Queen Margherita ate pizza served by Raffaele Esposito and wanted more!

By Josh Ellis

Royal Pizza

Sometime in the 19th century, Queen Margarita (the queen of Italy at the time), came down to a town called Naples in Italy to meet her people. The town officials planned a big feast for her when she got there, and pizza was one of the many courses. This seemed strange at the time, since pizza was a poor man's food at the time. They only did it because Naples is known for its pizza. The man hired for the job was Raffaele Esposito.

Esposito planned to make three different pizzas: one with oil, cheese, and basil; one with cecenielli (whitebait); and one with mozzarella and tomatoes to which the pizzaiolo's wife added a basil leaf, inspired by the colors of the Italian flag. They were given access to the castle's royal kitchen to make them.

The Mozzarella Pizza

After the Queen arrived and toured town, she went to the palace and was served the pizza after several courses in her meal. She liked it so much that she ordered more to be brought back with her. There is speculation, though, whether or not she liked it. As pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia expresses, “This pizza isn't just a food. It’s a way of being Neapolitan. . . . The Queen did a publicity stunt in Naples to gain acceptance. In coming to Naples and eating their pizza, she let Neapolitans know she was a queen ‘of the people.'” Either way, when the public heard she liked it, more people ate it.

Today, there is still a certain type of pizza called Neapolitan Pizza, named for Naples' pizza makers' style. And the queen liked the mozzarella and tomatoes pizza so much that she named it Pizza Margherita after herself. In Naples, there is an annual celebration in which the current Queen of Italy visits and reenacts Queen Margherita coming to Naples. The people celebrate by eating pizza. This anniversary still happens to this day!

Enactment of the Queen’s visit to Naples, June 11, 2009