first ancestor of traditional Neapolitan pizza was born, that is what today we call ‘marinara:’ lots of garlic, olive oil, tomato and oregano.

Pizza as we know it was born in 1889 when the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created the pizza Margherita in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy: tomato, mozzarella and basil.

However, pizza remained little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s. It actually became more popular on the East Coast of the United States before it did in Italy thanks to the many Neapolitan immigrants who brought with them the tradition of the original street food. 


La pizza ha una storia molto lunga, complessa e incerta. È vero che la pizza come la conosciamo oggi è nata a Napoli, in Italia, ma focacce farcite erano già consumate ai tempi degli antichi romani. All'epoca queste focacce non erano fatte con semola di grano duro, non richiedevano alcuna lievitazione e venivano cotte direttamente sul fuoco o su pietre calde.

La prima fonte scritta della parola ‘pizza’ risale al 997. La parola indicava un pane farcito e ripiegato su se stesso che cu

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