Few Countries have their national identity so closely connected to a national recipe as Italy does. Italians abroad know it all too well: as soon as their nationality is discussed with someone for the first time, the subject of pizza is going to come up. From recommendations on the best local pizzerias to our opinion on popular franchises, from the age-old debates on deep-dish and pineapple, to claims that the best pizza is to be had in Chicago, Hanoi or Beijing. Pizza is the acknowledged international ambassador for Italian identity. Italy’s history, culture and traditions have influenced the Country’s most popular recipe, making it a recognisable brand and a symbol of the Italian character. If you are planning on showing off your knowledge of our national treasure on your next business trip to Italy, you might want to brush up on these 5 little-known facts about pizza.
1. It is expressly forbidden to use a rolling pin to make pizza
Pizza-making is an art, but it is also a science with precise rules, laid out and policed by several officially recognised schools and associations. One such rule is the blanket ban on the use of rolling pins to shape the dough, which has to be flattened and pulled by hand, starting from the centre and moving outwards towards the edge. This process pushes the air outwards. As the air bubbles expand in the oven, the crust becomes thick, fluffy and crunchy at the same time.
2. International success and the Pizza Effect
The first authentic Italian pizzeria outside of Italy was opened as early as 1905 in New York by Gennaro Lombardi, an Italian immigrant. Back then the famous Margherita was but a recent invention and pizza was not nearly as popular in Italy as you might imagine. In fact, much of its early success was due to the booming popularity it enjoyed in the USA, where large cities and more diverse eating habits made it easier for the new product to establish itself. To this day, sociologists use the expression “pizza effect” to describe something or someone that becomes successful abroad sooner than in their Country of origin. Other popular phenomena that underwent the “pizza effect” are Yoga, Japanese Teppanyaki and Chicken Tikka Masala.
3. The most expensive pizza in history
In order to decide which pizza was the most expensive in history, we need to define what expensive means. If we are talking about traditional currency, the winner so far is the Louis XIII pizza created by Renato Viola, one of the most renowned pizzaioli in the world. His unique dough raised for three days and the topping features – among other things – several rare types of caviar, lobster and prawns. The Louis XIII is to be accompanied with champagne and it will add a whopping 8.300€ to your bill. The highest individual amount ever paid for a pizza, however, was paid in 2009 by computer programmer Laszlo Hanyecz, who used bitcoin to order the delivery of two pizzas and paid 10.000 bitcoin, which is the current equivalent of 3 million Euro.
4. Google wanted to deliver your pizza before it was Google
Remember the 90s? Remember fax machines? Remember Google not existing? The Search Engine we all love to hate was created in 1998 by Sergey Brin, an entrepreneur whose first business idea was creating a pizza-delivery service based on fax-machines. Apparently, the few customers who tried it could not be made to stick to their original decisions and the whole enterprise was a complete failure. And that’s when Brin decided to give it another go, just to prove he could be good at creating useful services that simplified people’s lives after all. Interestingly enough, a not dissimilar service to Brin’s original idea was launched by Pizza Hut in their Santa Cruz establishment in 1994, allowing customers to order pizzas online. That happened to be the world’s first functioning example of e-commerce.
5. Margherita was a queen
In the late XIX century, King Umberto I and his wife Margherita visited Naples. Italy as a Country was not even 30 years old, but patriotic feelings were already taking hold of the populations of the South, despite the troubled events that had resulted in the union of different kingdoms. Royalty was popular in Naples and, upon hearing that a royal visit was to take place, Raffaele Esposito and his wife Rosa, who owned a pizzeria in the city centre, designed a special pizza with the brand new national colours to welcome the king and his wife. They created what was to be the most iconic pizza topping in history using only tomato, mozzarella and basil.