Pizza is the best known, most consumed and most appreciated food in the world. Despite the quite heated debate going on in the rest of the world about in which country pizza was born, we in Italy know it for sure: pizza is Italian!
The history of pizza is a long one, and not always clear. According to some sources, it dates back to the 997 AD, when the word “pizza” was used for the first time in a written document found in the city of Gaeta (midway between Naples and Rome). After 500 years, in the 16th century, the word “pizza” is used also in Naples, the city which is (almost) unanimously considered its hometown.
At the beginning it was just a flattened loaf of bread (a characteristic from which the name originates), that was baked and dressed depending on tastes and circumstances. The range of pizza’s dressings was also described in 1843 by Alexandre Dumas senior. In June 1889 the Neapolitan cook Raffaele Esposito invented the “Pizza Margherita”, topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil to represent the colours of the Italian flag in honour of the Queen Margaret of Savoy.
At the beginning of the 19th century, pizza had not won palates outside Italy yet, but that happened a few decades later, when a considerable number of Italian immigrants started opening pizzerias in big American cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. From that moment on, the fame of pizza has been growing so much that nowadays the number of pizza shops in the world amounts to 11.195, and that there are more pizza shops in Tokyo than in Naples.
However, even though it has the same name everywhere, as for dough and dressing, pizza is not the same all over the world. For example, in Russia the most used topping is called mokba and it consists of a mixture of sardines, tuna mackerel, onions and salmon, while Japanese people prefer the mayo jaga (a topping made of mayonnaise, potatoes, bacon, corn, onions and pimiento). Thanks to its incredible versatility pizza is a dish able to fit everybody’s tastes without exception.
Next time you visit Naples don’t forget to go to this typical pizzeria in the heart of the city, where you can taste the ‘real’ pizza: http://damichele.net/?lang=en