One of the most popular party foods known, pizza is undoubtedly considered a favorite food of many people around the world. Due to its popularity, bakers have opted to come up with many variations to truly satisfy one’s taste buds, as a matter of fact, new varieties are being created all the time even now. You’ll want to ask for more once you take your first slice of pizza. But have you ever wondered who made the first pizza? When and where was the first pizza made?
The history of pizza has actually ignited some good arguments. Claims show that it originated from Italy. But other reports also claim that it started in Persia, Egypt, and Greece. Maybe it depends on how we define a pizza. If we view it as simply flat bread with some stuff on top of it, then pizza dates back to the 1st century B.C. as it was indirectly mentioned by the Roman poet Virgil in one of his literary works.
But even earlier than that (around 500 B.C.), Persian soldiers also baked a flat bread on their shields with cheese and dates as toppings. In this case, pizza was first made in Iran. Arguments abound behind the origin of this tasty meal. It seems everyone wants to claim to have been the first to make something so spectacular and widely popular. The Persian creation, it was not baked in an oven. According to many, it can’t be considered as pizza if it isn’t baked in an oven. So, let’s just label it as flat bread. But if you use that definition, does that mean pizza made on the grill isn’t really pizza at all?
Moving on, Egyptians also baked flat bread while the Indians made naan in a hot Tandoori oven. But these have no toppings and I do think we can all agree that a pizza must have toppings and not be bread alone. The Persians’ version has toppings, but was it really a pizza? Ancient Greeks had also their flat bread with various toppings which they call plakountos. It’s a common fact that the Greeks founded Naples and it is where the modern pizza was first known. In ancient times Naples, just like Pompeii, was part of Rome. Even then, pizza ovens were already operating all over Italy.
Given all the information, it is safe to assume that the ancient pizza was a toss-up dependent on your definition of pizza, middle-age pizza was Greek, and the modern pizza was absolutely Italian, Neapolitan to be exact. And that any other views on the origin of pizza could be just as easily valid depending on your definition of pizza.
For now, the majority consensus is that the first pizza was made in Naples, Italy. And who was the person behind this delectable food? He went by the name Raffeale Esposito. He wanted to deviate from the usual food being sold in the market. So he experimented by scattering cheese on top of the bread, adding tomato sauce underneath it and shaping the dough into a large pie.
Esposito succeeded with his endeavor. His extraordinary pizza became the toast of the town. Then in 1830, more Italians were able to experience Esposito’s creation when a pizzeria was launched in Naples due to high demand. That was the beginning of Neapolitan pizza’s fame. And as they say, the rest is history. More Italian cities were delighted to have a taste of the pizza popularized by Esposito. Though a lot have made their own version, Neapolitan pizza became the ultimate hallmark of Italian food.
Nobody was able to match Esposito’s prominence back then. He was even called to bake a pizza for King Umberto and Queen Margherita of Italy in 1889. With this, he prepared a very special and emblematic pizza. It was filled with cheese, tomato sauce and basil spices which represent the three colors of the Italian flag – white, red and green. Such a deed was a sign of his pledge of allegiance to the country. His creation, which he named Margherita Pizza after the Queen’s name, was a big hit. And is popular even to this day.
Between you and I, I am very glad for all the iterations of pizza. Though not all of them are to my personal taste, and probably not yours either. They are still a part of what makes pizza all it is today. You may also find it interesting to know that in some places there are very strict rules as to exactly what a pizza is and what toppings it may and may not have. They even cover how it must be cooked and how it may be served.