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Brief history of Pizza in Italy

pizza

The word pizza is rather ancient, but strangely not the recipe we know nowadays. About the origin of the word Wikipedia says: “Pissa is late Vulgar Latin (9th century) flat bread, and apparently came to mean a flat bread with a cheese topping by the 14th century in some Italian dialects (…). Many languages around the Mediterranean have similar words meaning flat bread or unleavened bread, see pita“.

Pizza is undoubtedly considered as one of the symbol of Italian cuisine and it is one of the most famous dishes worldwide, but not many people know that the traditional recipe dates back only to the 19th century. As actually Wikipedia explains us “the tomato – which is one the main ingredients for pizza – was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous (…). By the late 18th century, however, it was common for the poor of the area around Naples to add tomato to their yeast-based flat bread, and the dish gained in popularity. Pizza became a tourist attraction, and visitors to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local specialty.” The first pizzeria opened in Naples in 1830, but it was only in 1889 that the word pizza became an Italian word. In the summer of that year the Italian royal family was spending their holidays in the south of Italy. One day the Queen, Margherita of Savoy, heard by some noble ladies about the exquisiteness of this low-class dish and she asked to taste it. On that occasion a famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, baked in honour of the Queen a special pizza, made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil: the pizza margherita.
During the first years of the 20th century the first pizza restaurant opened in Rome, but it was not appreciated by the inhabitants of the capital city and after a few years it closed down.

It was only after the second world war that pizza slowly became a nation-wide dish also thanks to the many southerners who moved to the north of Italy in search of a job and who made the pizza acclaimed all over the country. This popularity has been constantly increasing in the past few decades. The reasons are several: Pizza is made with cheap and genuine ingredients, easy to find all year round, it is fairly easy and quick to prepare, it can be considered as a wholesome and healthy meal (there is little fat in it) and last but not least everybody loves pizza!

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