The History of Italian Pizza and How the Locals Eat It
Where did pizza originate? Why is the history of pizza so important for Italians? Why is Italian pizza so famous?
When you think about Italy, your thoughts turn to pizza, don’t they? Pizza is a serious business and Italians take it so seriously, it’s easy to get caught up in an argument and find yourself on the losing side.
Everyone in Italy has their opinion on the matter but one thing is never in doubt: the authentic Italian pizza was born in Naples, which today is still the place of reference when it comes to Italian pizza.
When other countries take pizza for granted, and often refer to their pizza as Italian style pizza, even if in reality it’s not, Italians take it super seriously. This is because pizza is the perfect representation of the Italian nation. Without digging too deep, it’s easy to understand why: first of all, the basic pizza, the margherita, features the colors of the Italian flag and, secondly, the pizza as we know it started life as a poor meal consisting of 2 main ingredients: attachment to the countryside and the need to stave off hunger.
Italian pizza was born out of the leftover dough used for baking bread and was called pizza as the result of a misrepresentation of the Greek word “pitta”, a typical round bread from Greece; at the very beginning it was topped with simple ingredients from the farm: olive oil and fresh tomatoes. In 1889 Raffaele Esposito decided to add mozzarella cheese (which today is still one of the main products of the Neapolitan region) and top it with fresh basil.
The creation was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, wife of King Umberto I, because of the colors, which represented the new Italian flag: the white of the mozzarella cheese, the red of the tomatoes, and the green basil leaves.
How to eat pizza like an Italian
After a bit of history, you’re now ready to master the art of Italian pizza and learn how to eat your pizza like a boss… ehm, like an Italian.
- Never ask for a slice of pizza. Pizza in Italy, unless sold on the street or “al taglio” (sold in rectangular or square slices by weight), is always round and served on a plate.
- You need to cut the pizza yourself and then you can choose to eat it with a knife and fork, which is the most common way, or fold each slice and eat it with your hands. Bear in mind: your pizza will be super hot so folding and eating it with your hands might be tricky.
- Never ever ask for strange toppings on your pizza: no pineapple, no chicken, no ketchup, no grated Parmesan, just to name a few. Italians take pizza seriously so if you want to embrace real Italian pizza, stick to the ingredients on the list and don’t ask for anything different. You could end up in a fight… and it can come off badly.
- Never ever ask for dipping sauce for your pizza: authentic Italian pizza is an experience in itself, don’t ruin it!
- It’s not common to eat pizza for lunch in Italy so if you’re in a restaurant that serves pizza for dinner, don’t ask for pizza at lunch because there’s no chance you’ll get one. The secret of a good pizza is the oven that has to be turned on hours before starting to bake and that’s why the majority of restaurants don’t offer pizza as a choice for lunch.
- Non written rule: no wine or cappuccino/coffee with your pizza. Beer or sparkling water is the preferred choice.
- Your leftover pizza is left, not taken home. Doggy bags aren’t common in Italy and, let’s be serious, who can even imagine not eating a whole pizza?
- When you ask for pepperoni pizza, you’ll end up with pizza with peppers: pepperoni (in the Italian language peperoni) is not salami or cold meat at all. So, don’t be disappointed!
- You don’t have to order an appetizer just because you think Italians eat a lot, every single meal. You can order one if you’re in a pizzeria, but it’s not mandatory. Italians usually order a few snacks before having a pizza, most of which are fried.
5 places where you can eat real pizza in Naples
If you’re in Naples, home of the real pizza, these are some of the places to eat a real Neapolitan pizza, as recognised by the European Union.
Pizzeria Sorbillo, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Pizzeria Di Matteo, Pizzeria Starita and 50 Kalò are 5 of the best places to sample Italian pizza in Naples. In reality, it’s hard not to eat a good pizza in Naples so these are just some of the most coveted spots.
Trust us, it will be hard to go back to the pizza you’re used to.
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