Pizza is a food that has a diverse range from cheesy, party-purpose takeaway pizzas to classy, traditional woodfire pizzas. Although it is considered an Italian food, the modern pizza could not have been born without America.
The Mediterranean countries have a long history of making flat breads such as focaccia and coca. But one of the most important ingredients in pizza, tomato, was introduced to Europe only in the 16th century from the Americas. However, Europeans thought for some time that the fruit was poisonous and did not use it for cooking purposes. But by the 18th century, the poorer population in Naples, Italy began creating a dish consisting of flat bread with tomato paste, giving birth to the pizza. Pizza was not a luxury food to start with, but rather a poor man’s food as it was simple and cheap to make. There is even a story of how King Ferdinand 1 disguised himself as a commoner to sneak into Naples to indulge in some pizzas – a food banned from the royal court.
Nowadays, it is common to see at least 5 or more toppings on pizza for a rich taste, but the traditional pizza never has more than three toppings (this is still true in Italy). For example, the two main types of pizza considered as the “true pizzas” by Neapolitans, are: the marinara pizza (tomato, garlic, oregano and sometimes basil) and the Margherita pizza (tomato, mozzarella, basil). The story behind the Margherita pizza is that it was served to the Queen Margherita of Savoy (Queen of Italy at the time), thus the name. The pizza represented the Italian flag by using three ingredients: red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese and green basil. As the Kingdom of Italy had only been formed a couple decades before this, the pizza was highly symbolic (Italy was very passionate about its flag to promote the unification of the various regions after the Kingdom formed). Today the two pizzas are the most popular pizzas in Italy and are officially protected products as “traditional Italian foods”.
The current record for the largest pizza was a pizza made in Johannesburg, South Africa, that had a diameter of 37.4 metres and made of 500kg of flour, 800kg of cheese and 900kg of tomato puree.