IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that according to Italian folklore it was in June 1889 that the world got the Pizza Margherita.
Not that Italians hadn’t been eating a pizza made with similar ingredients before that, but it was then that this pizza got its name that’s stuck for one and a quarter centuries.
King Umberto I and Queen Margherita were touring southern Italy at the time and while staying in Naples the queen, bemoaning the continual serving of rich food at the royal table, directed her chamberlain to go to the best local pizzeria – and to bring their chef back for him to cook her a pizza.
Knowing of Naples’ renowned Raffaele Esposito whose pizzeria had first opened its doors in 1780, the chamberlain brought him to the palace kitchen where Raffaele made two local-favourite pizzas, and one of his own creation, for Queen Margherita to choose between.
She rejected the local favourites as too garlicky or because of their anchovies – but was over-joyed at Raffaele’s own creation using local ingredients patriotically representing the colours of Italy’s flag: green, white and red.
So delighted was Esposito, that he began selling this creation in his pizzeria, naming it after the queen. And to this day a genuine Pizza Margherita can only be one made with durum wheat flour, fresh yeast, water, sea salt, and a topping of the Italian flag’s colours: Oregano (green,) Mozzarella di Bufala from buffalo milk (white,) and San Marzano tomatoes (red,) all drizzled with olive oil.