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This article evaluates the creation myth of the pizza margherita as presented by those texts which presume to describe its history, as well as an alternative possibility for the story's genesis. It begins with a description of the contested historiography of Italian unification, then examines evidence for the veracity of the story, concluding with some questions about the assumed boundaries between folklore and history.
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Folklore, Fakelore, History
INVENTED TRADITION AND THE ORIGINS OF THE PIZZA MARGHERITA
Zachary Nowak
The Umbra Institute
Abstract
This article evaluates the creation myth of the pizza margherita as presented by those
texts which presume to describe its history, as well as an alternative possibility for the
story’s genesis. It begins with a description of the contested historiography of Italian
unification, then examines evidence for the veracity of the story, concluding with some
questions about the assumed boundaries between folklore and history.
Keywords: history of pizza, pizza margherita, invention of tradition, fakelore, Naples
Introduction
The construction of the state of Italy—both political unification and the unfinished
cultural project of an “Italian” identity—is reflected in a popular story about the
birth of one of Italy’s greatest gastronomic exports, pizza.
Perhaps the most famous story of the aristocratic fan of pizza is that of Queen
Margherita, wife of the second king of unified Italy, Umberto I. According to the
legend, Margherita and Umberto were visiting Naples in 1889 and grew tired of
French cuisine, then a staple for European royalty. Pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito,
of Pizzeria Brandi, was summoned to prepare a variety of pizzas for the queen.
He chose one with lard, caciocavallo, and basil, one with little fish and one with
tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. This last pizza, known as pizza alla mozzarella
at the time, became the pizza margherita once the queen declared it her
favourite. Pizzeria Brandi still displays the thank-you note signed by Galli
Camillo, Head of the Table of the Royal Household, dated June 1889, and a
plaque outside the restaurant tells patrons this is the home of the pizza
margherita.1
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DOI:
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Although food historians are often skeptical given the wide variation in details, the
main elements above are usually presented in travel guides, cookbooks and on
websites dedicated to Italy, Italian food and pizza. The chromatic convenience of this
story—the colors of the pizza’s ingredients mirror the color of Italy’s tricolor flag—
combined with its almost fairytale-like motif of “the queen who loves commoners’
fare” have led some to suggest that the Savoy monarchy may have deliberately
invented the myth as part its efforts to “italianize” the peninsula.
Historical Context: Italian “Unification”
We’ve made Italy. Now we have to make Italians.
These words, attributed to many nineteenth-century Italian statesmen, but actually
written by Massimo d’Azeglio,2highlight the reality of ruling diverse populations
under a single flag; simply put, it takes more than political unification to create a
homogeneous nation.
The historical context of the supposed events of June 1889 is important to
understanding the popularity of the story of the pizza margherita and to evaluating
its veracity. Despite the popular conception outside of Italy that the country “united”
in 1860, there has been a long and very bitter historiographical debate about the
unification process. This further intensified in 2011, the 150th anniversary of the
first Italian parliament declaring Victor Emanuel II the first king of Italy.
Early Italian historians held an almost teleological view of the House of
Savoy ’s role in creating a unified nation. Following the Second World War,
however, Marxist-inspired historians challenged the view that Piedmont had been
the only “independent” Italian state. Rather like Prussia in Germany, it was
argued, Piedmont had simply been the most aggressive state, not so much
“uniting” Italy as annexing the rest of the peninsula. The Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies, previously seen as a backward, almost feudal regime, was rehabilitated
as one of Europe’s leading industrial powers, falling only because of the English
money used to bribe its military officials.3Historians—southerners, monarchists
and others—have hastened to highlight the southerners’ lack of participation in
the military conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The populace was largely
either passive or actively hostile to Giuseppe Garibaldi’s invasion, and after some
initial enthusiasm, the rank and file of the Bourbon army remained faithful to
their king. Discontent erupted into violence, however, when the new regime
decided to recoup its military expenses with a new tax on milling and compulsory
military service. The revolt lasted almost ten years, took over 100,000
Piedmontese regular troops to quash, required a state of siege and twenty-four
months of “special laws,” and cost four times as many lives than all three Italian
“wars of independence.”
As Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party, wrote
in 1920, it “was a ferocious dictatorship that laid down iron and fire on southern
Italy and the islands, crucifying, quartering, and burying alive poor farmers that
salaried writers attempted to defame with the label ‘brigands.’”4
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Gramsci-inspired postwar scholars have shown that these “brigands” were
largely draft-evaders and former Bourbon troops, as well as poor farmers crushed
under the weight of new Piedmontese taxes, with only a minority of common
criminals. As Di Fiore notes, “the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was kept in
the new state only by bayonets.”5Those that were left after the definitive quelling
of the revolt in 1870 had two choices: accept the new regime (whether passively or
actively) or leave.
Naples, Cholera and the Risanamento
The arrival of King Umberto I and his consort Queen Margherita was not the first
royal visit to the former capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Umberto was
the son of Victor Emanuel II and had been raised in the north, educated by, among
others, Massimo D’Azeglio. Upon his accession to the throne in 1878, he adopted
the name “Umberto I d’Italia” instead of Umberto IV (of Savoy). During his tour of
the country after his coronation, he was attacked by a would-be assassin in Naples.
He survived the attack but did not return until 1884. His second royal visit was not
routine, nor was it a celebration. Cholera, always a threat in Naples, had reached
epidemic levels that year, killing thousands.
Unlike his father, who had commanded the armies that invaded the south in
1860, Umberto believed he could win the favor of his countrymen, and rule a united
Italy with public approval. As John Dickie relates, Umberto decided to visit Naples
in part to solidify his popularity in the south, as “a showcase [visit] for a monarchy
still unsure of its role.”6During his visit, the monarch encouraged a radical plan of
urban design much like that of Baron von Haussman in Paris, but different in intent.
Rather than prevent barricades, the new project’s aim was to open up (sventrare,
or “to gut”) the maze of small streets closest to the port where the disease was
having the greatest impact. The official name of the works, which saw huge swaths
of demolition and the construction of modern streets, water supplies and sewers—
was the Risanamento, which can be translated both as “urban renewal” and
“healing process.” Umberto’s bravery in the face of what was a huge risk of
infection—the king visited cholera victims in hospitals and clinics while in Naples—
boosted his popularity with the Neapolitans, but also reinforced the idea that Naples
was unhealthy and needed a radical architectonic intervention.
