Here we go again with another Pizza Margherita Day. That’s right, today is (sort of) the 129th birthday of the Pizza Margherita. That’s the fancy looking pie that has milky fresh mozzarella, vibrant crushed tomato, and punches of fresh basil leaf. I found out about it a few years ago when I noticed the date on a famous letter allegedly written by Gali Camillo, Head of Kitchen Staff for Queen Margherita of Savoy, royal consort to King Umberto I. The date was June 11, 1889 and it excited me because I love pizza and I love parties, so knowing the date on an extremely important piece of pizza history seemed like a dream. This was a real concrete date I could celebrate EVERY SINGLE YEAR! Apparently I wasn’t the only one who cared about this date, because it turned out plenty of people had mentioned it in various blog posts and articles.
The legend of the pizza Margherita holds that Margherita of Savoy visited Naples and wanted to eat like the peasants, so she ordered a local pizzaiolo to make the dish and he crafted one representing the colors of the Italian flag. White mozzarella, red tomato, and green basil. Wonderful. She loved it, so he named it after her. There are plenty of flourishes to the story, but I’m not dealing with those today. If you look back at my blog on June 11 every year for the past 8 or so, there’s always a retelling of the pizza Margherita story and it’s ALWAYS CHANGING!
As it turns out, the famous letter (still hanging at the pizzeria that claims to have been the setting for the event, Pizzeria Brandi) is most likely a fraud. For the full account, check out my last post or read the FULL piece by Zachary Nowak, who made the discovery after some serious research.
But we’ve got to move on to a new piece of evidence that makes the story even more interesting. And this evidence isn’t really new, it’s actually about 138 years old, but it’s new to me. The article below from the Washington Post describes a visit Queen Margherita made to Naples in 1880 in which she ate pizza. The article explain what pizza is and even describes the queen’s desire to “eat like the poor people.” Check it out….
According to this actual newspaper article, Queen Margherita took her son out for pizza, selected 8 pies from a list of 35, and found them to me excellent. Here’s what’s most interesting about the whole deal.
1. The myth has been that only three pizzas were made for the Queen.
2. This is the first I’ve seen mention of the queen’s son sharing the pizza.
3. The article predates the famous letter by 9 years.
Here are my thoughts in brief.
1. Could it be that their either was no thank you note or that the original was lost and the replacement was mis-dated?
2. Could it be that the queen really loved her pizza and tried it on multiple visits, with the 1889 visit being the one that resulted in the Pizza Margherita?
3. Am I just over thinking this for no reason?
You decide. The bottom line is that all stories use this event to show the monarchy’s care for the poor and desire to associate with them. This was very important at the time, when the country had recently unified and was only starting its long path to a real cultural unification that continues to this day.