Pizza, a culinary Masterpiece

Feb 24, 2024 | Blog edition

The “pizza” in the myth
Pizza even has a mythical origin, linked to the Olympian gods and the city of Naples. In fact, the myth tells that one day the god of fire Vulcan, returning home from his forge in the bowels of Vesuvius with a great appetite, asked his divine consort Venus what good food she had cooked for him.

The goddess of love, however, had spent the day entertaining one of her many lovers and she had completely forgotten to prepare food for her husband. Forced to work hard, therefore, Venus took a small piece of focaccia dough, cut it into a thin disc, garnished it with goat’s milk, fragrant herbs and juicy berries and put it to cook on a red-hot stone that had just emerged from the mouth of Vesuvius. .

In a few moments the meal was ready and Vulcan was so won over by it that he asked his wife to prepare it for him more often.

From focaccia to pizza
Prepared since prehistoric times with barley, millet or rye flour, focaccia played an important role in the diet of the ancient Egyptians, but also of the Greeks and Romans. And it was a very short step from these early focaccias to the birth of the first pizza.

For centuries, the pizza prepared in Naples and the surrounding areas was nothing more than a flattened disc of bread cooked in a wood-fired oven and seasoned with garlic, lard and coarse salt or with caciocavallo and basil. One of the most probable hypotheses is that the term “pizza” indicates its flattened shape, deriving from the Latin word pinsa, which means “squashed”.

The first written attestation of the term “pizza” dates back to the Middle Ages and more precisely to 997. In fact, a rental contract for a mill near Gaeta dates back to this year, which also included 24 pizzas per year as part of the annual rent.

The arrival of the tomato
The tomato arrived in Europe only in the sixteenth century, but until the eighteenth century it was considered an ornamental plant. In the 18th century, however, the tomato also began to be used to enrich traditional recipes, including pizza.

Among the first “patented” pizzas in this period was the pizza marinara, based on tomato, garlic, oil and oregano. A simple but appetizing preparation that Neapolitan sailors used to take with them on the open sea.

The invention of Pizza Margherita, the pizza par excellence, is linked to another king. On 9 June 1889 Umberto I and Queen Margherita had Raffaele Esposito, the most famous Neapolitan pizza chef of the time, called to court at the Royal Palace of Capodimonte. On this special occasion Raffaele and his wife Rosa prepared three pizzas for the royal couple: the most traditional, topped with cheese, basil and suet, a marinara with only garlic, oil and tomato and an absolute novelty with mozzarella, tomato and basil, in homage to the colors of the Italian flag. The queen liked the latter so much that Raffaele Esposito baptized it with the name pizza margherita in honor of her.

Since then the toppings have multiplied and, in addition to having conquered all of Italy, pizza has also become increasingly appreciated abroad, by all generations, thanks to its irresistible flavor and its versatility.