Claims of the Story
The narrative of the birth of the pizza margherita rests on a number of interlocking
claims: (1) that King Umberto I and Queen Margherita were in Naples at the
Capodimonte Palace in June 1889; (2) that they grew tired of French cuisine and
they desired food of the common man; (3) specifically pizza; (4) that they summoned
Raffaele Esposito, a famous pizzaiolo (pizza maker) and owner of Pizzeria Brandi,
to the royal palace; (5) that Esposito made them three pizzas, one of which the
queen chose as her favorite; (6) that the queen gave permission to use her name
in a thank-you note signed by her chamberlain, Camillo Galli. Each of these claims
bears examination in order to determine the veracity of the story of the birth of the
pizza margherita.
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The Royals at Capodimonte
At least one variant of the story of the birth of the pizza margherita has the queen
visit the pizzeria of the famous pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito; the other versions
examined in this study, however, locate the meeting at the Palace of Capodimonte
(the name of which translates to “top of the mountain”).7Leaving aside the
symbolism of the Piedmontese royals summoning a commoner to the former
Bourbon palace it is worth examining the facts of the royal visit to the palace.
Newspapers of the day, telegrams transmitted by the Agenzia Stefani and
documents from the house of Savoy all confirm that the queen was indeed visiting
Naples in 1889.8Il Pungolo, a southern Italian newspaper, reported on May 22 that
the queen had arrived the day before, and was met at the station by the mayor and
prefect of Naples, a count, several generals, her son the Prince of Piedmont and her
doctor.9She went directly to the Palace at Capodimonte, where she stayed until the
arrival of King Umberto, who had been on a state visit to Berlin. The newspapers
(confirmed again by Agenzia Stefani telegrams and official documents) note,
however, that the king and crown prince arrived on June 11, and went not to
Capodimonte but rather to the Royal Palace, where the queen had moved that
morning.10 The two remained in the Royal Palace until June 18, when both the king
and the queen returned to Rome, having not returned to Capodimonte together.11
Thus, the first claim of the story—that the king and queen together received
Esposito—fails to tie with the facts.
The Monotony of French Cuisine
French haute cuisine dominated the culinary universe of the European elite in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Kingdom of Italy was no
exception: all court menus were redacted in French (even when referring to Italian
dishes) until 1908, as Domenico Musci shows in his book Abbuffate reali (“royal
binges”), which traces the ebbs and flows of the history of the House of Savoy
through official menus. Many recountings of the Esposito-Margherita encounter
cite the reason for the summons as the queen’s boredom with French cuisine.
While some food historians keep their distance from specifying the queen’s
motivations (Gentilcore qualifies the “French hypothesis” with the words “The story
is that…”12), others make the “French motive” explicit: La Cecla writes that “History
tells us that Queen Margherita had expressed a desire to break the monotony of
French cooking.”13 A queen desiring commoners’ fare is believable in our modern
era in which the cucina povera—the supposed “peasant fare” of centuries before—
is the object of culinary enthusiasm. It is unlikely that Queen Margherita shared
these feelings; indeed, a volume on the history of meals for Italian heads of state,
published by the Italian Academy of Cuisine, underlines the fact that Queen
Margherita “rendered the banquet cuisine of the Savoy one of the most celebrated
of Europe, and her popularity made her the recipient of innumerable culinary
preparations, above and beyond the noted pizza dedicated to her.”14 The menus for
the meals of the Savoy family (not just state dinners but even their private meals)
continued to be printed in French until 1908, showing no signs of popular influence.
Musci asserts that “the greatest number of culinary dedications were undoubtedly
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directed to the Regina Margherita.” None of the official menus reproduced by Musci,
however, have any of these dishes dedicated to Queen Margherita on them.15 It is
one thing to dedicate “popular” dishes to a queen, quite another that she should
actually eat them.
Pinocchio Hates Pizza
In the unlikely event that the Italian sovereigns had desired pizza to grace their
table, it is unlikely that they would have wanted pizza cooked by a commoner, given
the association of cholera with the unsanitary conditions of the working classes. Far
from being a dish popular with all classes, it was, as a recent book on the role of
cuisine in the creation of Italian national identity asserts, “another essential food
of that miserable, derided and detested people.”16 In a chapter called, “Pinocchio
hates pizza,” John Dickie explains that given this association, pizza in the late
nineteenth century had very little “culinary capital” (to borrow the phrase from
Naccarato and LeBesco).17 Dickie mentions a passage from the usually-chipper
Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio, who in another book for children describes what
we are to believe Queen Margherita desired at court:
Do you want to know what pizza is? It’s a flattened piece of leavened bread,
toasted in an oven, topped with a sauce made with a bit of everything. That black
of the toasted bread, that whitish garlic and anchovies, that yellow-green of the
oil and fried herbs, and those red pieces of tomato here and there give the pizza
an air of complicated grime which corresponds perfectly with that of its seller.18
Of particular note is how the ingredients’ colors combine to form anything but the
tricolore. Collodi was a Florentine, of course, so vulnerable to accusations of
prejudice. One might expect a less critical opinion from a native Neapolitan of the
day; however, in Il ventre di Napoli (The Underbelly of Naples), Matilde Serao, a
prominent journalist who had in 1884 written a series of exposés on the poorest
parts of Naples, describes pizza as:
made from a dense dough that burns but does not cook, and is covered with
almost-raw tomatoes, with garlic, with oregano, with pepper: these pizzas in
many pieces that cost one soldo are entrusted to a boy who walks around to sell
them on the street, on a movable table, and there he stays the whole day, with
these slices of pizza which freeze in the cold, which turn yellow in the sun, eaten
by the flies.19
Dickie notes that nineteenth-century Naples was famous for its cholera outbreaks,
making it a city to fear rather than visit. The precise mechanisms by which cholera
was transmitted were unknown (making it all the more terrifying), but it struck the
poor much more frequently, and “the most widely accepted hypothesis was that its
germs lurked in the fetid subsoil of the city. It was a theory that magnified visceral
fears about the notorious filth and squalor of the Neapolitan slums.”20 It was
precisely for this terrible risk of infection that Umberto was recognized as a “civilian
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hero” by the Neapolitans after his visit to cholera victims during the 1885 epidemic,
and precisely for this reason that he lent his support to the demolition and
reconstruction of those crowded quarters, the beginning of which he and Margherita
returned to celebrate in 1889.
Dickie finds no mention of the meeting in the press of the day; he therefore
doubts that the queen would actually have eaten the pizza, but rather concludes that
her bestowing her royal imprimatur on the dish made political and human sense,
equating it with Princess Diana’s embracing of AIDS victims. It is fair to say that in
1889, it is unlikely that any Italian queen—or any other member of Italy’s elite—
would have wanted to try pizza.
