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The History Of Pizza, Italy's Favourite Dish

It's no surprise that pizza is one of the most beloved dishes in the world, flavoured, soothing and infinitely tasteful. It's a cuisine that's gone beyond its Italian roots in order to find new items, from mango pizzas to Chicago-style deep dish pastries.

No wonder it has whole days devoted to it around the globe -- from January's World Pizza Day to National Pizza Day, which takes place in the United States every February 9.

People have been eating pizza, in one form or another, for centuries. As far back as antiquity, pieces of flatbread, topped with savouries, served as a simple and tasty meal for those who could not afford plates, or who were on the go.

Even we in Malaysia have several Pizza outlets and of course with a twist of flavour to suits our taste-bud. I recalled there's one time, Pizza Hut came out with a 'Nasi Lemak' Pizza!

The History Of Pizza

Founded around 600 B.C. , Naples was a flourishing seafront town as a Greek colony in the 1700s and early 1800s. Technically an individual kingdom, it was known for its numbers of poor or lazzaroni workers.

These Neapolitans or lazzaroni required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza—flatbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need.

At that time, the pizza that they consume considered as disgusting (according to judgemental Italian authors during that time); although these early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

In the late 19th century when the first cookbooks came out, they totally ignored pizza! Even those who devoted themselves to Neapolitan cuisine had disdained it. 

The Born Of Pizza MARGarita

The king and queen of the recently reunited Italy came to visit Naples in 1889 and Queen Margarita was keen to try the local speciality.

The best pizzaiolo (pizza maker) in Naples, Raffaele Esposito prepared three types of pizza, white with pork fat, caciocavallo cheese and basil; olive oil and anchovies; and tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

The variety the queen enjoyed most was the third one, the pizza topped with mozzarella white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. The story goes that the queen chose the third because it reminded her of the flag of Italy and that when the pizza 'Margherita' was born - honouring the queen.

This marked a big turn. The Margherita approval seal made pizza not only a meal that was suited for lazzaroni, but also converted pizza from a restaurant into a real national dish that we know today!

The dish not only took off around the world, but has put Naples on the map for countless visitors wanting to eat a "real" pizza.

The beginning of the 19th century saw mass migration from the south of Italy to the United States. And, of course, they took their recipes with them.

Another key community in the popularization of pizza is the American troops.

When the Americans came to Italy at the end of the war, they found they loved pizza, so they brought it back to the US. Before that, it had mainly been located in Italian-American culture, but after the war it became a dish that other people would eat.

In 1905, the first pizzeria – Lombardi’s – was opened in New York City

The different types of pizza in the US developed because of the needs and populations in the different areas. There are different populations in New York from Chicago hence, The Italians took pizza from Naples and adapted it to the people in the area. So, our guess, that's why we have the menu associated with New York and Chicago.

Today's pizzas are far from lazzaroni pizzas, and many purists of pizza – particularly in Naples – are trapped in some of today's outermost toppings. Yet pizza is still identifiable, as pizza is cooked with every piece and hundreds of years of social, economic and technological transition.



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