Italian food is unique amongst world cuisines in that it has birthed not one, but two international sensations. Of course I’m talking about pasta and pizza. Pizza is one of the most widely eaten foods today. While most people think of pizza in America as Italian food, it really is not like the pizza of authentic Italian food. It is said that with one taste of pizza made in the style of authentic Italian food, you will never go back to the Americanized version. Even when eating at Italian food restaurants it is hard to capture the distinguished taste of true Italian pizza.
Pizza is one Italian food that has been around in one form or another for centuries. It has a long history in the Mediterranean where it began as a seasoned flatbread that was used more as an edible plate to hold other food, rather than as a food by itself. However, these earlier pizzas established a name for Italian food very early on and were eaten in Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon and were emphatically praised by many historians of the day.
It was in the Middle Ages that pizza began to take a form that would be more familiar to Italian food lovers today. Pizza started out being just a dough topped with herbs and olive oil. Once mozzarella cheese began to be produced from Indian Water Buffalo it quickly became a signature aspect of pizza. Today at any true Italian food eatery this fresh mozzarella di buffalo is nonnegotiable. The dried shredded mozzarella that is often associated with Italian food would actually never be used on a pizza made by a true Italian food chef.
It wouldn’t be until the tomato became popular in Italian food in the 18th century that we would see modern pizza. During this time pizza began to take an even more prominent role in Italian food. In Naples pizza was sold on the streets for every meal. This once peasant food was quickly taking hold of all of society, including the upper class. In fact, by 1830 the first ever pizzeria was opened in Naples. Ever since this time pizzerias have been found all over the world converting people to the love of Italian food.
Traditional Italian pizza is cooked in a wood fired oven. The reason American pizza is often not thought of as a true Italian food is because the large restaurant chains that specialize in pizza do not cook it in a wood fired oven. Pizzas featured in Italian food restaurants should use only the freshest ingredients. In Italy pizzas change with the seasons as new ingredients become available. The great thing about pizza that has made it so popular is the fact that it can be topped with a vast array of toppings. Each region of Italy has its own particular style of pizza that they specialize in, making use of the ingredients most readily available to them.
So for real Italian food pizza it is necessary to step out of the confining ideas of just a few types of pizza and open your mind to the different possibilities. Italian food is full of variety and you could literally spend a year in Italy just trying all the different styles of pizza that made Italian food so universally popular.