Pizza: a Mediterranean story
The history of pizza begins with the very old idea of dressing flat bread with simple ingredients of various types, such as vegetables, oil, garlic or onion, but also cheese and aromatic herbs. Scholars have identified many ancestors of modern Neapolitan pizza that date back to the most famous civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean.
In Ancient Greece, a flat bread called plakous was very popular, which consisted of a disc of baked dough topped with garlic, herbs, onion and cheese. Curiously, even the worst enemies of the Greeks, the fearsome Persians of Darius the Great, ate a food of the same type, a flat bread flavoured with dates and cheese that they cooked directly on the back of their shields.
Virgil, in his Aeneid, also tells us of an ancestor of pizza when Aeneas and his companions fulfil the prophecy of the Harpies by eating breads covered with cooked vegetables and thus managing to “eat their own tables for hunger”, like the queen of those horrendous creatures had predicted them.
In short, there is no doubt that in many cultures of the ancient Mediterranean the idea of dressing round flat breads with simple and inexpensive ingredients has existed for centuries. In this way, the ancients prepared a nutritious and convenient food that could also be consumed while travelling, on a break from work or even on the battlefield.
The birth of the Neapolitan Pizza
But when and where was pizza invented, in the form in which we can also enjoy it today? To answer these questions about the pizza origin we must go to the Renaissance age and the city of Naples.
When, after the discovery of America, tomatoes began to arrive in Europe it was immediately clear that in some regions overlooking the Mediterranean there was the right climate for this tasty vegetable to thrive. Among these places there was certainly Naples and its territory, then under the dominion of the Spanish colonial power, which very early began to introduce tomato cultivation there and in all the fertile lands of southern Italy.
As early as the sixteenth century, historical documents indicate that a disc of flat bread, called gallette, was widespread in Naples. It was the first ancestor of pizza as we know it today, seasoned with tomato, olive oil, garlic and sometimes anchovies.
It was an unexpensive food, sold on the street, but so appreciated that its variants multiplied dramatically and restaurants specialized in its preparation, called pizzeria, soon opened. We read in a historical document dated 1803 that 54 pizzerias were active in the city of Naples and their number, about fifty years later, had risen to 120.
The history of pizza Margherita
The history of pizza Margherita is linked to an anecdote, which today some historians believe to be false, but which is nevertheless fascinating, concerning the king of Italy Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita.
The royal couple, according to the story that has been handed down, was visiting Naples in 1889 and, tired of the refined dishes offered by the court cook, decided to try pizza, which was then considered a food certainly not worthy of the nobility.
The task of surprising the rulers, it is said, fell to a certain Raffaele Esposito, who worked in a restaurant in the city that still exists today and is currently called Pizzeria Brandi. The pizzaiolo proposed three different types of pizza including one, invented by him, with tomato sauce, mozzarella and a few basil leaves. This last variant, perhaps also due to the reference to the white, red and green of the Italian tricolour flag, particularly liked the queen, who was much loved by the people, and so, since then, that type of pizza took her name.
In this way, a dish of the Neapolitan popular cuisine took the name of a very popular queen and, perhaps for this reason, its fame began to spread even outside the city of Naples.
At the end of the Second World War, then, the allied soldiers, who had arrived in Italy to set it free, knew and appreciated pizza and, returning to their countries, they began to look for the pizzerias already run by Italian emigrants and decreed their enormous success, especially in the US and UK.
The Neapolitan pizza, thus, from being a poor dish, typical of a single city, became a habit for millions of families all over the world.
The tradition and innovation of Zia Lucia
We at Zia Lucia prepare, in Islington, Aldgate East, Hammersmith, Wandsworth and Wembley, a pizza that undoubtedly follows the great Neapolitan tradition, but adds innovations that make this food even more appreciated and contemporary.
In addition to the quality of the ingredients of the base and the topping, the novelty that makes Zia Lucia a unique choice for those who love Italian pizza in London is the care in the preparation of the dough.
Our pizzaioli, in fact, have elaborated four different types of dough: traditional, gluten-free* (aggiungere nota: the flour is gluten free however there might be contamination in the baking process), vegetable charcoal (black pizza!), and wholemeal. Thanks to this variety of choice, each of our customers can be sure of finding the type of pizza that best suits their tastes and needs.
With Zia Lucia you will find in London an authentic pizza with the innovation of four types of doughs. Because, life is too short for only one dough!