Whether it is thin crust, thick crust, stuffed, rolled, topped with a dozen ingredients or served simply with tomato and cheese, there are few people who do not appreciate good pizza, myself included. Pizza, or flatbreads have actually been around for centuries, but today’s style of pizza can be traced back to the 18th century when vendors roamed the streets of Naples selling pieces of garnished flatbread to the poor. Although it is commonly believed that Italians invented the pizza, it’s origins can actually be traced back to ancient times. The Israelites, Egyptians, and other Middle Eastern cultures ate flat bread cooked in mud ovens similar to today’s pita bread, and later the Romans and Greeks began topping this flatbread with olive oil and native spices.
Once the Italians accepted the use of cooking with tomatoes, the Italians perfected the pizza, and it evolved into what we call pizza today. Italians take their pizza so seriously in fact, that as they did for wine, they have established a controlling body (a Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC) for pizza: the Associazone Vera Pizza Napoletana. This agency produced a document called the Progetto di Norma which stipulates exact ingredients and methods required by Associazone members worldwide to produce “verace pizza napoletana.”
It is said that the famous Margherita pizza from Naples, considered the “true” pizza by many, came about when Queen Margherita, while traveling through Italy, fell in love with the garnished flatbreads being sold to the poor. She summoned a baker named Raphelle to bake her a selection of pizzas to try. One version, consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil to honor the colors of the Italian flag, became her favorite, and was named to honor her appreciation for pizza. Pizza Margherita is still a favorite pizza choice in Italy today. Although many cultures learned to bake flat breads with some type of topping, only southern Italy had rich, creamy buffalo-milk mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, the crucial ingredients for Neapolitan pizza. The world’s first pizzeria is believed to have opened in Naples, Italy, although street peddlers may have sold pizza for many years before that. By the beginning of the 1900’s pizza made it’s way to the inner cities United States, thanks to Italian immigrants, particularly New York and Chicago, which both have large Italian populations.
While living in Italy, I learned to love the thin-crusted pizza cooked in wood burning ovens that does not resemble the pizza sold in chain restaurants here in the US in any way. While the Italian pizza consists of a few, fresh ingredients on a tasty, thin crust, the American version consumed here, is often packed with multiple ingredients, laden with a layer of heavy cheese, and prepared with a much thicker crust. True Neapolitan pizza has a light, chewy crust, which may surprise those used to the crunch of brick-oven pizza in America. Although you may not always be able to find a pizzeria that specializes in cooking their pizzas in wood burning ovens here in the US, you may be surprised that you can make something very similar, which is extremely tasty, in mere minutes at home. With the right ingredients, such as 00 flour, good quality mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes, it is extremely easy to create a delicious Italian style pizza at home. By using a preheated pizza stone in your oven and turning the temperature up as high as possible (usually 500 degrees F) you can duplicate pretty closely the wonderful crust produced in a wood burning oven. You can even learn to toss your pizza like the pros by watching this Pizza Tossing Video.
Read about this 9 year old and his passion for pizza on CNN!
Interesting Pizza Facts (Source – TLC Cooking)
Favorite Pizza Toppings Across The Globe ( Source – TLC Cooking)
Deborah Mele 2011