Pizza is a Neapolitan dish consisting of a usually round, flattened base of leavened wheat-based dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and often various other ingredients (such as mushrooms, olives, meat, etc), which is then baked at a high temperature.
Traditionally, of course, this is in a wood-fired oven.
The term ‘pizza’ was first recorded in the 10th century in a Latin manuscript from the town of Gaeta in Lazio, on the border with Campania – then, still part of the Byzantine Empire.
Pizza’s etymology traces its origins to the Byzantine Greek πίττα (pitta), which comes from either the Ancient Greek πικτή (pikte) or πίσσα (pissa).
READ MORE: Italiote-Greek Cuisine – Taralli.
However, its modern form evolved in Naples around the 18th or early 19th century.
The idea of a flat piece of dough topped with herbs and cheese originates in ancient Greece.
There is historical evidence that the ancient Greeks ate a flatbread called plakous (πλακούς) – which was topped with olive oil, herbs, onion, cheese, and garlic and then baked in a mud oven.
Since Naples was founded as a Greek city, modern pizza may be part of this Greek lineage of flatbread dishes.
Naples was founded about 600 BCE as Neapolis (“New City”), close to the more ancient Palaepolis, which had itself absorbed the name of the siren Parthenope.
Both towns originated as Greek settlements, extensions almost certainly of Greek colonies established during the 7th and 6th centuries BCE on the nearby island of Pithecusa (now Ischia) and at Cumae on the adjacent mainland.
Remarkable Greek ruins may be visited today at this location.
Ancient Neapolis, as British historian Edward Gibbon said:
“long cherished the language and manners of a Grecian colony; and the choice of Virgil had ennobled this elegant retreat, which attracted the lovers of repose and study from the noise, the smoke, and the laborious opulence of Rome.”