Pizza is undoubtedly one of the most well-known, celebrated and loved food in the world. This simple flat bread with tomato and cheese on top can actually be more than that – from a fancy lunch to a fulfilling snack, or just the perfect match for a movie night among friends. What is more is that now pizza is officially a candidate as Unesco’s prestigious cultural heritage.
The decision was in fact taken by the National Commissions last March, and it aims to recognize the authenticity of the real Neapolitan pizza. This, indeed, has been “threatened” by many foreign and exaggerated versions (like the New York style pizza, the teriyaki chicken or the kebab one), while, according to Italians, the most delicious pizza is also the simplest one.
The initiative was largely boosted by a petition that collected over 850,000 online signatures all over the world. The campaign started out from Italy by using the hashtag #PizzaUnesco, and soon it spread overseas getting support from China, Japan, Iceland, South America and Saudi Arabia. It was also widely promoted by the restaurant Rosso Pomodoro, open in London in different locations. This idea has been supported also by many Italian famous artist, like the film director Gabriele Muccino and the comedians Ficarra and Picone, but also by international stars Amy Stewart, Gilberto Gil and Kelly Lang, a.k.a Brooke from the TV series Beautiful.
Pizza is anyway a fundamental part of the italian cultural identity. The way of making a traditional Neapolitan pizza is in fact a craft, a “proper for of art” (as many Italians call it), which has been passed on from several generations. According to the Association of the Real Neapolitan Pizza, a real Neapolitan pizza must be no more than 35cm wide and its crust up to 2cm thick, and, of course, it has to be cooked in a wooden oven.
Even if it may seem that Italians are too much obsessed with their food, pizza has a real deep link to the culture and history of Italy.
Its origin goes back to the second half of the eighteenth century – or at least, that is when the pizza that we know today originated (the one with mozzarella cheese and tomato).
The story of pizza is anyway very uncertain and complex to track; however, it is certain that the first Margherita pizza was cooked in 1889 by baker Raffaele Esposito. He made three different pizzas in honour of the visit of King Umberto and Queen Margherita of Savoy. One in particular attracted the attention of the Queen, as its colours recalled those of the Italian flag – the red of tomatoes, green of the basil leaves and the white of the mozzarella cheese. For this reason, that pizza was called after Margherita.
It is not the first time that food is being recognized as Unesco’s cultural heritage, though.