That’s Amore

So why is the pizza pie such a national symbol?

When you think of Italy, you think of pizza. And there’s a reason for that.

Walk the streets of Urbino and you see a Ristorante Pizzeria everywhere you look, or at least a restaurant that serves high quality pizza.  Step inside a restaurant like the Ragno d’Oro or the Terrazza  del Duca, at the highest and lowest points of the town, and you’ll see the chefs cooking their pizzas in classic wood-fired brick ovens.

It’s unclear whether pizza originated in Italy, but Italy is where pizza first became popular. And dedicated Italian pizza makers like to keep it one of Italy’s symbols.

Pizza came from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions as a cheap food that poorer people could buy.  It was not considered a household recipe.

But the first pizza to resemble the dish we eat today came from Italy.  Biagietti Adriana, manager of the Ragno S’Ore Ristorante Pizzeria in Urbino, tells the story.

Loris Dratziiplaes

Loris Dratziiplaes puts a pizza in thge wood-fired oven.

It was in 1889 that a Neapolitan chef named Raffaele Esposito baked three different kinds of pizza to honor Margherita of Savoy, the queen of a newly unified Italy.  One of the pizzas was made to represent the three colors of Italy, so it was garnished with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

“The queen wanted a pizza,” Adriana explained.

The queen liked the dish so much that Esposito named it in her honor, hence the pizza Margherita. Since its inception, it has become the most famous pizza to come out of Italy.

North America was introduced to pizza when Italian immigrants came over in the early 1900s, with the first pizzerias appearing in New York City in 1905.  But it wasn’t until the Great Depression, and during the years of scrimping on the home front during World War II, that the pizza industry boomed. As it was in the beginning, pizza was cheap.

Since then, pizzas have developed the wide varieties that can be found across the world.

Pizza for take away

Pizzas are prepared for take away customers.

In Italy, the pizza Margherita is still served today.  But that hasn’t stopped pizza makers from experimenting with toppings and the crafting of pizza. such as Loris Dratzii, who uses the chance to create pizzas as a way of expressing himself.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a hobby,” says Loris Dratzii, a man who has worked at the Terrazza del Duca in Urbino for three years. “It allows me to create new pizzas, and in a way, create myself.”

Dratzii can make a pizza in less than 10 minutes, like most pizza chefs in Italy.  The dough is usually pre-made before the evening rush, so when customers arrive it’s just a matter of applying the sauce, toppings, and cheese and throwing it into a wood stove for a few minutes.

It’s not just a job, it’s a hobby. It allows me to create new pizzas, and in a way, create myself.

Adrianna says it takes more than just assembling the pizza to make a good one.

“It’s cheap, it’s easy to make, so that’s why I think everybody can do it,” Adrianna said.  “But the man who makes the pizza must also be good at what he does.  That makes a good pizza.”

He says it’s important to use good ingredients.

But it’s more than just the ingredients, said Curzi Carducci, a waiter at Terrazza del Duca.

“Passion makes a good pizza, he said. “You have to love what you make.”

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About Jeff Medhurst

Urbino challenged me in ways I couldn’t have expected. Not only did I have to combat a language barrier, I also found myself for the first time in a different culture with a different way of life. If there is one thing I’m taking away from all this, it’s a new appreciation for the challenges international journalists face every day, and a desire to do it all again.