Naples is the elegant soul of Italy, the birthplace of pizza and home to many authentic restaurants. Food tours in Naples are a great way to discover the true essence of this fascinating city.
Naples is located in the Campagna region of Italy and was a heavily populated waterfront old town. The local people relied on the sea and the cargo ships that sailed around them. As they were very dependent on the marine industry, they lived as close to the shore as they could.
Due to overcrowding, a lot of workers lived outdoors and needed cheap food that could be prepared quickly, but was also easy to eat. So, because of this, the street sellers began to start selling a kind of flatbread with different toppings of whatever they could get their hands on; such as cheese, tomatoes and garlic.
As the street sellers were selling their flatbreads, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita reached Naples as part of their royal travels in 1889. Legend has it – the king and Queen got really fed up with their cuisine and decided to try the dish that the local people had been talking about i.e. ‘pizza’.
Naples was the Birthplace of Pizza
Then from that day on, Naples was the birthplace of pizza. There have been imitations since, but nothing comes close to an authentic pizza experience in Naples. As any proud Italian will tell you during one of our food tours in Naples.
The royal couple adored the different toppings available. Although the Queen had her favourite, topped with soft mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Her Royal Highness was so enthralled with this savoury pizza; it was named in her honour. Hence Margherita Pizza was born!
The Pizza became a very popular dish in Naples during the 18th century, mainly among the poorer people. The tomatoes they used actually came over from Peru and the locals of Naples were convinced they were deathly poisonous. However, once it had been decided they were rather delicious and tasty, the ‘Pizza Marinara’ came to life, due to the many mariners who ate them at the harbourside.
So, the marinara pizza started off with rather humble beginnings. However, the person to thank for the tomato feast, we know as pizza today is a Neapolitan baker called Raffaele Esposito. Raffaele decided to introduce cheese into the topping around 1889. He topped the pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella (being the three colours of the Italian flag).
We Explore the Birthplace of pizza!
Naples was so popular with this new creation, that pizzerias sprung up on every street corner. All of which would be selling their classic pizza with just the 3 toppings. However, nowadays, pizza in Naples is important stuff with a set of severe rules which the pizza makers have to adhere to. In fact, there is an actual official governing body called the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, that make sure all Neapolitan pizzas are up to scratch.
The pizza makers have to meet certain criteria and use only the finest mozzarella di Bufala, and a certain type of tomato. Also, the dough is not allowed to be stretched more than 0.4 centimetres in thickness, and must only be cooked in wood-fired ovens.
In 1905, the United States opened the very first pizzeria shop, owned by Gennaro Lombardi. His pizza shop was situated in Manhattan, a busy Italian-American neighbourhood. Lombardi’s is still thriving today, although not in the original location, and the restaurant still uses the same oven that was in situ in 1905.
By the 1930s, the pizza business had really grown, as the Italian-Americans started opening pizzerias across New Jersey, and Boston. In 1943, Ike Sewell opened up a pizzeria called Uno’s in Chicago, which started the Chicago-style pizza.
Food Experiences in Naples
The US soldiers who returned back home after World War II, missed the taste of the pizza that they had eaten in Europe. One of these soldiers, Ira Nevin, invented the Baker’s Pride which was a gas-fired pizza oven. This gave retailers an inexpensive way to cook the pizza pies, without the mess of charcoal or wood. Various taverns and restaurants started to sell selling more and more different types of pizzas.
However, in 1958 – the pizza chain opened its doors, including the famous Pizza Hut. Little Caesar’s followed a year later in 1959, Domino’s in 1960, and Papa John’s in 1989. In 2019, Pizza Hut opened more restaurants in a thousand new locations in China.
All around the world, there are different versions of pizza topping. If you enjoy it, then put it on as a topping for pizza. In Japan they love a seafood topping, in Asia, it is cream and bacon. It would appear that every region in the world is experimenting with a different topping creation.