Do you like Pizza? Do you know something of its interesting, fascinating history? Who invented Pizza?
Do you need a little help to find a good answer? No problem; “Dieta Mediterranea” is here to help you to know more deeply one of the most popular foods in the world. Everybody in every corner of the world love Pizza. The origins of pizza is not always as easy and straightforward as you might think. There are different schools of thought about it. I will gladly present to you some of these tales, and you naturally choose the one you love most.
The history of Pizza, my first Latin lover.
The word “pizza” was first documented in 997 AD in Gaeta, Italy, and successively in different parts of Central and South Italy. The precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as “panis focacius”, to which toppings were then added. Its origin depends on your definition of pizza. If you choose to loosely define pizza as flat bread with toppings strewn on it, there is evidence that the Persian army around the 5th and 6th centuries used their shields to cook flat bread in this way out in the field. The soldiers would then cover the bread with things like cheese and dates for a quick meal. Further, it is very likely that people have been putting various toppings like cheese on bread since as long as there has been cheese and bread. However, many argue that these ancient forms of “pizza” aren’t truly pizza as we think of it. Since those early references are obscure at best, we’ll go with that and talk more about modern pizza.
White or read?
Mount Vesuvius leveled Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D. Why is this important when talking about the history of pizza? Archeologists excavating the site have uncovered flat cakes made of flour that were a popular staple of the diet of the inhabitants in Pompeii. There were also shops in Pompeii that contained equipment and tools that would be consistent with those used in pizzerias.
As to specific early pizza recipes around this time, we are lucky enough to have the cookbook of Marcus Gavius Apicius, who was more or less the Gordon Ramsay of his time. The legend says that his love of food was so great that when his finances started to dwindle, he committed suicide rather than risk facing dying of hunger. Or, you know, it could have just been that his life was in disarray and he was depressed… Whatever the case, his cook book provides a wealth of information on what cuisine was popular and how it was prepared in first century Rome. It also contains several recipes that instruct the cook to put various ingredients on a flat bread base. One recipe specifically calls for chicken, garlic, cheese, pepper and oil placed on flat bread, which is about as close as you can get to a modern pizza without the now traditional tomato sauce (tomatoes, of course at this point in history were only found in the Americas). We’ll now take a brief look at the stories behind the individual ingredients of modern pizza, as this gives us additional insight into the history of the finished product, and how and why pizza evolved the way it did. Flat bread was the norm in antiquity. Bread was used to serve as not only the plate for food, but also as napkins when you were finished, as only the wealthy could afford to own actual tableware and utensils. Needless to say, using bread as a plate for food, naturally gave rise to pizza, with the word “pizza” even thought by some etymologists to ultimately derive from Medieval Greek “pitta,” meaning “cake” or “pie”.
Napoletana has been born
The poor folk of Naples, who only had olive oil, flour, cheese, herbs and lard in their meager pantries, added the demonized tomatoes to their concoction. They gave the world the first basic tomato sauce pizza, considered by many to be the birth of the “modern” pizza, known as a “Napoletana” pizza – defined as flat bread topped by tomato sauce and cheese. After about a century had passed, eating pizza had become a “must-do” activity for tourists visiting Naples. They who would make a point of slumming in the less affluent parts of town to sample this peasant fare whipped up by men called “pizzaioli.”
Margherita has been born
During the last years of the 19th century, the King and Queen of Italy even summoned the most famous of the pizzaioli to their palace while vacationing in Naples. They could see what all the fuss was about. The pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito cooked three different varieties for the royal couple, and the Queen enjoyed the third pizza so much that Her Majesty even sent Esposito a “thank you” note. The pizzaiolo in turn dedicated that pizza to the Queen, calling it “Pizza Margherita.” As pizza during this time was not a dish consumed by the privileged, Esposito wanted to honor the Queen by recreating the colors red, white and green of the Italian Flag. He used his famous red Pomodoro sauce, local bufala mozzarella cheese and fresh basil in the pizza he prepared.
Pizza in America
Italian immigrants brought pizza to America with them at the dawn of the 20th century. The first known official pizzeria in the United States was supposedly opened by a grocer, Gennaro Lombari, in 1905 in New York City. In 1930s he got around to putting tables and chairs in his establishment and expanded his menu to include spaghetti. By the 1940s, Pizzeria Uno in Chicago introduced deep dish pizza, a pie with a crust that rises at least an inch above the plate to accommodate an amazing number of toppings.
What to drink with Pizza?
The ideal is to enhance drink and food. After eating a bite and a sip will not feel the acidity of the tomato or the fatness of mozzarella or anchovy flavor, but all these features are offset by those of the beverage accompaniment. Then there is not a perfect drink for the pizza, but there are drinks with specific characteristics that make us enjoy pizza with the happiness of the palate. Beers are ideal for their low grade of alcohol, but also wines fresh and crisp but still soft. The important thing is always to find the right match, observing also personal taste.
Attention please – an ancient Italian proverb says: “The man who does not care about the beer he’s drinking may not even worry about the bread he eats”. Interesting, isn’t it?
However, in general, the best advice of choice can be the following:
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2008 Flower Montenidoli, sour and savory.
- Eastern Hills Friuli Friulano 2009 of The Clivi
- Barbera d’Alba 200 Flavio Roddolo, authentic and enjoyable.
- Chianti San Pancrazio 2008 Fattoria San Pancrazio, floral and newspaper or Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2006 Fontodi.
- Primitivo di Manduria 2007 Attanasio, rich and true.
- Teroldego 2008 Elisabetta Foradori.
And, of course – Beer and Coca Cola are splendid friends with a good Pizza.
Pizza – calories and nutritional values:
100 g of Pizza bring about 268 calories (43.3% carbohydrate, 15.5% protein, 41.2% fat).
The team of Mediterranean Diet invites you to the next article to find out the benefits of the Mediterranean diet recipes.
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A SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Dr. Claudia Lanteri – Laura Signorin – Dieta Mediterranea – and my my historical international private cookbooks, Marino De Vito.