Today (17th January) is World Pizza Day, a global celebration paying homage to one of Italy’s most iconic and beloved culinary creations – pizza.
The roots of pizza go back to ancient times. Only last year, a fresco at Pompeii showed a dish which looks as if it is the precursor to today’s pizza.
The earliest form of the pizza we recognise today emerged in the region of Naples, Italy. In the 18th century, the dish underwent a significant transformation when tomatoes were introduced as a topping, giving birth to the classic Margherita pizza. This simple yet flavourful combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil pays homage to the colours of the Italian flag.
In Italy, pizza is a social experience, bringing friends and families together around the table. The act of sharing a pizza embodies the Italian value of conviviality and reinforces the importance of communal dining in the country’s cultural fabric.
Italian cultural significance
Pizza is more than just a dish; it is a cultural phenomenon that reflects the spirit of Italy. On 7th December 2017, the art of pizza makers made it onto the UNESCO intangible heritage list.
In an interview with ANSA, Franco Manna , entrepreneur and teacher at Federico II in Naples, spoke about the importance of the UNESCO recognition.
“The UNESCO recognition was a moment of strong relaunch because from a simple and poor dish, pizza was also valorised for its cultural historicity: it is one thing to be a popular and good dish, one thing is to recognise its cultural basis strong.
“And the fact that the work of pizza chefs is now recognised as a cultural art by UNESCO was a fundamental step. Then it is obvious that this new trend of contemporary pizza (the one with the most pronounced crust) was a further relaunch.
“In reality it already existed in Naples, but I think having defined it as “contemporary” was an intelligent thing, because it makes the final consumer understand that there has been an evolution of the product. When a proposal is too historicised, static, it risks becoming obsolete. Instead, the fact of having renewed the language, regardless of tastes, whether you like it or not, I think was an intelligent marketing operation”.
Toppings – what do you put on yours?
While the Margherita remains a timeless classic, Italy’s diverse regions have contributed to an incredible array of pizza varieties. From the Neapolitan and Roman styles to Sicilian and Calzone, each region boasts its unique spin on this globally adored dish.
The creativity in pizza-making extends beyond traditional ingredients, with toppings ranging from prosciutto and arugula to truffle oil and seafood, showcasing the versatility of this culinary masterpiece.
The purists, however, throw their hands up in horror at some of the alternative toppings such as pineapple. Others say this is a natural progression for the pizza. As Manna says, if it does not change it will become obsolete.
Over the years, pizza has transcended borders and become a global phenomenon. Its universal appeal has led to countless adaptations and innovations, with each culture adding its unique twist to the traditional recipe.
International variations such as the American-style pepperoni pizza or Japanese okonomiyaki pizza demonstrate the dish’s ability to evolve while maintaining its fundamental allure.
Homage to pizzaiolos
At the heart of every exceptional pizza is the skill of a pizzaiolo – the master pizza maker. World Pizza Day serves as an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the craftsmanship of these artisans who transform simple ingredients into culinary masterpieces.
Their dedication to preserving traditional techniques and pushing the boundaries of creativity has played a pivotal role in elevating pizza to its esteemed status.
Personally, the best pizzas come from my partner’s home village in Rovigo. Watching the care with which they prepare the pizzas is like watching an artist at work. And I have yet to sit at the kitchen table with one of their pizzas and come away disappointed.
What does the future hold for pizzas?
As we celebrate World Pizza Day, it’s fascinating to consider the future of this iconic dish.
The ever-evolving culinary landscape continues to inspire new trends and possibilities in pizza-making. From plant-based alternatives to experimental flavour combinations, continuous innovation is key to pizza’s continuing success, whilst staying true to its cultural roots.
Celebrating World Pizza Day
On World Pizza Day, enthusiasts come together to celebrate this beloved dish. Pizzerias, restaurants, and home kitchens alike participate in the festivities by offering special promotions, discounts, and themed events. Social media platforms buzz with pizza-related hashtags, as people share their favourite pizza memories, recipes, and artistic creations.
World Pizza Day is not just a celebration of a beloved dish; it is a tribute to the cultural heritage, creativity, and global impact of Italian cuisine.