Margherita, pizza of Queens

Margherita, pizza of Queens.


ot many know that ‘Margherita’, the queen of pizzas, probably takes its name from a real one: Margherita of Savoy. Could it be true? Well, it’s certainly enough to arouse curiosity and start a little investigation, deepening the knowledge of the most famous Neapolitan specialty. Let’s study its history and its recipe. Let’s find the most traditional pizzeria to eat it.

Margherita, pizza of Queens.

The official story …

Pulcinella makes the 'Margherita' pizza.


aples, June 1889: the cook Raffaele Esposito was commissioned to make some pizzas for King Umberto I of Savoy and Queen Margherita visiting the city. The royal couple enjoyed one in particular, seasoned just with tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. When asked for the name of this delicacy, Raffaele had no hesitation: the great love for his Queen and a certain amount of cunning made him say “Margherita!”. The most famous Neapolitan pizza was born, at least officially. Many claim there is even a document certifying what happened, signed by Camillo Galli, Royal House Representative.

… a different story.

Pizza Margherita.


lthough this story is the most widely known, it’s important to consider some theories that could change the birth date of Margherita pizza. First of all, according to some historians, this specialty does not take its name from the famous Italian queen, but from a particular arrangement of mozzarella cheese on the dough, an arrangement that makes it look like a daisy flower, whose Italian translation is, what a coincidence, ‘margherita’. Other historians are quite sure that the first queen to enjoy this kind of pizza was not Margherita of Savoy but, nearly a century before, Maria Carolina of Austria, wife of Ferdinand of Bourbon, King of Naples. It’s possible that she tasted it for the first time during a party organized by her husband at the Capodimonte Royal Palace.

Studying the origins of food is like traveling in time: it makes possible to know better some of the greatest personalities of the past. Finding out what they ate, they become ‘more human’ and thus closer to us.

The Queens of pizza (img-04, img-01)

Margherita: the ‘true Neapolitan pizza’.


n February 2010, the European Union assigned the STG (Specialità Tradizionale Garantita) label to Neapolitan pizza. This label certifies compliance with specific policy and thus guarantees the quality of the product.

Margherita pizza. Margherita pizza.

Here follow some of the most important parts of the policy document:

The ‘true Neapolitan pizza’ is defined as a:

“Food preparation, consisting in a base of dough, seasoned and baked in a wood oven”

The set of rules specifies, for example:
The method to make the dough (including its leavening).
The method to shape the dough, the ‘formatura’: this must be performed by hand, it’s not possible to use a rolling pin or any other mechanical tool.
The cooking procedure. This even includes the explanation of how a pizzaiolo should use the paddle to turn the pizza in the oven.

The result should consist in:

A yeasted flatbread, round-shaped, with a diameter no greater than 35 centimeters and a puffed up crust.

Only these ingredients can be used:

Ingredients for the dough:
Wheat flour;
Brewer’s yeast;
Natural water;
Sea salt or table salt;

Ingredients for the seasoning:
Peeled tomatoes and/or fresh ‘pomodorini’ (cherry tomatoes);
Extra virgin olive oil;
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP;
Mozzarella STG;
Fiordilatte DOP;

Given these ingredients, just two types of pizza can be considered ‘true Neapolitan pizzas’:
The ‘Margherita’: seasoned with tomato, mozzarella cheese, extra virgin olive oil and basil;
The ‘Marinara’: seasoned with tomato, garlic, oil and oregano;

Margherita pizza, detail.

The Bourbons love pizza.

Ferdinand of Bourbon (img-05)


n Naples, well before the Savoy, another great royal family, the Bourbons, enjoyed pizza very much. King Ferdinand of Bourbon had such a passion for it to order the construction of a pizza oven at the Capodimonte Royal Palace.
The famous Neapolitan writer Salvatore Di Giacomo tells us about a party in which the Queen, Maria Carolina of Austria, together with her court ladies, ate some pizzas cooked using the King’s oven (*1):

“Being Ferdinand on a holiday in Capodimonte … The oven was built in the woods surrounding the Palace … The pizzas were ready at midnight: the Queen arrived a few minutes later, with four or five court ladies. Some other people arrived: Don Domenico counted twenty of them.

The Queen and her ladies enjoyed the pizzas, they all looked very happy. The servants poured the white wine and offered some oranges.
The dances at the Palace started and the vision faded.” (S. Di Giacomo)

*1: Visiting the Capodimonte Royal Palace in Naples, it’s still possible to see this wood oven.

Capodimonte Royal Palace (img-03)

The Queens of pizza: Margherita of Savoy.

Margherita of Savoy (img-01)


argherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy was born in Turin in 1851, daughter of Ferdinand of Savoy and Elisabeth of Saxony. During her childhood she received a strong Catholic education: this probably explains her great religiosity and the conservative political attitude.
In 1868 she married Prince Umberto of Savoy. During the period between 1869 and 1870, the couple lived in Naples, most probably to improve the relations with its people, still very attached to the previous ruling dynasty, the Bourbons. In this city, Margherita gave birth to her first and only child.

