Samui Wining & Dining
Slice of Pie

The history of the humble pizza.

P14If I said European heritage what would you think of? Stonehenge, Notre Dame Cathedral, or …pizza? Yes, pizza, and Neapolitan pizza to be more precise. That wonderful pie that you just thought was, well just a pie. More synonymous these days with American culture, we sometimes forget the origins of this wonderfully delicious and widely popular dish.

However there are those who wish to keep the old traditions of some dishes alive. In 2009, The European Union ruled that Neapolitan pizza was now a protected part of Europe's food heritage. This meant that anyone wanting to make a true Neapolitan pizza must abide by strict standards, only using buffalo mozzarella cheese and San Marzano tomatoes. Some makers of this pizza even go so far as to only adding the tomatoes and olive oil in a clockwise direction. So when you next take a bite of Neapolitan pizza know you are sampling a bit of European heritage wherever you may be in the world.

And the origins of pizza? Well they can be traced back to Naples, which even in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving coastal town. However it had a large population of working poor or ‘lazzeroni’ as they were known. They needed an inexpensive and convenient food, and so something bearing a striking similarity to the modern pizza was born. One of the first fast foods as it were. Most of the poor had only flour, oil, lard, herbs and tomatoes with which to feed themselves and their families. With the pies that they made there was also no need for utensils.

The popularity of these pizzas spread beyond the poor, and many visitors to Naples during this time sought out the poorer areas of town in search of them. In fact even royalty sought out these pizza makers. The story is told that King Umberto and Queen Margherita, while visiting Naples in 1889, had tired of the fine French cuisine they were being served and wanted something different. Having heard of the pizzas they wished to try them out for themselves, so a variety of pizzas was ordered from the best baker in the city. It is said the queen particularly liked the pie called pizza mozzarella, which was a pizza topped with soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil, the colours of the Italian flag. Legend has it that from that time onwards the pizza was then known as pizza Margherita.

There are some pizza purists who believe there are only two types of pizza. One is the ‘Margherita’. The other is the ‘Marinara’, so called because it was the traditional food prepared for the fishermen by their wives on their return from fishing trips. Some establishments serve only these two types of pizzas which count amongst the favourites of Italians to this day.

Pizza first arrived in the United States along with the first Italian immigrants, in the late 1800s, and was very popular among the large Italian populations in major cities such as New York and Chicago. At this time, pizza was sold for a couple of cents by vendors who walked up and down the streets with a metal washtub of pizzas on their heads. It was the perfect cheap food for the labourers at that time. Noticing the popularity of the pizza, cafes and small restaurants also started to offer them to their Italian-American customers. The first pizzeria in the United States is said to have opened in New York City on Spring Street, Manhattan, in 1905. Formerly known as ‘Lombardi’, it is still there to this day under the new name of ‘Patriaca Della Pizza’ and still uses the original pizza oven.

Pizza first arrived in the United States along with the first Italian immigrants, in the late 1800s, and was very popular among the large Italian populations in major cities such as New York and Chicago. At this time, pizza was sold for a couple of cents by vendors who walked up and down the streets with a metal washtub of pizzas on their heads. It was the perfect cheap food for the labourers at that time. Noticing the popularity of the pizza, cafes and small restaurants also started to offer them to their Italian-American customers. The first pizzeria in the United States is said to have opened in New York City on Spring Street, Manhattan, in 1905. Formerly known as ‘Lombardi’, it is still there to this day under the new name of ‘Patriaca Della Pizza’ and still uses the original pizza oven.

Pizza first arrived in the United States along with the first Italian immigrants, in the late 1800s, and was very popular among the large Italian populations in major cities such as New York and Chicago. At this time, pizza was sold for a couple of cents by vendors who walked up and down the streets with a metal washtub of pizzas on their heads. It was the perfect cheap food for the labourers at that time. Noticing the popularity of the pizza, cafes and small restaurants also started to offer them to their Italian-American customers. The first pizzeria in the United States is said to have opened in New York City on Spring Street, Manhattan, in 1905. Formerly known as ‘Lombardi’, it is still there to this day under the new name of ‘Patriaca Della Pizza’ and still uses the original pizza oven.

I’m sure all the purists are grimacing at some of the inventive if unappealing toppings that you can find around the world these days. From a shrimp and mayo roll crust pizza in Japan, to fish and chips pizza in Indonesia. Or how about an Indian inspired pie, palak paneer and butter chicken? No, well, there’s always a taste of history with the classic Neapolitan pizza.

          

Natalie Hughes


 


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