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What is the origin of Pizza?

Pizza originated three thousand years ago from the ancient flat buns or pies cooked on scorching stones. It was the kind of ‘pizza' consumed in the form of tin flat bun or pie, which was the first type of non-leavened bread eaten by humans. It was only after the discovery of yeast by the Egyptians that leavened flat buns were consumed. The term ‘ pizza ' comes from the Latin word ‘ pinsa ', which is the past participle of the Latin verb ‘ pinsere ', which means ‘to crush'. Many civilizations living in the Mediterranean areas, such as the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans were used to eating flat buns or pies made from barley beans, water and different seasonings. Certainly these flat buns or pies can be considered as the ‘ancestors' of pizza.

There were many origins recorded for the use of ‘pizza' in ancient history. In ancient Egypt, flat buns seasoned with herbs were eaten to celebrate the birthdays of Pharaohs. In VII B.C., the famous poet-soldier Archilocus considered kneaded buns as the typical food for soldiers. The Greek historian Herodotus handed down several Babylonian recipes that were similar to ‘pizza'. The ancient Greeks demonstrated knowledge of a wide range of foods, very popular and quite widespread, that can be considered as the archetypal versions of pizza. From the numerous historical testimonies given by Greek writers, it was understood that these kinds of pizzas were called ‘ maza '. In ancient Rome, ‘ placenta ' and ‘ offa ', the terms used to describe pizza prepared with water and barley, were used as the main cereal. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the term ‘pizza' was already widespread; however, several local words were used to indicate the kinds of ‘pizza' that differ in taste or in the ways they were prepared. These 'pizzas' were well appreciated by aristocratic and popular people during the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance.

Throughout the centuries, flat buns grew very similar to the kind of pizza that we have nowadays, the most well-known being mozzarella and tomato, which are the most typical and important pizza ingredients. Two historical events accounted for the introduction of mozzarella and tomato to Italy. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the invasion of Southern Italy by the Longobards (Germanic tribe ) led to the introduction of the heads of buffalo in Italy. Thereafter, buffalo's milk was used by local people to produce ‘mozzarella'. The import of tomato from South America (Peru) and Europe was due to the discovery of the New World (America). Tomato was used in Italian cuisine, in particular the Neapolitan cuisine, where the traditional and famous pizza was born. It was not until much later that pizza found its fatherland and the starting point of its worldwide diffusion, Naples.

Pizza was one of the favourite dishes in the Neapolitan cuisine. Between the XVIII and the XIX centuries, the habit of eating pizzas started not only in homes and in the streets, but also in places where pizzas were made, the pizzerias . During the XVIII century, pizzas were baked in ovens (built from bricks or volcanic stones) and sold in the streets of Naples. Boys working in pizzerias (typical places where pizzas were baked) carried pizzas on their heads in the typical ‘ stufa' , a tin stove that kept pizzas warm. During the day, boys walked around the streets of Naples, selling pizzas baked with different seasonings and ingredients to those they met on the way, screaming at the same time in order to attract the attention of more people. Till date, certain traditional features, which include the oven-wood, the marble bench where pizzas are prepared, the shelf that stores different pizza ingredients, the tables where pizzas are served, the outer counter where baked pizza is kept to be sold to the passers-by, are still found in all the Neapolitan and Italian ‘modern' pizzerias.

The first ‘modern' pizzeria was established in 1780 in Naples by Pietro Colicchio. He named his pizzeria "Pietro e basta Così”. After more than two hundred years, this pizzeria still exists, but it is renamed the “Ancient Pizzeria Brandi”. Over the years, the management of pizzeria "Pietro e basta Così” was given to Enrico Brandi as Pietro Colicchio was without sons. In 1889, Raffaele Esposito (Enrico Brandi's daughter's husband), who was considered the best pizzaiolo (pizza maker) at that time, was invited to the Royal Palace of Capodimonte (in Naples), to bake pizzas for the King of Italy, Umberto I of Savoia, and his wife, Queen Margherita. King Umberto I and his Queen were guests of Ferdinando di Borbone, King of Naples.

Raffaele Esposito baked three different pizzas: pizza Mastunicola (cheese, basilicum and lard), pizza Marinara (tomato, garlic and oregano) and pizza Pomodoro & Mozzarella (tomato, cheese, basilicum), of which its colour recalls the Italian flag. The Queen appreciated and enjoyed the taste of the three different pizzas to the extent of thanking him in writing. Raffaele Espostio, in turn, thanked the Queen by giving her name, Margherita, to the pizza ‘ Pomodoro e Mozzarella '. The thanking in writing is still kept by the ‘Ancient Pizzeria Brandi' pizzeria today.





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