Plenty of nations lay claim to having invented pizza, after all it could be argued it’s simply a flatbread with a topping - a meal popular in the Mediterranean and Middle East dating back thousands of years.
But modern pizza belongs to the Neapolitans, without a doubt. Naples in Southern Italy is where tomatoes were first used on pizza. The fruit arrived in Italy in the mid 16th century but were thought to be poisonous. However, the peasants of Naples were hungry enough to take the risk and slapped a few atop thin doughy bases. And the pizza was born.
It became the go-to food for the poor, working folk. However, such once local noblemen had sampled it, there was no going back for this humble recipe.
Street vendors thrived and soon actual shops opened which specialised in pizza. Naples was, unsurprisingly, where the world’s first ever pizzeria opened in 1830 at the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, where business is still booming.
The world’s most famous pizza flavour – the Margherita was also created in Naples, but has a rather more stately history. In 1889, Italy’s Queen Margherita visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples where she was served a bespoke pizza resembling the three colours of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and (green) basil.
The fact that it is one of the most famous pizza toppings in the world to this day – included as standard on almost every menu – speaks to how it went down with the Queen all those years ago.
Today, pizza is still as popular: the average Brit will eat 731 slices of pizza in their lifetime while in the US an average of 350 slices are sold each second.
And there’s plenty more to know about pizza. Here are a few of our favourite tips, facts and stats:
1. The key to brilliant pizza is a really hot oven. If you don’t have the rather huge budget needed for a pizza oven then try a pizza stone, which just slides into a normal oven and needs to get piping hot before the pizza is placed on it. This one won’t break the bank.
2. Brush the pizza crust with a garlic oil (literally just finely grated garlic mixed in a couple of TBSPs of olive oil) before adding any other topping.
3. Vegan pizza can be delicious. Especially if it includes cashew cheese. We love this recipe by Philipp of Exceedingly Vegan.
4. Anna Jones has a wealth of delicious alternative bases under her belt.
5. If your topping is to include bacon, sausage or chicken cook them to 2/3 of the way done before adding to the pizza. If you don’t you’ll end up with soggy undercooked meat, which is obviously not the one.
6. It definitely pays to be creative with your toppings (just don’t overload the base). Putting pineapple on a pizza is still a divisive move, but we say live at let live. Or should that be eat and let eat?!