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The History Of Pizza
The history of pizza is unique and can trace its roots back to the medieval ages when different ancient cultures made flatbreads that had toppings on them. The foundations of pizza were originally set by the early Greeks who first baked round, flat and large pieces of bread which they topped with herbs, spices, dates, and oils.
The word Pizza is believed to have first been documented in Gaeta in around AD 997 and later in other parts of Southern and Central Italy. Its precursor was probably focaccia, a flat bread known as panis focacius to the Romans, on which toppings were added.
It is from these ideas that the flat bread managed to find its way to Italy where the bread, locally known as pizza, was sold in markets and on the streets to the poor. That’s because they were not only tasty and filling but were also relatively cheap to bake. This early type of pizza was not topped but was enjoyed au naturel.
While looking at the history of pizza, it is important to note that it is not until the late 18th century when the modern-day pizza would be developed in Naples, Italy, after it was discovered that tomatoes, amongst other toppings, could be added on to the focaccia. And while it’s never been clear who invented pizza, it is believed that the modern version was first baked by Chef Raffaele Esposito, a baker based in Naples, and can owe its popularity to Queen Margherita.
In around 1889, the Queen accompanied by her King, Umberto I, went on an inspection tour of her empire. During her tour of Italy, she noticed that a lot of people, especially the poor, ate a large flat bread. Curious, she ordered her guards to get her some of this pizza bread – and she loved it. As a result, every time she went out amongst her people, she would eat the bread. This caused consternation in Court circles as it wasn’t seemly for royalty to eat peasant’s food.
Nonetheless, she loved pizza and made a decision that would change how pizza is viewed and made. By summoning Chef Raffaele to the royal palace and ordering him to bake a variety of pizzas for her, she rewrote the history of pizza and gave the food more meaning. To honor his queen, who was beloved by her subordinates, the chef made a special pizza meant just for her. He baked a flat bread that was topped with fresh basil, Mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes to create a pizza with colors that represent the colors of Italy’s flag.
This became the queen’s favorite, and when people got wind that pizza was one the monarch’s favorite foods, this led to the birth of a culinary tradition and made her even more popular amongst her people. It is from this point onward that Pizza caught on and many of the pizza variations we enjoy today were derived.