It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely where this delicious invention originated. There are written accounts from 1st century Ancient Greece about a flat bread with herbs, spices, garlic and onion. And there is evidence from Pompeii and Naples indicating that something that could be considered pizza’s cousin was already being made there – focaccia – though one with a longer leavening process that results in a thicker and spongier rectangular bread and does not use tomato sauce.
Pizza as we know it today is nearly unrecognizable without its tomato sauce. And since tomatoes (which were believed to be poisonous for some time) were a New World crop, we have to wait until the 16th century for this magical pairing to appear. The word “pizza” comes from the past participle of the Latin verb pinsere, which means “to press, crush or mash”, alluding to the treatment given to the dough.
Once this partnership of dough and sauce was discovered, the pizza frenzy really began to take off, particularly in Naples, to the extent that pizza makers separated themselves from the bakers’ guild in order to dedicate themselves exclusively to this delicacy, which they began to sell on street corners. The first pizzeria, subsequently in Naples, called Port Alba, was founded in 1830 and is still open to this day.
Origins of Margherita Pizza
We have Raffaele Esposito to thank for several of our most iconic pizza flavors, in particular the margherita pizza. Asked to make pizzas for the Italian royals Humberto I and Margherita of Savoy, he prepared for them three different combinations, the final one modeled after the colors of the Italian flag using red sauce, green basil, and white mozzarella cheese. This one, being the queen’s favorite, was thus baptized in her name.