Pizza has been an elemental part of Italy’s diet since the Stone Age, when it was baked under the rocks of a fire. Given the limited resources of the time, pizza was far more basic.
Seasonings evolved slowly, so these primitive pizzas were often eaten as plain flatbreads. In addition, they had not yet been given the term “pizza.” The evolution from these simple flatbreads to pizza as we know it today is missing a few links. What helped pizza bridge the time-gap and evolve into one of today’s most popular foods? Tomatoes! The tomato was an item of speculation and mystery up until the 16th Century. In fact, many Europeans thought the tomato to be poisonous. Poor citizens in the ghettos of Naples began adding tomatoes to their flatbreads in the mid 16th Century, sparking the birth of modern pizza. This Neapolitan pizza (pizza napoletana) was generally flavored with a combination of oil, cheese, lard, tallow, tomato, or anchovies. Despite these metamorphoses, purists recognized only two true pizzas: “marinara” and “margherita”. The marinara has toppings of tomato, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, and basil. The margherita is a creation of chef Rafaele Esposito who, in 1889, baked three pizzas for King Umberto I and Queen Margherita di Savoia. One pizza was topped with pork fat, cheese and basil; another was topped with garlic, oil, and tomatoes. The pizza containing Italy’s national colors was the Queen’s favorite: green basil leaves, white mozzarella, and red tomatoes. This creation was named in her honor. From this point in time, pizza exploded in popularity.
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La Vera Pizza Napoletana
Italians take pride in their pizza and have taken steps to preserve its integrity. Specific rules and procedures have been installed to protect the authenticity of Neapolitan pizza. L’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (“The Real Neapolitan Pizza Association”) was founded in 1984. L’AVPN recognizes the Margherita and the Marinara as the ONLY authentic Neapolitan pizzas.
Hand selected Neapolitan pizzerias such as Da Michele, Port’Alba, Sorbillo, Di Matteo, Brandi, Trianon, and Umberto are encouraged to spread the AVPN philosophy. These pizzerias intend to go the extra mile by only using San Marzano tomatoes (from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius), and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (made from the milk of water buffalo raised in Campania). Furthermore, olive oil and tomato sauce must only be applied in a clockwise direction. Making an authentic Neapolitan pizza is no easy task.