The History of Pizza – Ancient Greece to Today Part 2
The Addition of Tomatoes
What differentiates Greek flatbreads from modern pizza is the use of tomato as a topping. The ancient Greeks might have also used tomatoes if they had been discovered then. The tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 1500s but many Europeans thought it was poisonous. By the 1700s, it was common for the poorer people from Napes to add tomato to their flatbread to make a type of pizza. This dish became popular and visitors to the area would visit the poor areas to sample it.
Italian Pizza History
Pizza was sold from street vendors’ stands until 1830. The first ever pizzeria was Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples and the first pizza made in this bakery was for sale to peddlers in 1738 but by 1830 it had expanded to a pizza restaurant. Pizza is still served on the premises to this day.
In the late nineteenth century, Queen Margherita made a tour of her Italian kingdom. She noticed peasants eating a large flat bread and was curious about it. The queen ordered her guards to bring her a pizza bread. She found it delicious and ate it whenever she was in the poor areas. This caused consternation in the court because it was thought unseemly for a queen to eat peasant food.
The queen ordered Chef Rafaelle Esposito from the pizzeria to visit the palace and make her some pizza. Rafaelle topped the pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil to represent the three colors of the Italian flag. This became the favorite pizza of the queen and Pizza Margherita is still popular throughout the world.
The Evolution of Pizza
The Italians experimented with different toppings. In Bologna, meat was used as a topping. Neapolitan pizza with garlic and cheese was also popular and fresh vegetables; spices and herbs were experimented with. The idea of baking pizza in brick ovens was developed at this time and the bread was made from flour, salt, yeast, and oil, much as it is today.
Pizza spread to England, Spain, France, and America in the mid twentieth century. Many European and American soldiers fighting in World War II tasted pizza for the first time and were delighted with it. More styles and flavors were developed. Square Sicilian pizza is an American invention. Authentic pizza from Sicily does not contain mozzarella and is not as deep as the American version.
The history of pizza is very interesting and another example of a “peasant food” evolving into something we all know and love today. Perhaps the fact that there are so many varieties of pizza is one of the best reasons for its continuing popularity all over the globe.