From Via Chiaia to Capodimonte
While the name of the pizza is ultimately “Margherita,” the true protagonist of this
story is Raffaele Esposito. Who was Raffaele Esposito? Curiously, while all accounts
are unanimous in declaring his celebrity (even before his encounter with the queen),
which pizzeria he owned is much less certain. In first decades of the nineteenth
century, Pietro Calicchio opened a pizzeria in Via Chiaia called “Pietro … e basta
così” (Pietro … and that’s enough).21In 1883, his descendent, Ferdinando Calicchio,
sold the pizzeria to Raffaele Esposito, who that year requested permission from
the chief of police of Naples to change the name of the pizzeria to “Pizzeria della
Regina d’Italia” (“Pizzeria of the Queen of Italy”)—a full six years before the
supposed royal encounter.22 While Raffaele Esposito married Maria Giovanna Brandi
(daughter of pizzaiolo Giovanni Brandi) in 1877, her name did not grace the sign in
front of the pizzeria until her nephews, Giovanni and Pasquale Brandi, assumed
ownership in 1932. Since then, two other families have owned the pizzeria, but the
name has remained Brandi.
Thus, while the name of the pizzeria at the time of the queen’s visit in 1889 was
“Pizzeria della Regina d’Italia,” there is confusion in the various accounts. Helstosky,
in the account that opens this article, refers to Esposito as the owner of Pizzeria
Brandi. Benincasa,23 La Cecla24 and Minervini25 all assume that the name of the
pizzeria had not changed when it changed owners, describing Raffaele Esposito as
the owner of the pizzeria “Pietro … e basta così.” Buonassi26 and Harper-Faccioli27
give the pizzeria’s name as “Pietro il Pizzaiolo.” Benincasa displays a photograph
(Figure 1) of the inside of the Pizzeria Brandi, where hanging next to the famous
letter from the queen’s chamberlain we see a large, broken sign that reads [P]izzeria
della [Reg]ina d’Italia. This is not, as Benincasa suggests in the caption, “a fragment
of a commemorative marble tablet placed [in 1889] inside the pizzeria, at that time
called ‘Pietro e … basta così’”28—the tablet is far too big to be commemorative—
but more likely the original sign for the pizzeria, which Raffaele Esposito had
changed to the “Pizzeria della Regina d’Italia” in 1883 and which bore this name
until its cession to the Brandi brothers in 1932.
There seems little doubt about the celebrity of the pizzeria or its owner at the
time: Miner vini, uses the adjective “celebrated,” Gentilcore29 “famous,” Dickie
“renowned,”30 while Pandiani deems Esposito “the most famous pizzaiolo [of the
period].”31 That said, contemporary documentation regarding Esposito’s fame is
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not forthcoming: as Antonio Mattozzi shows in his impeccably researched volume
on pizza in Naples, the city had over sixty pizzerias in 1889. If the “Pizzeria of the
Queen of Italy” was to be one of the three pizzerias active in the nineteenth century
to survive into the twentieth, it was likely less due to the quality of the pizzas and
more to the managerial ability of its owners and, even more importantly, its
strategic position. Mattozzi underlines the fact that there were likely many other
able and “illustrious” pizzaioli in these years, but they did not have the fortune to
have pizzerias near main streets.32 None of these histories of the pizza margherita
describe the pizzeria in Via Chiaia (or its owner) as having received any notable
award, nor do they list the establishment as the most successful of its type, hence
we can conclude that the fame attributed to Raffaele Esposito was post-1889,
perhaps even posthumous.
One, Three or Many Pizzas?
How many pizzas did Raffaele Esposito prepare that summer night in the oven just
outside the Palace of Capodimonte, if he was indeed there to prepare them? Again
one finds varying accounts: Pandiani mentions the canonical tomato, mozzarella
and basil (seemingly created ad hoc for this event) in addition to “other types of
pizza,”33 while Minervini mentions “many” pizzas, although most of the more
serious histories of the pizza speak of three different pizzas. Accounts vary as to
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Fig. 1: A Photograph of the Interior of the Pizzeria Brandi from the 1990s. Note the
Framed Letter from the Queen’s Chamberlain.
From Gabriela Benicasa’s La pizza napoletana: Mito, storia e poesia. Used with the kind permission of
Guida Editori.
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which three pizzas were prepared, but the three most commonly described are a
pizza with lard, another with anchovies, and a third with tomato sauce, mozzarella
cheese and a sprig of basil.
There is also a possibility of the misattribution of accolades. While Helstosky’s
account omits Esposito’s wife, many retellings of the famous encounter between
queen and subject include her. Raffaele Esposito is accompanied in these accounts
by Maria Giovanna Brandi, herself descended from a family of pizza-makers. While
the accounts disagree what her name was—Benincasa “Pasqualina,”34Buonassi
“Donna Rosina”35 —Cozzi (one of the few to get her name right) implies that it was
her, not Raffaele, who gave the pizza its final touch, the sprig of basil.36
These details seem to be alternately both confirmed and disproven by a series
of documents. That three pizzas—not one, not “many”—were made is confirmed
by the thank-you note from the “House of Her Majesty” that was sent on June 11,
1889 and which still hangs in the Pizzeria Brandi (Figure 2). It reads:
House of Her Majesty
Capodimonte
11 June 1889
Inspection Office of the Mouth
Most esteemed Sig. Raffaele Esposito Brandi. I confirm that the three types of
pizza prepared by you for her Royal Highness the Queen were found to be
excellent.
Please believe me to be
Most devoted
Galli Camillo
Head of the Services of the Table of the Royal House37
Finally, we have documentary evidence, if not of the ingredients or that the queen
actually tried the pizza, that at least that she approved of the effort, and had the
head of the royal household’s gastronomic office (“Office of the Mouth” in
nineteenth-century parlance) send an appreciative note. Although this note does
not specify the ingredients of the various pizzas, we can assume that if the meeting
happened, it was quite possible that one of the pizzas was red, white and green.
Another documentary certainty is that while the name “pizza margherita” may
have been a burst of Raffaele Esposito’s marketing creativity, such a colorful and
not-coincidentally patriotic combination of ingredients was certainly not a novelty.
Indeed, Emanuele Rocco, in his essay-vignette “Il pizzajulo,” describes a pizza
topped with “basilico, muzzarella e pomodoro,” the three canonical ingredients. The
essay appeared in a volume about customs in Naples published in 1853, thirty-six
years prior to the supposed meeting of Esposito and the queen, and the former’s
“invention” of the pizza margherita for the latter.38
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A Royal Thank-You Note?
