I think we just don’t get Italian pizza. One summer when my friend Luca from Perugia stayed with us he was severely traumatized by an American pizza. He went so far as to say “it frightened” him. Overloaded, over indulged, American pizzas are far from the true interpretation of the Italian pizza; thin crust, simple toppings, fresh ingredients.
The classic version of the Italian pizza was first created in Naples in 1889 for Queen
Margherita of Italy. A pizza was made in honor of the Queen’s visit with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil (representing the colors of the Italian flag; red-white-green). The mozzarella cheese was made from buffalo’s milk which had never been used to make a pizza before. The Queen was pleased and the pizza was named Pizza Margherita in her honor.
Up to that point, pizza had been considered peasant food and could not be made in the royal ovens. But Queen Margherita loved food and was not to be denied, after all why should the peasants have all the good food to themselves. She wanted to eat in the common way as evidenced by this catchy little rhyme my cousin Lidia made me memorize on my first trip to Italy ” la regina Margherita mangava un pollo con ditta” translated loosely to mean even the Queen eats (chicken) with her fingers so relax . . enjoy Italy and its food!
Try to find an authentic Italian pizzeria for a Pizza Margherita. In Italy neighborhood pizzaioli (pizza makers) follow strict guidelines for ingredients, making dough and cooking. The dough must be kneaded by hand or mixers which do not cause the dough to overheat and the dough must be punched down and shaped by hand. Only wood-burning, bell-shaped brick ovens are used to cook the pizza on the surface of the oven (often made of volcanic stone) and not in any pan or container, with oven temperatures reaching at least 400-430° C (750-800° F). These ovens often have to heat up for hours before the first pizza is cooked. My friend Luca says that if a pizza takes longer than 10 minutes it’s not a true Italian pizza!