As Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre brings food from around the world to the city of Turin, this year the event will also be celebrating a classic from a bit closer to home. 2014 is the 125th birthday of the Margherita pizza, or at least its denomination as such. As any gourmand worth their salt will tell you, pizza has been around in the form of flatbreads with various toppings for thousands of years. However, according to popular history the Margherita was born 125 years ago…
Pizza Margherita began in 1898, at the court of the new Savoy kings of Italy, when Queen Margaret first tried the specialty of the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito. Raffaele’s specialty was a flatbread filled with tomato, mozzarella and basil, which had been popular among the Neapolitan court during the time of the Bourbons. Legend has it that Queen Margaret was so taken with his dish that she gave her name to it. Made with white mozzarella, red tomato and green basil, the Margherita was one of the first dishes that represented a unified Italy.
But pizza didn’t become an overnight sensation. It is only since the second half of the 1900s that the pizza has became a global phenomenon. Before then the idea of street food that was pre-cooked, and made with whatever ingredients were available, didn’t get people’s mouths watering. In fact it was considered to be a health risk.
125 years later, it’s pretty safe to say that pizza has had the last laugh. It has become an international gastronomic superstar in less than 50 years: spurred to success by Italian immigrants in America and returning soldiers from Italy. It is no longer overlooked by top chefs, who have now started to make their own gourmet varieties. At his restaurant Maze, Gordon Ramsey once set the world record for the world’s most expensive and lavish white truffle pizza at £100-a-go. However, recently in Napoli, there has been controversy about whether such gourmet pizzas are even pizzas at all…
The key factor here though is that the humble pizza is versatile, and therefore reinvented in every culture according to differing tastes around the globe. The Italians, for example think the idea of pineapple on a pizza is insanity. While many Americans may be left disappointed when ordering a Pepperoni pizza in Italy, confronted with a topping of peppers instead of the spicy salami they were expecting. Pizza has also revised the stuffy table manners of the English who were forced to admit that eating pizza with your hands, at least in informal situations, is no longer bad manners.
Pizza has now obtained TSG (Traditional Specialties Guaranteed) status from the EU, which legally protects the naming of a product according to its ingredients and methods of production. In 2011, a campaign was launched in Italy to grant pizza UNESCO status, although this was initially rejected, a new campaign has recently been launched which hopes to get UNESCO status for pizza in time for the 2015 EXPO in Milan.
With The Kiln: Bread & Pizza, and the Pizza Piazza, Salone del Gusto 2014 has dedicated a place of honor to the world’s best-known food. Salone will also seek to showcase the delicate alchemy of this simple food and the importance of balancing flours, toppings, and techniques.
Come and grab a slice of the action at Salone, where 125 years after Queen Margaret we will still be trying to satisfy our insatiable desire for pizza!
Find out more about everything else that’s in store at www.salonedelgusto.com