“By appointment to her/his royal highness the Queen/King of…” was a much-
vaunted if perhaps dubiously effective method of reassuring a wary clientele of a
food product’s quality. “If it’s good enough for the king and queen…” was the
reasoning that the savvy producer wanted to implant in the mind of the potential
customer. Many historians of pizza, without citing the abovementioned letter from
Camillo Galli directly, bend its text into a kind of royal permission. Buonassi
explicitly attributes Raffaele Esposito and Rosina [sic] Brandi’s haste to go to the
palace to their desire to become “purveyors to the royal court.”39 The note is often
referred to as having been written by the queen herself, not by Galli, and as having
recognized the name “pizza margherita” or giving explicit permission to use this
name for the pizza. As the text above makes plain, this is not the case.
Many late nineteenth-century food producers sent samples to the royal
household and requested permission to use the royal seal on their stores or
advertisements. Judging from the number of successful supplicants whose requests
and the responses to those requests are preserved in a heavy archival box labeled
Concessioni brevetti di regio stemma” (Concession of Licenses [for use] of royal
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Fig. 2: The Famous Letter from Camillo Galli, Head of “Services of the Table” for
Queen Margherita.
From Gabriela Benicasa’s La pizza napoletana: Mito, storia e poesia. Used with the kind permission of
Guida Editori.
06 Nowak FCS 17.1:Layout 1 2/12/13 15:48 Page 111
seal), it would seem that this permission was frequently granted. Curiously,
however, there is no permission granted (nor application for such a license) for the
use of the name “pizza margherita” to anyone, Raffaele Esposito or otherwise. What
one does find in that box, in File 7, folder letter “E,” is the following (Figure 3):
Esposito Raffaele of Naples, merchant of alcoholic spirits with a store in Port
Street no. 191 and a warehouse in San Bartolomeo Street no. 56, having been
awarded the Silver Medal, Second Class, at the International Maritime
Exposition in this city for having displayed liqueurs of his own making, thus
fulfills a duty of offering to Your Majesty a case of assorted liqueurs, so that
the clemency of Your Majesty will deign to try them, and thereafter having
obtained the honor of sovereign hospitality, Your Highness will concede him
the Certificate of Purveyor to the Royal House, in order to have a more
significant encouragement.
He very much hopes to obtain from Your Majesty the singular grace.
Naples 29 June 1871
Raffaele Esposito, Supplicant as above40
Another document in the folder, apparently a draft of the response to Esposito,
grants him permission to display the royal seal permanently. Note that the king in
question is Victor Emanuel II, not Umberto I, and that the year is 1871, a full
eighteen years before the supposed meeting of Esposito and the royals. While it is
not certain that this Raffaele Esposito is the “famous” pizzaiolo, the latter is
mentioned in a number of documents as being a merchant of wine.
Even more remarkable than the presence of this document is the absence of any
record of Camillo Galli’s correspondence with Esposito. In the State Archives in
Naples, among the documents belonging to the collection of the Royal House, there
are dusty, oversized books that record all communications, internal and external.
In them one finds twenty-four notations for June 11, 1889. They include a response
to a certain “Anastasia, Caterina (neé Moretti)—Subject: Request for an educational
pension for her son Antonio,” as well as an answer to a request for payment of the
Prince of Syracuse’s allowance (protocol number 3072, sent to Capodimonte) and
payment for the linen washers, again at Capodimonte.41 There is no record of any
letter from Camillo Galli, or anyone else, to Raffaele Esposito.
This lack of entry could be an oversight, but it demands a thorough examination
of the document—the supposed “thank-you note”—which lacks any external
confirmation. The reader is invited to take a second look at the supposed letter
from Camillo Galli to Raffaele Esposito (Figure 2). Several details raise doubts about
this document’s validity. First, the royal seal: while all other official correspondence
examined by the present author has a pre-printed typographical seal, the seal on
this letter is stamped. In addition, the royal seal is at the bottom of the page,
uncentered, and several degrees off vertical. A careful comparison of the seal with
those in an essay on the evolution of the official seal of Italy (reprinted in the official
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Review of the Italian State Archives) reveals that the “thank-you note” has a seal
without an official match. Even a cursory glance at Figure 4 shows that the “seal”
on the letter (Figure 2) matches none of the historic official seals, much less seal
H (the same as the one from the real Camillo Galli’s letter) or seal A (the royal seal
from 1870 to 1890).
This begs the question of whether Galli himself was a fiction; however, a
document that lists the table services’ personnel at the Palace of Capodimonte for
the queen’s visit in May/June 1889 has Galli at its head (Figure 5).42 The
presumption that the real-life Galli wrote the letter hanging in the Pizzeria Brandi
is easily dispelled by examining a letter from Camillo Galli himself43 in the Archives
in Rome (Figure 6). Note that this is official stationery from the “Office of the Service
of the Mouth,” and that the calligraphy is obviously different, even from a distance
of several feet. There are eight words common to both letters, in addition to the
signatures themselves: a simple comparison of these makes it clear that the authors
of these letters were two different people. Given these facts—the fake seal, the
lack of a protocol, and the different handwriting—we can safely conclude that the
letter in the Pizzeria Brandi is a forgery.
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Fig. 3: Raffaele Esposito’s Request to King Victor Immanuel for Permission to Use
the Royal Seal on his Wine and Liquor store.
Reproduced with the permission of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Events.
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Fig. 4: A comparison of the seal from the “thank-you note” and the various seals
from 1870 to 1944: (A) Seal of the House of Savoy (1870–1890); (B) Seal of the
House of Savoy (1890–1929); (C) Seal of the House of Savoy (1890–1929,
alternative version); (D) Seal of the Kingdom of Italy (1890); (E) Seal of the King of
Italy (1890); (F) “small seal” (1890); Fascist Seal (1929–1944); and (H) Seal from
Camillo Galli’s letter from the Italian State Archives.
Fig. 5: A list of the staff at the Capodimonte Palace for the occasion of Queen
Margherita’s 1889 visit.
Reproduced with the permission of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Events.
06 Nowak FCS 17.1:Layout 1 2/12/13 15:48 Page 114
The Pizza Margherita Story: The Savoys’ Colonial
Invention?
In his introduction (or, more literally translated, “premise”) to his history of pizza
and pizzaioli in Naples, Antonio Mattozzi makes clear that there is:
is a kind of journalist who … in getting close to history, looks for the anecdote
rather than the document, the wisecrack and the joke rather than the pure and
simple narration of the facts, often contaminating the real events with elements
often legendary and fantastical. In this way one presents as realistic facts those
which are instead to a great degree invented.44
The commonly accepted story behind the pizza margherita is a clear example of
what Mattozzi would like to see avoided; less clear is the origin of this story.
