A Piece on Pizza

A Piece on Pizza

Pizza is the famous Italian flatbread which has become almost ubiquitous after it was brought to America by Italian emigrants. It has developed an international food following with pizzerias all over the world baking this simple flat disc of bread with multi-cultural fervour. It has become a global food phenomenon and its simplicity and diversity will continue to inspire food lovers around the world.

The precursor to Pizza was the Piada or Piadina a flatbread originating from the Emilia Romagna region in Italy and became the district’s daily peasant bread. You can learn more about these flatbreads in my Italian Flatbreads classes held in spring and summer.

Flatbreads have been made since Neolithic times. During Roman times these flatten discs of dough were dressed with olive oil, herbs and honey and baked on hot stones on an open wood fire. Hot stones were later replaced with a heated testo, a clay disc that was heated in a wood oven. Today we use a similar cooking technique to bake our home made pizzas. In the 18th century the Neapolitans gave old-style pizza fresh new appeal by adding tomatoes as a topping to flavour pizza. Pizza was sold from stalls and eaten as street food. Then the pizzeria appeared in Naples and its popularity spread to the nobility.

In 1889 when Queen Margherita arrived in Naples with King Umberto I she was eager to taste the dish she had heard so much about. As royalty, she did not go to the pizzeria but asked that the pizzaiolo, pizza maker, come to her. The owner of the famous pizzeria Pietro il Pizzaiolo, Don Raffaele Esposito came with his wife Donna Rosa, who was the pizza maker. They prepared three different flavoured pizzas. One of the pizzas was simply made with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Red, white and green, the colours of the Italian flag. This was the queen’s favourite and has now become one of the most famous pizzas of all time.

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