Though we don’t exactly know how old pizza is, historians speculate that something similar was found as early as 6th century BC, and the first document of the word pizza was in 997 AD in central Italy, more precisely in the Campania region.
From there, Italians continued eating and perfecting their pizza.
Around the 16th -18th century pizza began to take form as the dough and tomato version we know and enjoy still today. During World War Two it became a popular meal for allied troops stationed in Italy and spread from to the rest of the world. Today, many versions of pizza exist, but to purists there are only 2 true forms of pizza, Pizza Marinara and Pizza Margherita. The first comes from the Italian word for the “seafarer’s wife” and this was the way she would prepare the pizza for the seaman as they returned home: a simple and delicious tomato sauce atop a crust.
Pizza Margherita, on the other hand, comes from the famous baker Raffaele Esposito of Naples when he made 3 pizzas to present to King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The pizza most loved by the Queen had the colors of the Italian flag, red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil.
Pizza Margherita is considered to be the classic Neapolitan pizza, now a popular dish all over the world. And, not by chance, some say its story began in a narrow alley in Naples.
According to the popular legend, the pizza Margherita was invented in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito, from Pizzeria Brandi. It was allegedly created in honor of Italy’s unification, with its three toppings representing the green, white, and red of the Italian flag.
Belief suggests that Margherita of Savoy, onetime queen consort of Italy, was visiting Naples with her husband, King Umberto I (who happened to be her first cousin), in June 1889. This came on the heels of the unification of northern and southern Italy, and southern Italy was in need of a morale boost after its loss of independence.
According to the legend the queen, tired of the gourmet French food she’d been served on the trip, and asked the most famous pizzamaker in Naples, Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi, to make her pizza.
And today, a plaque near the Pizzeria Brandi marks the location as the birthplace of the pizza Margherita. It was unveiled in 1989, on the 100th anniversary of its invention.
However this story is most likely just a story.
The dish was probably really served at Pizzeria Brandi, but the use of these three toppings had already been fairly widespread in Naples for decades, and it is described even in a 1866 book. Written by Francesco DeBouchard, “Customs and Traditions of Naples” – (Vol II, p.. 124) describes the most popular pizza toppings of the time which included one with cheese and basil, often topped with slices of mozzarella.
It might have been christened “Margherita” at the Pizzeria Brandi, but some sources claim the name could also stem from the arranging of mozzarella slices like the petals of a daisy (not by chance “margherita”, in Italian).
Whatever the real origins of this pizza recipe are, all we know for sure is that Raffaele Esposito’s version for Queen Margherita was the one that made it popular and, since then, it has grown into one of the most recognisable symbol of Italian food culture in the world.
And no matter the Margherita’s exact origin, you can still order one at Pizzeria Brandi and enjoy a fresh piece of Neapolitan pride!
Images from web – Google Research