A Slice of History–The Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza

The Italian city of Naples and the Amalfi coastal region are known for their long history of culinary delights–and it’s a serious matter! Pizza is one such product of the Neapolitan culinary tradition. The Neapolitan pizza (pizza Napoletana) is where it all started. Bless you, Naples!

Sure, flatbreads existed before the 1700s, but they weren’t topped with tomatoes–a defining characteristic of pizza. In fact, when explorers brought tomatoes to Europe from Peru in the 16th century, many Europeans believed they were poisonous. That is until poor peasants in Naples began topping their flatbread with tomatoes in the late 18th century. The dish became widely popular, and travelers would even seek out poorer neighborhoods to try this local specialty. But that was just the beginning.

The classic Neapolitan pizza (also called the Margherita pizza) made of red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fragrant basil, and olive oil has its own storied history. The pizzaiolo (regional pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito is generally credited with creating the original Margherita pizza. In 1889, King Umberto I and Margherita of Savoy, the queen consort of Italy, visited Naples. And Esposito made them a pizza named in honor of the queen. The colors of the creation mirrored those of the Italian flag with red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil leaves. Today, this creation is now known as a classic Neapolitan pizza. 

But some historians also note that the toppings were widely available and used in Naples before 1889. And a text from 1849 described a pizza topped with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes arranged in the shape of a flower–and the word margherita literally translates to “daisy.” 

Neapolitan pizza making

Despite the origin story, to be considered an authentic Neapolitan pizza, several specific requirements must be met regarding the ingredients as well as the process. And the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) will only certify pizzerias that meet the proper artisan traditions of authentic Neapolitan pizza–a truly honorable accolade.

At Gygi, we offer several pizza classes so you can learn to make this truly delicious Neapolitan pizza at home–in your home oven or in a pizza oven (we have absolutely fallen in love with our Gozney pizza ovens–so easy and fast!). Check out this amazing recipe and let us help you put homemade pizza night back on the menu.

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