Is Today Pizza’s Birthday?

Just 126 years ago, a letter was penned by Galli Camillo, the head of the kitchen to the monarchy of Italy. It thanks a pizzaiolo named Raffaele Esposito for making “three kinds of pizza for her majesty the queen.” As legend goes, this royal pizza party culminated with a proclamation by the queen that her favorite was the one with mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Today we call this topping combo Pizza Margherita, named for Queen Margherita of Savoy. Sometimes people say the pizza was designed as a symbol of patriotism, as it’s made of the three colors of the Italian flag. 

In reality, the letter specifies nothing about the Italian flag. There’s no mention of her having a favorite pizza. In fact, the combination of tomato and cheese goes back to at least 1835, when it’s mentioned in a journal by author Alexandre Dumas. There’s actually a great article in Food, Culture & Society by a scholar named Zachary Nowak that destroys the letter’s claim of authenticity by pointing out inconsistencies with the royal crest and Camillo’s signature. It’s a great read!

Is today the 126th anniversary of pizza as we know it? Is it event the anniversary of the Pizza Margherita? Does it really matter? Just go out, eat a pizza, and celebrate.


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