Pizza did not originate in Naples, claims food historian

Giuseppe Nocca says church records from the Dark Ages in Gaeta, Lazio, are the earliest reference to the classic Italian dish

Michael Day
Tuesday 10 February 2015 18:40 GMT
The Margherita is regarded as the authentic Naples pizza
The Margherita is regarded as the authentic Naples pizza (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Pizza, the pride and joy of Naples cuisine, actually originated in a town in the neighbouring region of Lazio, a food historian has claimed – to the chagrin of the southern port city.

The earliest use of the word pizza has been found in church records in Gaeta, Lazio, as part of a Dark Ages rent agreement that was written AD997, according to researcher Giuseppe Nocca. The documents declare that 12 pizzas were to be provided to the local bishop on Christmas Day and Easter as part of the payment for use of the land on which a mill had been constructed.

They say that “every year on Christmas Day of the Lord, you and your heirs must pay to us and our successors, by way of rent for the bishop… 12 pizzas, a shoulder [of] pork and a kidney, and likewise 12 pizzas and a couple of chickens in the day of Easter of Resurrection”.

Mr Nocca notes that although the deed was originally written in Latin, the text actually reads “do duodecim pizzas”. Thus the word pizza “can be counted among the first words of Italian vernacular,” he told La Repubblica. He will present the evidence at a conference on Thursday. Naples has many of its own historic tales linked to the world’s favourite food, but they emerged in the following millennium. In 1870, while visiting Naples, Margherita of Savoy, the wife of King Umberto I, was honoured with a pizza with the red, white and green colours (tomato, mozzarella and basil) - adopted as the national flag of the unified Italy.

Since then, Naples has come to see pizza as its own. In 2008, two Naples catering associations, Real Pizza and the Association of Neapolitan Pizza-makers, called on the EU to introduce regulations on what constitutes real “Neapolitan pizza”.

The real Naples margherita pizza should, they said, contain 149.97 calories per 100g and be made with precise amounts of tomato, mozzarella and salt. The rules also specify that it should be cooked in a wood-fired oven at 485C.

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