The history of the Neapolitan pizza
In the late 18th century Naples the beginnings of what we now know of as pizza was created. At the time, Naples was one of the largest cities in Europe, and much of the population was suffering from poverty. The poorest in the city were often referred to as the ‘Lazzaroni people’ due to their dishevelled appearance which resembled Lazarus. The Lazzaroni were always in need of food which was cheap and easy to eat and would fill them up. That is where the creation of the pizza began.
Pizzas were sold by street food vendors who carried huge boxes of pizza under their arm, cutting it to the size and need of the customer’s budget and appetite. The simplest and cheapest pizzas were topped with just some lard, garlic, and salt. Others were known to be topped with a horse’s milk called caciocavallo, whitebait called cecenielli or basil. At the time some even had tomato on top, although this was a very new ingredient introduced from the Americas and therefore still quite unknown in Italy. It is the lack of popularity for tomatoes at the time which made them cheap and appealing for the Lazzaroni people.
For many years the pizza was looked down upon, due to the context surrounding its origins. This was until Queen Margherita on a trip to Naples took a liking to a pizza topped with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Thus, the pizza Margherita was christened in her honour. This approval from the queen transformed the reputation of the pizza, into the much loved national Italian dish we now know of today.