The Neapolitan pizza, especially in its variant “margherita” is without doubt the most famous Italian dish in the world, to the extent that if you try searching on google images the phrase “Italian recipes”, the search engine will provide you with a series of images of pasta dishes as well as several photos of the classic pizza Margherita.
In the next few days occurs the anniversary of the birth of this famous recipe: although there are very few traditional recipes for which you can determine precisely the date of birth, pizza Margherita is certainly one of them.
Its birthday is celebrated each year on the 11th June because, according to history, “la pizza Margherita” was established in Naples in the first days of June 1889.
At that time pizza was already a typical Neapolitan dish: from the beginning of the eighteenth century in Naples had spread the custom of dressing a disk of baked bread dough with tomato sauce, at the point that the first Pizzeria was founded already in 1738, the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, which still exists to this day.
Until June of 1889, however, the pizza was usually served topped with tomato sauce or other ingredients such as cheese, and although it is likely that someone before had had the idea to add the mozzarella to the tomato sauce, it is certain is that it was Raffaele Esposito, owner of the pizzeria so called “Pietro … e basta così”, to bring to stardom this combination.
Right at the beginning of June, in fact, Raphael was called at the Reggia di Capodimonte to prepare the pizza for King Umberto I and his wife, the first Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, who in those days they were staying in Naples.
Raffaele Esposito decided to offer three different pizzas: one seasoned only with olive oil and cheese, one garnished with small fish and, finally, one of his own invention topped with mozzarella and tomato with the addition of a few leaves of fresh basil to remember the colors of the Italian flag in honor of the royal couple.
The Queen liked this last version of pizza so much pizza that she wished to compliment Raffaele who, out of gratitude, decided to call this variant “Pizza Margherita, in her honor.
Although this story may seem a bit fancy, its authenticity is attested by a letter from the Chief of the Royal House renewing his compliments for the excellency of the dish.
This letter is to this day displayed on the walls of the pizzeria Raffaele Esposito which is still open although has changed its name to “Antica Pizzeria Brandi“.
Over time, thanks to the many Italian immigrants in the world and especially in the period after the Second World War, pizza is now appreciated all over the world becoming the standard bearer of Italian gastronomy and one of the most popular dishes in around the globe.