home FOOD AND WINE The History and Secrets of Pizza Explained

The History and Secrets of Pizza Explained

 

THOMAS RICCIOTTI

The major Italian association representing agriculture, Coldiretti, has recently celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Pizza Margherita, in the belief that it was invented in honor of the Italian queen in 1889, when the pizza maker of the Neapolitan pizzeria Brandi was called to the Campodimonte royal palace in Naples where allegedly, using the ovens of the palace, he invented the pizza destined to make history with the colors of the Italian flag.
However, historical research suggests that the Pizza Margherita is far older, as the Neapolitan queen Maria Carolina, the wife of king Ferdinand IV, was reported to be in love with the type of pizza, which she wanted to be prepared with buffalo mozzarella from Carditello. She liked this pizza so much that when the aforementioned royal palace of Campodimonte was built she wanted to include two special ovens in order to prepare it.
The European Commission itself, when recognizing the STG (which stands for Guarantee Traditional Specialty) status of the Neapolitan pizza, reported that the Marinara and the Margherita pizzas were born in Naples, respectively in 1734 and between 1796 and 1810. Thus, Margherita is much older than what Coldiretti believes, and the piazza maker of the Brandi pizzeria in Naples simply homaged the queen with the dish bearing her name and the colors of the Italian flag.
There are still two commonplace assumptions about pizza that should be unmasked: the first one being the origins and the name of the most popular pizza; the second its ingredients, as in the original version there was buffalo mozzarella.
We asked the Neapolitan Antonio, the owner of Accà, one of the pizzerias loved by locals striving to avoid the plethora of commercial pizzas around the city: What’s the secret to making a good pizza, a pizza loved by queens? Antonio uses only the freshest DOP ingredients, which in Italian stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta and translates to Protected Designation of Origin products. This label ensures that the ingredients being used are locally sourced and packaged, and do not come from Tuscany or other parts of Italy. He also shared a few secrets with us on how to recognize a good pizza.
Good pizzas must have a golden, crunchy-looking edge, which means there are no remains of humid paste/dough inside. To prepare a proper pizza and to avoid making it ‘humid,’ the dough needs to be left leaven for some 48 hours and the pizza must be prepared in an oven that has a temperature between 400 and 450 degrees Celsius.
Before tasting the pizza, touch its edge and make sure that it is not chewy and crumbly but crunchy and a little empty inside. In other words, make sure that the crust is not all flour, but has room left for air inside. The second part of the ‘touch’ test is to raise your pizza from its dish and make sure that there are no black spots underneath — the less black spots there are, the better the taste will be. An expert pizzaiolo knows how to roll out without using much dough, which is more difficult to roll, but results in the desired crunchy lightness of a perfect pizza crust.
A good taste means that the pizza is crunchy on its edges and soft but not gummy inside, that is easy and light to digest, which is something that may take some 12 hours to achieve. This digestion test is essential. If the pizza “remains in your stomach for too long,” as Angelo tells us, that means it’s not so good. You should not feel the acidity of the yeast; the sauce should neither be tasteless nor acidic; and the mozzarella “should not bleed too much” but remain consistent, which is why proper pizza should not be made with buffalo mozzarella, even though it’s tastier. Finally, you should have the taste of fresh basil on your palate.
That’s what it takes to make a queen happy.

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