Of the official historians of the pizza margherita, the most prolix, Gabriele
Benincasa, attributes the popularity of the pizza to two convergent actions: “that
of the Royal House which ordered the pizza in order to then diffuse the news that
the sovereigns shared the same tastes of the Neapolitan lower-class [popolino],
and that of the pizzaiolo Esposito to promote the quality of his pizza which was ‘fit
for a queen.’” As to the first part of this formulation, Benincasa suggests that it
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Fig. 6: A Letter from Camillo Galli from the Italian State Archives (Signature Inset).
Reproduced with the permission of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Events.
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was perhaps an “initiative, let’s call it purely political, less likely suggested by a
lady of the court than by some advisor of the Savoys, in an attempt to contribute,
even through certain popular acts of the sovereigns, to get beyond the declared
hostility of the Neapolitans towards the new reigning house.”45
Other historians agree: John Dickie also sees a national unification project—an
official one—behind the story of the invention of the pizza. David Gentilcore’s
comment is representative of recent comment on the supposed episode and merits
quoting at length:
Whether the pizza was invented for Queen Margherita or whether Esposito
simply used an old recipe is unclear, but the latter is more likely. In any case,
what is important is that a new culinary tradition was “invented” in the process
… As an “invented tradition,” the pizza Margherita combined several elements:
the populism of the new Savoyard monarchy at the expense of the vanquished
Bourbons; the triumph of local, popular cooking over the imported French
cuisine; and the Italianizing of a Neapolitan dish in the shadow of the
Risorgimento.46
The royals were indeed interested in ingratiating themselves with the inhabitants
of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, twenty years after the end of the brutal
repression of the revolts in southern Italy. In a biography of Queen Margherita,
Romano Bracalini notes that as they were determined to win over the southerners
to the new national monarchy, the Savoy had gone south in deference to a political
dynasty that was becoming Italian from “Piedmontese.”47 Thus, most commentators
would ascribe this pseudo-encounter to the sort of “invention of tradition” first
described by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. In the seminal collection on the
subject, Hobsbawm defines invented tradition as including “‘traditions’ actually
invented, constructed and formally instituted and those merging in a less easily
traceable manner within a brief and datable period.”48 Hobsbawm and Ranger’s
book (and much research based on it) focuses on invention of tradition by European
monarchies for their subjects, domestic or colonial. Hobsbawm wrote that invented
tradition “give[s] to any desired change (or resistance to innovation) the sanction
of precedent, social continuity and natural law as expressed in history.”49 Given the
desire of the Savoy monarchy to represent itself as the rightful heir to the Bourbon
monarchy, one would expect that had this meeting been invented by the royal house,
it would have used the most effective mediatic instrument at its disposal to
publicize it: the Agenzia Stefani.
The Agenzia Stefani was the fourth of the European press agencies to be founded
after the French Havas, the German Wolff and the English Reuter. It enjoyed a cozy
and mutually beneficial relationship with the Italian government: Agenzia Stefani
was able to send all its dispatches to its paying subscribers (financial institutions,
newspapers, etc) for free, using the state-controlled telegraph system, and received
all telegrams sent to it for free. In return, the agency had to send all its political and
economic dispatches for free to the relevant government offices, transmit for free
all the government’s bulletins, and send all the results of parliamentary debates.50
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Given the relationship between Stefani and the Italian government, all of the
agency’s dispatches about the government or the royal family were published in
the daily Gazette of the Kingdom of Italy, in a section appropriately entitled “non
official part.” A careful review of these semi-official telegrams from the period May
21 to June 18, 1889 reveals that while there are many that deal with the royals’ visit
to Naples, and that the local papers used these dispatches for their articles,51 there
is no mention of any visit to the queen by a pizzaiolo.
The queen did have a special reception at which there were audiences and new
presentations. For admission, women were instructed to contact Her Eminence the
Marquise of Villamarina, men the Marquis. Women were instructed to present
themselves in “toilette di visita” (elegant haircut and clothing), men with a formal
coat and suit.52 Although one might assume that, given the instructions on protocol,
this encounter was limited to the elite of Naples (not its pizzaioli), we find
confirmation in a newspaper article from the day after the reception: “The reception
yesterday at the Palace of Capodimonte was, for the most noble part of our society,
a veritable party…”53 It does not seem, then, that there was any official attempt to
create a myth out of royal acceptance of popular foodways—given the culinary
culture at court, pizza as a food was simply too distant, even for propaganda
purposes.
The Counterfeiter Revealed and Conclusions: Folklore,
Fakelore, Folklure, History
Thus, invented tradition seems to be the wrong category in which to place the origin
myth of the pizza margherita. Is the story then simply another example of what
folklorist Richard Dorson derisively terms “fakelore,” or “the spurious and synthetic
writings under the claim that they are genuine folklore,” stories that are “not
collected in the field but are rewritten from earlier literary and journalistic sources
in an endless chain of regurgitation, or they may even be made out of whole cloth.”54
It is beyond the scope of this article to comment on the vigorous debate among
academics in the folklore field about the (in)existent boundaries between folklore
and fakelore.55 There are, however, a number of unsubstantiated reports of Bourbon
monarchs eating pizza in Naples, enough that it seems reasonable to assume that
this story was part of folklore in Naples in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. In 1914, Salvatore Di Giacomo, a journalist who worked in Naples for
the Pungolo, wrote an account of a visit to a café where his waiter was the son of
pizzaiolo Domenico Testa. In the account, the son tells Di Giacomo a story nearly
identical to that of Esposito: Ferdinando II summoning Domenico Testa to the palace
at Capodimonte; the pizzaiolo making pizzas for the queen and her ladies, who had
tired of court food; and Testa being rewarded with a royal diploma that allowed
him to be called “Munzù,” the title for a chef of the era.56
The first reference to a Savoyard monarch in this story is not after the 1889
visit but rather nine years prior. In 1880, a version of the story appeared in the
Roman newspaper Il Bersagliere: a summons from Queen Margherita brings a well-
known pizzaiolo to the court, where he prepares eight large pizzas. The crown
prince gets impatient and eats a piece, followed by the queen, who tastes all eight.
