“Hey Mom, they have pizza in Italy too!” American tourist family overheard in Rome
There was no debate or discussion about evening meal, we were in Naples and it had to be pizza, it had to be pizza because Naples is the home of the dough based, tomato topped classic.
Legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy gave her name to the most famous pizza of all on a visit there in 1889.
Tired of French gourmet cooking (as you might well be) she summoned the city’s most famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, and asked him to bake her three pizzas and she would chose her favourite. Like a judge on a cookery TV programme she decided upon the patriotic version, prepared in the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella) and this became the Pizza Margherita.
Everyone in Naples eats pizza, I have never seen so many pizza restaurants in one place, I tried to work out how many pizzas might be eaten here in a single day but I found the number to be so big it was so incalculable that I feared my head might possibly explode.
Interestingly I cannot see that Italy has a National Pizza Day. Maybe, and this is an interesting fact, because in terms of pizza consumption per population Italy is only fifth in the World. A lot of places outside of Naples are clearly bringing the numbers down. Fourth is Germany, third is the UK, second is the USA but first is NORWAY! I can understand that, if I lived in Norway I would eat cheap pizza because Norway is amongst the most expensive places to live in the World.
The USA has a National Pizza Day on February 9th. Over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year, 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias, including Italy at World Showcase at Disney World at EPCOT and around about three hundred and fifty pizza slices are eaten every second. Pepperoni is the most popular pizza at just over one-third of all pies ordered. Not one of my favourites I have to confess.
“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s Amore” (Harry Warren/Jack Brooks)
When I was a boy growing up we didn’t have pizza!
For my Mum preparing food took up a lot of every day because there were no convenience meals and everything had to be prepared from scratch. We had never heard of moussaka, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine. There was complete certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods at all, no pasta or curries and rice was only ever used in puddings.
I can still remember my very first pizza and I consider myself fortunate that it was in Italy, in 1976, my first ever overseas holiday when I visited Sorrento with my dad.
I became an immediate fan of the Italian classic and all of its variants just so long as it doesn’t have pineapple on it. Unless you live in Hawaii pineapple on a pizza is just plain wrong. And, I am not the only one who thinks this way; in February 2017, the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said and he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizzas. In his words…
“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not (unfortunately) have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza.”
Today, authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made only with local produce and have been given the status of a ‘guaranteed traditional speciality’. This allows only three official variants: pizza Marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Pizza should be kept simple but it is not only pineapple that is used to spoil it.
Canada joins in on USA Pizza Day and I nominate this Poutine (fried potato, gravy and cheese curds) Pizza as probably the worst ever variation on the famous pie.
If we had ever had pizza at home and my mum served this up I can guarantee that I would be there twenty-four hours later listening to her repeat over and again – “you are not leaving the table until you have eaten all of your dinner” or, on rare occasions that I could wear her down…” one more mouthful and you can get down” and just to make it clear that didn’t include “I don’t want to eat this shit.”
On this occasion we stumbled upon an excellent pizzaria down a predictable untidy back street and went downstairs into the restaurant. Good job we were early because within half an hour it was heaving with customers. The food was cheap, the house wine was served in a jug and I would like to tell you that I had a classic Margherita but I can’t because I added ham, olives and artichokes to the topping. It was wonderful. So good we made an instant decision that we would return again the following evening.
We walked back through the grubby urban scarred back streets of Naples to our accommodation, our senses and stomachs overflowing full to busting after an excellent first day.
I liked it here. I really liked it here!
What is your favourite pizza, do tell?