These days we take the pizza for granted, but how often do we reflect upon this tasty and nutritional meal and consider where and when it first came into being?
As a basic seasoned flatbread the pizza’s origins could arguably be traced back to several Mediterranean cultures. The Greeks and the Phoenicians would cook theirs by placing it onto a hot stone and seasoning it with herbs. The Greeks called this plankuntos and it perhaps more resembled focaccia than a modern-day pizza.
Some believe the word “pizza” to have derived from the Latin pinsa, meaning “flat bread”. Archaeologists are even said to have discovered a preserved a Bronze Age version of the dish in the region of Veneto.
Mozzarella cheese came to be added to the dish with the introduction to Italy of the Indian Water Buffalo. The richness of the cheese that was produced from buffaloes’ milk enables producers to use less of it to the same effect. It is also generally higher in protein and minerals than the more traditional cows’ milk. Mozzarella di bufala remains to this day a favoured ingredient for aficionados.
The remaining essential ingredient of the modern pizza is of course the tomato. This was brought to Europe from the Americas in the sixteenth century and was originally thought to be poisonous!
Whatever the origins of the seasoned flatbread which constitutes the pizza base – and variants have been found to have existed in Persia, Palestine and further into Asia as well in Greece and Phoenicia (and obviously Italy) – that of the modern Margherita is not in any doubt. The baker Raffaele Esposito worked at a pizzeria which was established in 1880 and still operates under the name “Pizzeria Brandi”. In 1889 he baked a pizza that evoked the three colours of the Italian flag – basil (green), mozzarella cheese (white) and tomatoes (red) for the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen liked the pizza so much that it was named in her honour.
Today in our popular Clapham takeaway and restaurant we continue the proud Italian tradition of good nutritious toppings on a light seasoned base, although now of course there are many more options available to our customers. We like to think the Eco Restaurant, Clapham has found its own little place in history.