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Acclaim is immediate, and the pizzaiolo asks only for permission to put the royal
seal on his pizzeria. The article even gives us the date of this event, June 14, 1880,
as well as the name of the pizzaiolo: Giovanni Brandi, Raffaele Esposito’s father-in-
law.57 The story has many of the same elements as the canonical version that opens
this paper. Another account, written in 1935 by a former royal cook, gives a near-
identical story—the royal summons from Margherita in “1882 or 1883,” cooking at
Capodimonte, concession of the royal seal—but with a certain “Don Gennarino” as
the hero and inventor of the pizza margherita.58
The Margherita-Esposito account is not recorded in print until the late 1930s or
early 1940s. The current owners of the Pizzeria Brandi distribute a flyer that
reproduces a newspaper article from 1929, “Pronto c’ ‘a pala,” by Michele Parise.
Parise, in a rambling story about his visit to the Pizzeria Brandi, recounts in a mix
of standard Italian and Neapolitan dialect how one of the Brandi brothers stops at
his table and tells him the story of the invention of the pizza margherita. The text
that follows provides many of the details we are familiar with—the royal visit of
1889, the invitation to Capodimonte, “many” pizzas including the tricolor one, the
“thank-you note”—and reproduces the note sent to Esposito, which we know can
be confidently considered a forgery.59 The flyer gives this article’s date as November
1, 1929, but this seems anachronistic because the Brandi brothers did not own the
pizzeria that year: Mattozzi cites police documents that show that the pizzeria had
been sold by Maria Giovanna Brandi to Pietro Pagliarulo in 1925, only to be inherited
in 1932 by Giovanna Brandi (Maria Giovanna Brandi’s niece), who ceded it to her
brothers.60
Given Esposito’s request for the royal seal on his wine and liquor store in 1871,
and his change of the name of the pizzeria in 1883, we can assume that, as Mattozzi
says, while “we don’t know whether [Esposito] was a fervent supporter of the new
Savoy monarchy, it’s certain nevertheless that he had to have a lot of ambition and
a keen sense of marketing. … Even if in those years the names with ‘Roma’ and
‘Italia’ were all over commercial signs, the fact that his sign referred to the queen
says a lot about his dreams and his plans.”61
If Raffaele Esposito reused folklore to sell a product (namely, his newly
christened pizza), this invention would shift from simple fakelore to the subcategory
of “folklure,” which Sullenberger gives as the “calculated association of folkloristic
concepts with manufactured products.”62 While this term is usually associated with
industrial products, one could just as easily apply it to selling pizzas. But was it
Raffaele Esposito who forged the famous royal thank-you note? The answer is, I
believe, in the forgery itself. Speaking about the Brandi brothers in the 1930s,
Mattozzi says “through ups and downs, brought back to the highest level the
glorious tradition of the pizzeria, accentuating its prestige with frequent important
visits [by celebrities].” Though Raffaele Esposito was illiterate,63 in the two official
letters that he had written for him, he had his name signed as “Raffaele Esposito.”64
The reader is invited to reread the forged letter to Esposito from Camillo Galli
(Figure 2): note that it is addressed to “Sig. Raffaele Esposito Brandi.” Italian men,
in the nineteenth century as now, did not take their wives’ surnames: the surname
“Brandi” in this letter would not have been written by Raffaele Esposito.
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None of the histories of the pizza margherita that reproduce the forged letter
comment on this incongruence. Many simply delete the word “Brandi” in their
transcription, having recognized that there is something amiss. Dickie and
Minervini, who otherwise give the full text, both leave out the extraneous “Brandi,”
addressing the letter to “Sig. Raffaele Esposito.”65 The abovementioned flyer from
the Pizzeria Brandi gives the name as “Sig. Raffaele Esposito (Brandi),” perhaps
giving rise to a recent journalistic inaccuracy in Italy’s premier daily, La Repubblica,
which names “Raffaele Esposito Brandi” as the pizza margherita’s inventor.66
The extraneous surname is hardly proof but at least a basis for a reasonable
conjecture: the Brandi brothers, in the midst of the Great Depression, desperate to
raise their pizzeria’s visibility, decide to bend a “family myth” to their advantage.
They somehow find the name of Camillo Galli, decide on a plausible date, and have
a believable (though not terribly accurate) facsimile of the royal seal made in rubber.
Some old paper and a pen (an error here too in not using a fountain pen),
exaggeratedly elegant script, and a forgery is made.67 Their rather clumsy attempt
was obviously passable: the earliest written account of the letter on the wall, if we
discount the 1929 date for his article, is Parise’s 1941 book. The forgery has been
accepted at face value for over seventy years.68
Though much has been made of the value of the tricolor pizza for the purposes
of national unification—especially of late, with secessionist parties in parliament
and the 150th anniversary of “unification” bitterly contested by Italians from all
over the peninsula—it is clear that this myth has had a bottom-up rather than top-
down flow. Though beginning as folklore, the fakelore/folklure story of Raffaele
Esposito (and, occasionally his wife, under whatever name) has moved back into the
realm of genuine folklore, as an urban or contemporary legend. Folklore scholar
and international expert on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand, has written that
urban legends share “a strong basic story-appeal, a foundation in actual belief, and
a meaningful message or ‘moral.’”69 Brunvand suggests that these urban legends
propagate especially quickly and are accepted as fact when they respond to a
certain sociological need. Perhaps this example began as a simple attempt to
popularize one pizzeria at the expense of others: the Brandi brothers drew on a
historical fact—their ancestor’s permission to use the royal seal on his wine store,
the name of the pizzeria—and wove it into an existing legend of royals-eating-
commoners’ food. The myth had such narrative appeal that it developed auto-
catalytic momentum, propelling it forward into cookbooks, travelogues and tourist
guides, as well as food histories.
This research has answered a simple question—“Is the pizza margherita myth
true?”—which reinforces the boundaries between folklore and history. The facts
and arguments marshaled in this study suggest, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
the tradition of a pizza called Margherita has nothing to do with a meeting between
pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito and the former Queen of Italy. Having answered that
question, this article has thus arrived at a historical cul-de-sac. An ultimately much
more interesting question than the story’s veracity is its “enfactualization,” its
movement from folklore through fakelore/folklure into the realm of history.70
Although some academics worry about historians revealing myths as such and
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withdrawing them “from circulation without the need to consult the communities,”71
it is safe to say that given the sheer textual weight of this story, as well as its
narrative appeal, this article in no way threatens the vitality of the Esposito-
Margherita legend.72 To the contrary, one might ask whether the volume of texts on
the tricolor pizza’s birth and their vitality threaten history as a discipline.
