Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pizza Margherita

Nook of Naples: When your Christmas shopping if half over, it's always good to stop for a hearty lunch. And what better place than where pizza itself was invented?

BRANDI Pizzeria purports to be the oldest pizzeria in Naples (and the world), established in 1780. It is also home to the once famous 'Pietro the Pizzamaker' or Raffaele Esposito who made pizza famous throughout the world by creating the Pizza Margherita.

Although versions of pizza existed in the ancient world -- notably adding toppings to different kinds of 'pita' bread -- pizza as we know it first became common among the peasants of Naples. By the 17th century, tourists visited the poor section of the city just to sample the new creation.

According to pizza legend, the Neopolitan piazzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito received a visit from an employee of the royal household who invited him to prepare pizza for the Royal Family at Capodimonte. Raffaele accepted the challenge and when he cooked the meal, he topped a pizza with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil to create a pie with the colors of the Italian flag. He presented this special dish to King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita when they visited Naples in 1889. The 'Margherita Pizza' was thus born and remains the most popular pizza here today.

The restaurant Brandi has, among other things, kept the letter written by the Royal Palace on 11 June 1889:

The Royal Household of His Majesty

Dear Mr. Raffaele Esposito (Brandi)
I would like to officially state that the three varieties of pizza prepared by you for Her Majesty the Queen were found to be excellent.

Humblest regards.

Camillo Galli
Head of Table Service of the Royal Household

Now THAT's a letter which might make a die-hard foodie want the monarchy to come back!

Getting There: Salita S. Anna di Palazzo, 1/2 -- 80132 Napoli. Easy to find, if you are standing next to Bar Gambrius in the Piazza Trieste e Trento, you walk up the small street and you will see the signs.

La Cucina Napoletana: From the book Cucina Napoletano by Roberta Avallone here is the secret recipe:

Pizza Margherita
Mash 1 cup of peeled tomatoes with a fork.
Drain two balls of mozzarella and cut into thin strips.
Distribute the tomato, a little salt, and the mozzarella onto the pizza dough.
Sprinkle with oregano and season with a thread of olive oil.
Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.
Serve hot and decorate with two or three basil leaves in the middle.


Diana and "Guido" said...

My home is in Santa Domenica Talao, above Scalea
(where all of Naples decends in August)...I have noted more than once that the pizza made here is not considered real pizza by the those from Napoli. Jeez, I would hate to see them taste some from the US.

I will add your blog to my list of Southern Italian blogs on my site. (I was sad that mine was not on yours...sniff).

Barbara Zaragoza said...

Hi Diana and Guido!

Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for letting me know about your wonderful blog (which is on my list NOW.)

Yes, there are pizza snobs everywhere in Naples. But have you tried their Philadelphia Cheesesteaks or the Neapolitan rendition of a Double-decker hamburger? Blech. :)

Diana and "Guido" said...

Ha! No, not yet! Thanks for the link. See you in Naples or stop on your way down south next time--but please not in August (insert smiley face)