Umberto I of Savoy (img-06)

In 1878 Umberto was crowned and she became the first Queen of Italy (*1). Great was her influence on the husband’s decisions, even if, at least officially, her role was limited to organizing public events. Thanks to her regal aspect and great communication skills she was deeply loved by her subjects, despite her reactionary political views.
After the death of Umberto, killed by an anarchist, her son became King as Vittorio Emanuele III. Fervent nationalist, she supported the advent of fascism, considered the only effective defense against the rise of the Bolsheviks, a huge menace to the monarchy.
Margherita died in Bordighera in 1926.

*1: The wife of Vittorio Emanuele II, first King of Italy, died before the unification of the country.

The Queens of pizza: Maria Carolina of Austria.

Maria Carolina of Austria ©:2


aria Carolina was born in Vienna in 1752, daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria and elder sister of the famous Marie Antoinette.
When she was just sixteen, she moved to Naples to marry King Ferdinand of Bourbon. Very soon she proved to be much smarter than her husband, unfit for his role and became the de facto ruler of the realm. Initially influenced by the ideals of Illuminism, she guided the country as an ‘enlightened monarch’, renewing the economy and working with many of the most important intellectuals. She even approved several laws in favor of women.
Everything changed when, during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette was beheaded: her progressive political attitude died together with her sister.
When Napoleon’s army invaded the Italian peninsula, Maria Carolina was forced to seek refuge in Sicily, under the protection of the British soldiers. At the end of the French domination, she could not go back to Naples: the same British authorities she was allied with forced her to renounce to the throne and to move to Vienna, where she died years later at the age of 62.

Margherita pizza.

De Crescenzo about fast food and pizza (img-07)

Where to eat the original margherita pizza.

Where to eat the original margherita pizza.


ere follows a short list of some of the most traditional Neapolitan pizzerias: the right places to taste a delicious Margherita pizza, prepared following the original recipe.
Pizzeria Brandi
Salita S. Anna di Palazzo 1/2, 80132 Napoli;
Official website
Pizzeria Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1, 80139 Napoli;
Official website
Pizzeria Da Michele
Via Pietro Colletta, 44/46, 80139 Napoli;
Official website

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How to.

How margherita pizza is made.


t’s not so easy to make the true Margherita pizza. The ingredients have to be fresh and of great quality. The ‘pizzaiolo’ has to be very good to work the dough and to follow the cooking. A particular type of wood oven is needed.
Here follows a video showing the procedure:

Mozzarella for margherita pizza.


he quality of mozzarella is fundamental to make the original Margherita pizza. Only a few types can be used:
Mozzarella STG;
Fiordilatte DOP;
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP.

The pizza song.

A song dedicated to pizza is probably the best choice to accompany the reading of this article:

Note: join Spotify and listen to the full song.

The pizza oven.


particular type of wood oven must be used to cook the original Margherita pizza. It looks very much like an ice igloo. The roof of its internal chamber, the ‘volta’, is entirely coated with refractory material to keep the heat. The cooking surface (‘piano di cottura’) is made with the same material. The fire is generally put out very rarely. The oven has a small arc-shaped opening that can be closed with a metal door. The smoke produced by the combustion is vented outside the structure through a chimney.

Margherita: a ‘food puzzle’.


argherita pizza is the final result of an evolution lasted for centuries. Evolution started with the preparation of the first flatbread, continued with the invention of mozzarella cheese, and ended with the discovery of a vegetable in the New World: tomato. All these ingredients are like pieces in a sort of ‘food puzzle’, a puzzle completed in Naples with the making of the first pizza.

Pizza & bitcoins.

The most expensive pizza.


n May 2010 a programmer paid two pizzas using a brand new type of electronic currency, known as ‘bitcoin’. In time, its value has risen sharply. Nowadays, the amount he paid is worth 6 million dollars: 3 million for each pizza!


The right beverage.


hat to drink with a Margherita pizza? A good choice is a beer, quite soft, medium warm, quite fresh and medium sparkling.
The softness balances the acid tendency of the tomato.
The alcohol balances the greasiness of the olive oil.
The acidity and the effervescence balance the sweet tendency of the dough.

The images bearing the logo ‘webfoodculture’ are copyrighted.

The following images are public domain:

img-01 (*) – Margerita of Savoy, Queen of Italy, M.Gordigiani (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Erzherzogin Maria Karolina, 1765, Schönbrunn Palace (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Capodimonte Royal Palace, Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – Maria Carolina of Austria, 1768, A.R.Mengs (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-05 (*) – Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, 1825 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-06 (*) – Umberto I of Savoy, 1882 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}

These images are made available under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic Licenses.
img-07 – Luciano De Crescenzo, April 1986, image owner: indeciso42 (Wikipedia Link)

The header image is pubblic domain:

Image 01 (*) – Margherita di Savoia, Regina d’Italia (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.