If historians have been too eager to see a convenient example of semi-colonial
“invention of tradition,” is this simply Menocchio’s revenge, whereby oral tradition
and popular creativity flow upwards into the academy?73Or is it, like the
astoundingly resilient myth about the (supposed) plethora of Inuit words for snow,
a worrisome object lesson on the “hazards of superficial scholarship”?74 Given the
relative unimportance of this non-episode to Italy’s history, as well as most
scholars’ skeptical regard for the story, one can accept the story as just more
cheese, though without the worms. More work is needed to trace the pizza-eating-
sovereign trope backwards, but also to investigate the sociological reasons for the
myth’s popularity. A better understanding of both will come only with a more
complete review of the cookbooks, travelogues and popular newspapers of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as with a deeper sociological
analysis of both food myths and their propagation.
Acknowledgments
The author would like to thank the staffs of the Archivio di Stato both of Rome and
Naples, as well as Domenico Musci, Carmine Napoli, Antonio Mattozzi, Giovanna De
Pascale, Peter Naccarato, Ernesto Livorni, Elgin Eckert, and two anonymous
reviewers. Digital copies of all archival documents mentioned in this article are
available from the author.
Zachary Nowak is the associate director for the Food Studies Program at the Umbra
Institute, and is in the doctoral program for American Studies at Harvard University.
His research interests center on the food myths, specifically those that both Italians and
foreigners have woven in the last fifty years about Italian food. He teaches courses in
food history and the possibility of sustainable food. The Umbra Institute, Via Bartolo 16,
Perugia 06123, Italy (znowak@umbra.org).
Notes
1 Carol Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), p. 26. The
emphasis is in the original: the word pizzaiolo translates poorly but means “pizza-maker.”
2 “L’Italia è fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani.” Its constant repetition (and misattribution)
suggests its aptness. Cited in Edgar Holt, The Making of Italy: 1815–1870 (New York: Holt,
1971), p. 258.
3 An excellent source on the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies’ relative industrial advantage is
Carmine Colacino, “Industria e artigianato,” in Carmine Colacino, Alfonso Grasso, Andrea
Moletta, Antonio Pagano, Giuseppe Ressa, Alessandro Romano, Maria Russo, Marina
Salvadore and Maria Sarcinelli (eds), La storia proibita: Quando i Piemontesi invasero il
Sud (Naples: Controcorrente, 2001), pp. 35–50.
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4 All translations are mine unless otherwise stated. Antonio Gramsci, “Il lanzo ubriaco,” in
Valentino Gerratana and Antonio Santucci (eds) L’Ordine nuovo 1919–1920 (Turin: Einaudi,
1987), p. 422.
5 Gigi Di Fiore, Controstoria dell’unità d’Italia: Fatti e misfatti del Risorgimento (Milan:
Rizzoli, 2007), p. 259.
6 John Dickie, Delizia: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food (London: Sceptre,
2007), pp. 200–10. Dickie’s account of the cholera epidemic and how pizza and Naples
were viewed at the time are fundamental to any history of pizza.
7 “[Pizza was] food of the poor, the borghesi, the artists, the nobles, even the king and queen
of Savoia, who were escorted one historic spring evening through the backstreets of the
city to a place where one Raffaele Esposito had been commissioned to cook la pizza for
their majesties, Umberto and Margherita.” Marlena de Blasi, Regional Foods of Southern
Italy (New York: Viking, 1999), p. 83.
8 The two newspapers of the day were Il Pungolo and Il Roma, both consultable at the
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, Emeroteca Lucchesi. The Agenzia Stefani, the Italian
equivalent of Reuters of the day, will be the subject of comment below. Documents
pertaining to the royal visit can be found in the Archivio Centrale di Stato in Rome: Real
Casa, Div. Governo Interno, 1889, Busta 94, Fascicolo 4522.
9 “Cronaca: L’arrivo della Regina,” Il Pungolo [Naples], May 22, 1889.
10 “Cronaca: Il Re,” Il Pungolo [Naples], June 12, 1889.
11 Anonymous, [untitled article], Il Roma [Naples], 18 June 1889. The king had returned to
Capodimonte alone for a brief meeting with a parliamentarian.
12 David Gentilcore, Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2010), p. 92.
13 Franco La Cecla, Pasta and Pizza, Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago, IL: Prickly
Paradigm Press, 2007), p. 43. La Cecla gives no references for the queen’s desire for
different food at Capodimonte. He also repeats the story of Esposito using the old regime’s
ovens to make the pizzas, citing unspecified “documents.”
14 Maurizio Campiverdi and Francesco Ricciardi (eds), I menu del Quirinale: 150 anni di menu
per 15 Capi di Stato (Rome: Accademia italiana della cucina, 2011), p. 42.
15 Musci gives eight dishes, including Chicken Breasts à la Margherita and Consommé à la
Margherita. He states without a hint of irony that the culinary creation dedicated to Queen
Margherita which was immediately and universally popular and has lasted the longest
was, without a doubt, the Pasta Margherita (“Margherita mix”): egg yolks, confectioner’s
sugar, and lemon juice whipped for half an hour. Domenico Musci, Abbuffate reali: La
storia d’Italia attraverso i menu di Casa Savoia (Turin: Anake, 2007), p. 42.
16 Silvia De Lorenzo, Gianni Franceschi and Francesco Ricciardi (eds), 1861–2011: La cucina
nella formazione dell’identità nazionale (Milan: Accademia Italiana della Cucina, 2011), p.
269.
17 Dickie, Delizia, pp. 197–210. Peter Naccarato and Kathleen LeBesco, Culinary Capital
(New York: Berg, 2012).
18 Carlo Collodi, Viaggio per l’Italia di Giannettino (Riordinato in un solo volume da Ferronio)
(Biblioteca Bemporad: Firenze, 1923), p. 292.
19 Matilde Serao, Il ventre di Napoli (Rome: L’Unità, 1993), pp. 19–20.
20 Dickie, Delizia, p. 204.
21 Mattozzi notes that Pietro Calicchio’s pizzeria is not cited in the census of pizzerias of
1807, and the only date that is certain regarding his pizzeria is that his son, Ferdinando
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was the owner in 1867. It was Ferdinando Calicchio who sold the pizzeria to Raffaele
Esposito in 1883. Curiously, according to several sources, the name “Pietro” survived
even after Pietro died, becoming a sort of nickname for every owner of the pizzeria
thereafter. Antonio Mattozzi, Una storia napoletana: Pizzerie e pizzaiuoli tra Sette e
Ottocento (Bra: Slow Food Editore: 2009), p. 112 and passim.
