Margherita Pizza

The Hygge of Italian cuisine centers around family, food and old fashioned fun… it’s the pizza party! The making and eating of pizza is a group social activity all over the world. The pizza itself is made fresh with the hands of the pizza chef or Pizzaiolo/Pizzaioli, the ingredients arranged with respect for traditional artistic placement of tomatoes, cheese,  olive oil and basil. The first pizza was probably white with just and oil and cheese on top of the crust, but Columbus brought back tomatoes from the new world and the rest is love for this wonderful food. Let’s explore the history of the Margherita pizza which comes from the area of Naples, Italy.

The Italian unification bringing together the city states into the Kingdom of Italy, or the Risorgimento was promoted under the King Umberto I who was married to Queen Margherita of Savoy. Margherita was a popular Queen Consort and so she suggested a tour of the cities during the unification campaign in 1889. In advance of the King and Queen traveling to Naples the Queen requested traditional Italian food and asked the Chef for pizza. Chef Raffaele Esposito  arranged for a special meal in honor of the unification and made a marvelous pizza with the toppings of tomato (red) mozzarella ( white) and basil ( green) to reflect and honor the colors of Unified Italy! Chef named it Margherita Pizza which continues to this day in any country where those toppings and style market a Margherita pizza. It’s only fair to say many towns, villages mountain peaks and art museums where also named for the Queen… not so much for her husband as Umberto was assassinated in 1900. They managed to produce a son and heirs who carried on the royal government until the Italian Republic was formed in 1946.

In Italy… An interview with Gina…

I could smell “home” but where was it coming from?  Although I was just aimlessly walking around Rome’s back streets after touring the Vatican, there it was, less than fifty feet away a pizza storefront!  It smelled just like my mother’s made from scratch Neapolitan heritage pizza!  Using my broken Italian, somehow, I was able to order a Margherita pizza and a drink.  Excitedly I walked to the counter to get the treats.  To my surprise, the large paper plate held a generous square piece of pizza which the counter person weighed.  He told me the grams, as the pie was sold by weight, and added the beverage and gave me total Lire cost.  Biting the crisp crust was so reminiscent of my mother’s pie.  However, the mozzarella seemed milkier and just stretched around my mouth swirling around the delectable sauce with tomato chunks perfectly seasoned with fresh basil.  The crust, airy like clouds.  Blowing to cool the sizzling hot square, a definite must before taking the initial heavenly bite.  The savory morsel conjectured visions of ancestors luxuriously reclining on their patrician eating furniture in the atriums of their Pompeiian homes.  What a fabulous way to “break bread” with friends—a delectable/delicious over the top upgrade truly fit for the ancient Roman Senate and People, SPQR.  

In America… Margherita Pizza in New Jersey…

Much to my surprise my dear cousin, Ernest Trunzo was starting his career as a Pizzaiolo in our home state of New Jersey. I was returning from living in L.A. California craving a pizza and hoagie that tasted more like home. He made the Marguerita pizza better than any I have tasted around the world. “Ernie” was loved by all and generous as the owner of an Italian hoagie/pizza shop because anyone who needed or wanted great food could find it. We teased him that maybe he would allow Sophia Loren to be his pizzaiola near his ovens but he did it his way and mostly by himself. Raising my glass of Chianti, Ernie, forever in our hearts and loved dearly by all passed last year may he rest in peace. I dedicate this blog to Ernest E. Trunzo as one spectacular human being.