This is the history of pizza, a journey trhough space and time and different cultures.
Follow the fascinating journey of a simple dish rich of history, ingredients, taste and glory. From the bread disks cooked on stone in the taverns of Napoli, to the conquer of all the world, discover the history of pizza.
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Agriculture was born. In the Near East people start to cultivate selected plant species, spelt and small spelt, barley, legumes and flax. Cooking polenta on stone was common since the lower Neolithic. It was common to make with toasted and milled cereals or unleavened bread.
Pizza and the pyramids
Egipt discovered baking powder. Thanks to the rising the doughs of crushed or milled cereals become soft, light, more tasty and digestible. Bread became popular.
The Ancient Rome
The current wheat derives from the roman one through selections and crossings between different types of spelt known at that time. The Italian word “farina” (means wheat) comes from “far”, latin name of spelt. Peasants knead wheat flour with water, herbs and salt, and then they put this round focaccia to cook on the hearth, with the heat of the ash. Sometimes Romans use bread disk like a plate to contain gravy dishes.
The word pizza
The word “bizzo-pizzo” from german “bizzen” means “bite”. It arrives with Longobards from the Italian germanic. From bite to mouthful, through piece of bread, to focaccia, there is a logical path. In Medioeval latin of Gaeta’s Codex cajetanus for the first time a focaccia is called “pizza”. It happens again in 1195 in a document of Penne in Abruzzo.
In Medioeval latin of Roman Curia we can read “in panatteria, scilicet guindalis, pizis, caseo, lignis” and in a XIV century document of Aquila “pissas quatuor et fladonem unum” (fladone is a typical bakery product from Abruzzo and Molise). The expression “Piczas casey, pizzas de pane” appears in a document of Celano in 1387-88. Then the expression “piza panis” in chivalrous of Pesaro in 1531.
Few years later, the poet and essayist Benedetto Di Falco says that “focaccia in Neapolitan is called pizza” in his description of ancient Naples’ places.
1600 – 1750 Basil, tomatoe, olive oil made the history of pizza
The traditional “schiacciata” of wheat kneaded and seasoned with garlic, suet and coarse salt continues to be popular in the South, olive oil takes the place of suet, cheese is added and we find herbs again.
At the beginning of XVII century, a scent of basil recipe appears with the pizza “alla Mastunicola” (in dialect it means of Master Nicola). Since that moment basil became a basic and essential ingredient of pizza.
It’s only in the second half of ‘700 that an exotic berry arrives in Italy, imported from America: tomatoe.
Pizza is popular
Pizza is so popular in the middle class, but barons, princes and kings love it too. So, it is offered during Borboni’s banquet, and Ferdinando IV ordered to cook it in Capodimonte’s furnaces.
The first recipe of pizza as we know it nowadays is probably mentioned in a treaty printed at Napoli in 1858 that describes the way in those years the “true Neapolitan pizza” is produced.
When the city was still the Capital of Kingdom of Two Sicilies, Francesco De Bourcar, a Neapolitan author born in Swiss described habits and customs of Naples. He specifically mentioned a sort of pizza Margherita ante litteram, with mozzarella and basil:
“others pizzas are full of grated cheese and dress with lard, and then some basil’s leaves on it. Then some thin slides of mozzarella. Tomato it is used sometimes, . Moreover, for dressing it can be used “whatever comes to mind”.
Pizzaiolo is the pizza maker
Here’s the pizza maker, “who makes and sell pizzas, in Napoli” as we find in Zingaretti Dictionary of 1922. Matilde Serao is the first woman founder of a journal in Italy. She introduces intoduces the word to us. Among the evidences collected in Naples till that time with Edoardo Scarfoglio:
“Pizza maker who has shop, during the night, prepares a large number of these rounded schiacciate, of a dense pasta, that it burns, but doesn’t cook, full of almost raw tomato, garlic, pepper, origano”.
Always here, Serao talks about first attempt of pizza to leave the country. Failed.
“One day, a Neapolitan industrialist had an idea. Since he knows that pizza is one of the best Neapolitan food and that Neapolitan colony in Rome is really wide, he thought to open a pizzeria in Rome. At first the crowd came togheter; then the nit went diminishing. Pizza, far away from its Neapolitan environment, sounded false note and represented an indigestion; the star turned pale and went down, in Rome. This “exotic dish” died in this Roman solemnity”.
Raffaele De Cesare writes in historical essay The end of a Kingdom.
Federico II, all over Neapolitan, liked that food of which Neapolitans are eager: baccalà, fried, caponata, mozzarella, pizzas.
In the Modern Dictionary published by Hoepli in 1905, guidance to the neologism of that time, Alfredo Panzini wrote so:
“Pizza: vulgar name of very popular Neapolitan food. It’s like a flour’s sheet leavened so much. Sprinkled with tomato, fresh cheese, alici ecc., as desired, it’s put in the oven where it swells and cooks quickly”.
Pizza and the Institutions today
European Union recognised and guaranteed pizza as traditional dish in 2010, while since 2017 The art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
What brings such a poor food to become an italian symbol famous all over the world, a planet where 5 billion pizzas are eaten, it’s something magic. Made with bread, tomato, mozzarella and basil.
Source: Expo 2015 Magazine and Lifegate
Pictures source: Pexels