What is a pizza?
Pizza is a very famous dish of Italian origin. Its a round bread topped with various toppings and mozzarella cheese which melts deliciously in the oven. The pizza that we know today has evolved overtime. The evolution of the pizza is so vast that today the pizza that’s available in the market globally is very different from the original pizza from Italy.
The traditional Italian Pizza – Neapolitan Pizza
The traditional Italian Pizza is the Neapolitan pizza, Neapolitan refers to the cuisine of Naples. Pizzaiolo/ pizzaioli refers to the person who cooks pizza. The Italian pizza was cooked in wood fired ovens that had intense heat, as a result the traditional pizza is soft in texture. The traditional Italian pizza is all about the dough as opposed to the modern pizza, which is about the toppings.
The art of the Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ is a culinary practice comprising four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven, involving a rotatory movement by the baker.
The element originates in Naples, the capital of the Campania Region, where about 3,000 Pizzaiuoli now live and perform. The traditional pizza is made by specialised people known as Pizzaiuolo/ Pizzaiuoli (plural).
There are three primary categories of bearers – the Master Pizzaiuolo, the Pizzaiuolo and the baker. The families in Naples also reproduce the art in their own homes.
The traditional pizza is topped with Passata, the sauce/ spread made with tomato, olive oil, red onion, garlic, basil, black pepper and salt. Mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Due to the high heat of the wood oven, the crust balloons and displays the right amount of charred leopardo – leopard-spotting.
The evolution of Pizza
The pizza margherita we’re all familiar with; the one with tomato sauce, fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil did originate in Italy. Specifically, baker Raffaele Esposito from Naples is often given credit for creating the first such pizza pie. Historians note, however, that flatbreads with a variety of toppings had been sold by street vendors and eaten by the poor workers of Naples for many years.
Legend has it that Esposito was called upon to make a pizza for Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita when they visited Naples in 1889. That pizza, which featured fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, is still known as Pizza Margherita today.
Though the margherita is definitively Neapolitan, the cooking of flatbreads dates back to neolithic times. The word itself may derive from pita (or pitta), which means pie in Byzantine Greek, making a nonsense of the American term “pizza pie”. It has been assimilated into countless cuisines.
In Turkey, you can eat lahmacun, flatbread topped with minced lamb and tomatoes; in Nice, pissaladière includes onions and anchovies.
Over the time, the pizza became popular across the globe and each pizzaiolo kneaded the original recipe into a new shape in response to local tastes and available produce.
Roman, Florentine and Sicilian pizzas had different densities of crust. In Argentina, which by 1900 was home to 2m Italians, meat was cheap and abundant, and so found its way into toppings.
It was in America that pizza was adapted most dramatically. According to Daniel Young, author of “Where to Eat Pizza” and a self-confessed pizza obsessive, “The immigrants got it the wrong way round: they made their spaghetti soft and their pizza al dente.”
In Chicago, it was deep pan, piled high with toppings; the New York pizza had a thinner crust and was typically sold by the slice; in Detroit, the toppings were put on before the tomato sauce (which was pre-cooked, unlike the fresh passata used by Neapolitans); in California, they piled on eccentric choices such as barbecued chicken and fresh coriander; a Hawaiian pizza (apparently invented by a Greek-Canadian in Ontario) controversially featured pineapple.
In the decades following the end of the second world war, American pizzas made a bid for global domination through chains such as Pizza Hut, which was founded in 1958 in Kansas and offered low-cost fast food on an industrial scale. Domino’s, born two years later in Michigan, cornered the delivery market. Ready-to-cook pizzas appeared in supermarket fridges and freezers. The fruits of this imperial expansion were not always happy. “In the worst hands,” says Young, “pizza is a salty, fatty, greasy, denatured heap of processed food thickly piled onto rubbery, spongey rafts of absorbing bread substance.”
The quality of the raw materials available, the type of oven used and the choice of toppings added has made varieties of pizza in permutation and combinations. The retail pizza outlets have come up with bizzare toppings such as biryani topped pizza and named it “Birizza”, yet another one made pizza rolled into cone shape and named it conizza. Thus the pizza has evolved in various forms across the globe.