The history of pizza and focaccia

focaccia Ironside Kitchen

The word Focaccia is derived from the Latin word “focus”, or hearth, and is the precursor of Pizza as known today. Pizza is a derivation from flat bread that has been prepared since antiquity in different forms and garnished with various herbs, olives, raisins and more ingredients. The word pizza in Italian identifies any type of flat bread.

Pizza has an uncertain history which is a long, complex that often inspires a food debate that gets very heated. The Campania region of Italy, Naples is the location where the modern pizza originated. Although, the exact sequence through the many flavoured flatbreads of the ancient and medieval Mediterranean to the dish known as pizza is not fully understood. Since the late nineteenth century pizza has spread throughout the world.

Types of pizza

Although there are many types of pitas or pizzas around the Mediterranean, Naples is the location that has many records of pizza since around the year 1000; the first mentions call these flat breads laganae, and later they are referred to as picea. In those times, pizzas were dressed with olive oil and garlic, or cheese and anchovies, or small local fish. They were baked on the open fire and sometimes were closed in two, as a book, to form a calzone.

Covered with lava stones from the Mount Vesuvius the first pizzerias opened in Naples with brick wood-burning ovens. The pizza was ignored in those times by the chefs because the food was considered a poor people’s food, but the new combination with the tomato, when it entered the kitchen around the 1770s, must have raised some curiosity, even in the royal palace. Ferdinand I Bourbon, King of Naples, loved the simple food of the people and went to taste the pizzas made in the shop of Antonio Testa. He liked it so much that he wanted pizza to be included in the menu at the court. He failed after the opposition of his wife, Queen Maria Carolina. His son Ferdinand II also liked all kind of popular food. Ferdinand II loved pizza so much that Ferdinand hired Domenico Testa, son of the now famous Antonio, to build a pizza oven in the royal palace of Capodimonte.

Simple and economical, pizza turned into the food for all people, even sold on the streets, as shown in many illustrations of the time. Pizza became very popular, earning its place in Neapolitan folklore.

In 1889 a famous episode extended the popularity of pizza beyond the limits of the city of Naples, Margherita, queen of Italy was visiting the city heard about the food and wanted to taste it. Don Raffaele a famous chef, helped by his wife Donna Rosa, was invited to cook pizza at the royal palace. They prepared three pizzas, typical of that time: one with garlic, oil, and tomato; one with cheese and basil; and one with mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The queen, impressed by the colors of the last pizza, which resembled the national flag, preferred that one. Since then this pizza is known as Pizza Margherita, and Don Raffaele is credited with its invention, even if we know that it already existed for a long time.

Italian immigrants in the last century brought the first pizzerias to North America, and the pizza became a new world food craze. Today, Naples still makes the best pizza that can be produced, because it is rigorously made with buffalo mozzarella. Superior pizzas are considered those obtained by moderate variations of the simplest and most popular: Pizza Margherita; Pizza Marinara with tomato, anchovies, capers, and olives; Pizza Napoletana with tomato, garlic, oil, and oregano; Pizza Four Seasons, divided in four quadrants, each dressed in a different way. Pizza with hot salami, the American pepperoni pizza, is instead found in the Calabria region south of Naples, where this type of hot sausage is produced.

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