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An insider's view of Tuscany

Raymond Lamothe Facebook


Homepage > Blog > Blog WHO WANTS PIZZA?

Truth and myth behind one of the world's favorite foods.

I think that pizza is one of those particular categories of food that fits comfortably between a serious meal and street food. What is interesting is the story of its origins going way back in time, and the modifications and developments that have brought it to the present day in all its combinations and variations.

First of all, pizza was invented in Naples and not by the people of Pizza Hut. Originally it was street food and consisted of a piece of rounded and flattened dough that was fried in hot oil and served with a piece of thick paper that absorbed the excess grease. Don’t be surprised, because in Naples, spaghetti, originally called maccheroni, was also served as street food with or without tomato sauce in paper cones, much like fish and chips were served in England and both date back to the same timeframe.

Eventually, pizza was taken over by the bakeries and a new version was proposed that was more like a “focaccia” – same base as pizza, and rather thick but baked and with olive oil and a bit of salt and oregano sprinkled on top. Gradually, all kinds of toppings were added, and pizza actually hit its high point when a pizzeria in Naples produced a special version reflecting the Italian flag with the red of the tomato, the white of the mozzarella cheese and the green of fresh basil on it and dedicated it to Queen Margherita. The margherita is the most basic of pizzas but it too has certain criteria in its production. The true pizza is made with simple mozzarella cheese and not with buffalo mozzarella, which is too strong in taste and kills the other aromas and the basil is added fresh to the cooked pizza to allow the heat to wilt it.

The other toppings now range in the several hundreds, with some that are really rather wild and disgusting. Sorry, but a pizza with peanut butter and pineapple is just not my ideal, although a friend of mine swears by it. Another major difference in pizza philosophy here in Italy depends on geographic locations. Pizzas in the north and center of Italy tend to be larger but much thinner and cooked in a hotter oven for a shorter time than pizzas in southern Italy, where the preference is for a thicker product.

A lot of things have also changed in what was the traditional consumption of pizza in Italy, probably as a result of globalization, with a strong Italo-American contribution playing a role in this.

Pizza was traditionally considered a full meal and consumed with coke or with a beer on Friday or Saturday nights by Italian families and by the younger generations before going to the discos. During the rest of the week, it was mostly ignored until someone came up with the idea of the “pizza al taglio” – which is a variation on the standard pizza format and produced in street side pizzerias that make several large rectangular pizzas with different condiments and you can walk in off the street and buy a square of pizza (a cut slice, hence “taglio” in Italian) and you generally have this as a snack or as lunch.

Pizzerias used to only open up at night and there was a severe dichotomy between restaurants with menus and pizza places. Then, gradually, the two converged and many restaurants also have a pizza section that caters to a younger crowd and to hungry families. But it has only been in the past few years that pizza has started being served by restaurants and pizzerias at lunchtime, and this has also lead to the development of the takeaway pizza or pizza that you can order from home. I realize that any American reading this will feel disbelief, but it is totally true: Americans have had takeaway pizza and home delivery of pizza and Chinese food for many years, while in Italy it is a rather recent phenomenon.

It is probably a positive development to have pizza available at any chosen time, but for a traditional Italian, some of the mystique has been lost.



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