Pizza is an extremely popular main dish consisting basically of cheese and tomato sauce on a round crust. Although pizza was originally created and developed in Naples, Italy, it can now be purchased and eaten the world over.
It is true that the basic components of a pizza are cheese, sauce, and a crust, many toppings can be added to a pizza, from pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies, and onions to pineapple and eggplant parmigiana, depending on the region of the world where it is created.
The idea of pizza may date as far back as Ancient Greece. Greeks used to cover their bread with toppings like cheese, herbs, and of course olive oils. The Romans had a dish called placenta (no, no that placenta) which was a thin piece of floury dough with cheese and honey, flavored with bay leaves. However, the earliest relative of the modern pizza came from Naples, Italy, as the pie with tomato–cheese was added in the late nineteenth century.
There is a legend that Kind Ferdinand I disguised himself as a peasant and snuck into an impoverished Neapolitan neighborhood. They say that he craved a taste of delicious local food which his wife had permanently forbidden to made at court–of course, that food was the pizza.
There are many, many different varieties of pizza since the dish has been around for a while and has traveled the world so effectively, picking up new evolutions and variations as it goes. However, in Italy, pizza has become a “guaranteed traditional specialty,” which is sort of an odd distinction to award something as changing and cultural as pizza. That means there are only three official, sanctioned variants of the pizza allowed. These three variants are:
Marinara: This official variant is made with garlic, tomato, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. It is true that most pizza places in Napoli use basil in the marinara as well.
Margherita: This delicious and popular variation use slices of mozzarella, tomato, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
Margherita extra: A further variant on the Margherita, the Margherita extra is made exclusively with fillets of mozzarella from Campania.
As strict as the rules about pizza is in Italy, there are other places in the world where the idea of what can be ‘pizza’ is stretched significantly. A few notable examples are:
Brazilian: In Brazil, pizza started as a novelty brought by Italian immigrants. That novelty has grown considerably, so much so that Sao Paulo calls itself the “Pizza Capital of the World” because of the sheer volume of pizza restaurants and pizzas consumed on a daily basis. Although pizza was originally only to be found in the Italian communities, in the past several decades’ pizza’s popularity has swelled and swept the entire nation. Pizza in Brazil tends to follow the Neapolitan style more than the Roman one.
Indian: Pizza has hit India as well. It is a very popular fast food in that area, and many pizza counters sell what otherwise appears to be conventional pizzas topped with Indian delicacies as a topping, like a lamb roganjosh, fried paneer, and tandoori chicken. The pizzas also tend to be significantly spicier than pizzas served in other parts of the world.
Australian: A pretty significant proportion of the Australian population is of Italian descent, and not surprisingly, pizza is very popular there as well. You can get all the standard versions of class Italian pizza, but also available are the Australian version, which is like a normal pizza except it also has bacon and eggs on it (Australians seem to put bacon and egg on almost anything–for example, on cheeseburgers). You can also sometimes find prawns on this style of pizza.
Pizza has long been a popular food around the world, and it’s only a matter of time before we see what other kinds of an unusual combination of flavors are possible.