22 See the document in the Archivio di Stato di Napoli, Questura di Napoli, Archivio Generale,
Seconda serie, 1883, Fasc.2224. That permission was given is evident from a police list
of “public operations” (hotels, restaurants and pizzerias) from 1883, where Raffaele
Esposito is said to be operating “under the sign of ‘Pizzeria of the Queen of Italy.’” (Archivio
di Stato di Napoli, Questura di Napoli, Archivio Generale, Seconda serie, 1883, Fasc.1313)
23 Gabriele Benincasa, La pizza napoletana: Mito, storia e poesia (Naples: Alfredo Guida
Editore, 1992), p. 137.
24 La Cecla, Pasta and Pizza, p. 43.
25 Roberto Minvervini, Storia della pizza (Naples: Società Editrice Napoletana, 1973), p. 27.
26 Rosario Buonassi, Pizza: The Dish, The Legend, p. 76.
27 Douglas Harper and Patrizia Faccioli, The Italian Way: Food & Social Life (Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press, 2009), p. 299.
28 Benincasa, La pizza napoletana, pp. 81–2. Photo reproduced with permission from the
publisher. Note the framed letter from the queen’s chamberlain next to the sign.
29 Gentilcore, Pomodoro!, p. 92.
30 Dickie, Delizia, p. 201.
31 Paola Pandiani, Pane e pizza (Milan: Touring Club Italiano, 2004), p. 12.
32 Antonio Mattozzi, Una storia napoletana, p. 113.
33 Pandiani, Pane e pizza, p. 12.
34 Benincasa, La pizza napoletana, p. 138.
35 Rosario Buonassi, Pizza: The Dish, The Legend, p. 76.
36 Tiziana Cozzi, “Cortei e sbandieratori per i 120 anni della pizza” La Repubblica ([Turin],
11 June 2009), p. 12.
37 The original hangs in the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples. Benincasa displays a photocopy on p.
142 which the author has found to conform to the original, though the latter is quite faded.
38 Emanuele Rocco, “Il pizzajulo,” in Francesco de Bourcard (ed.) Usi e costumi di Napoli e
contorni descritti e depinti (Naples: Stabilimento Tipografico di Gaetano Nobile, 1853).
39 Rosario Buonassi, Pizza: The Dish, The Legend, p. 76.
40 Archivio Centrale di Stato, Rome, Real Casa, Divisione Prima, Segreteria Reale,
Concessioni Brevetti di Regio Stemma, Busta 7, Lettera E.
41 Archivio di Stato, Naples, Real Casa, Protocollo dell’amministrazione della Real Casa in
Napoli per l’anno 1889.
42 Archivio Centrale di Stato in Rome: Real Casa, Div. Governo Interno, 1889, Busta 94,
Fascicolo 4522.
43 Archivio Centrale di Stato, Rome, Real Casa, Div. Governo Interno, Busta 100, Fascicolo
590.
44 Antonio Mattozzi, Una storia napoletana, p. 15.
45 Gabriele Benicasa, La pizza napoletana, pp. 138–9.
46 Gentilcore, Pomodoro!, p. 93. While Helstosky explicitly uses the word “legend” to describe
the story, Dickie and Gentilcore certainly both share her suspicion. The former begins the
section on the episode with the words, “There are few hard facts in the history of pizza,”
while the latter starts with the phrase, as already noted, “The story is that the queen…”
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47 Romano Bracalini, La Regina Margherita: La Prima Donna sul Trono d’Italia (Milan: Rizzoli,
1985), p. 55.
48 Eric Hobsbawm, “Introduction: Invented Traditions,” in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence
Ranger (eds) The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008),
p. 1.
49 Hobsbawm, “Introduction: Invented Traditions,” p. 2.
50 Sergio Lepri, Francesco Arbitrio and Giuseppe Cultrera, Informazione e potere in un secolo
di storia italiana: L’Agenzia Stefani da Cavour a Mussolini (Florence: Le Monnier, 2000),
p. 9.
51 Many newspaper articles are practically identical to the Stefani’s dispatches. It seems that
then, as now, harried editors indulged in time-saving cutting and pasting.
52 “Cronaca: S.M. la Regina,” Il Pungolo [Naples], June 6–7, 1889.
53 “Cronaca: Il Re a Napoli,” Il Pungolo [Naples], June 10–11, 1889.
54 Richard Dorson, “Fakelore,” Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 65 (1969), p. 60.
55 Cf. Ellen Stekert, “The False Issue of Folklore vs. “Fakelore’: Was Paul Bunyan a Hoax,”
Journal of Forest History 30 (1986), pp. 180–1.
56 Salvatore di Giacomo, Napoli: Figure e paesi e Luci e ombre napoletane, edited by
Romualdo Marrone (Rome: Newton, 1995 [1914]), pp. 141–2.
57 “Pizze alla napoletana” Il Bersagliere [Rome], June 19, 1880.
58 Amadeo Pettini, “Cento ricette del cuoco del Re” (Turin: Gazzetta del Popolo di Torino,
1935), p. 5.
59 Pizzeria Brandi, “Pronto c’ ‘a pala.” [undated flyer]. This undated promotional flyer has on
one side “Antica Pizzeria-Ristorante della Regina d’Italia. Casa fondata nel 1780. Brandi
di Vincenzo Pagnani,” and Parise’s story on the other. The present author did not find the
article in the Il Mezzogiorno of November 1, 1929, but Parise did republish his article in a
book called Finestra su Napoli, originally printed in 1941 by Editore Gaspare Casella,
reprinted in 2005 by Stamperia del Valentino (pp. 92–6). The current owners of the Pizzeria
Brandi have said that the date is wrong on the flyer; we can assume that this article did
in fact appear in the 1930s.
60 Mattozzi, Una storia napoletana, 120.
61 Ibid., pp. 118–19.
62 Tom Sullenberger, “Ajax Meets the Jolly Green Giant: Some Observations on the Use of
Folklore and Myth in American Mass Marketing,” Journal of American Folklore 87:343
(1974), p. 53.
63 Archivio di Stato di Napoli, Registri Matrimoni, 1877, Porto 50. The marriage certificate
was not signed as the couple was “unlettered.”
64 See Figure 3 as well as the request for the change of the pizzeria’s name (note 21).
65 In the Italian translation of Delizia, though, the text is “Sig. Raffaele Esposito (Brandi).”
66 Guido Andruetto, “Cortei e sbandieratori per i 120 anni della pizza” La Repubblica, Turin
Edition ([Turin], June 10, 2009), p. 15.
67 Interestingly, this forgery was later forged: Benincasa reproduces another version of the
letter (which does not have the name “Brandi”), apparently found in a Parisian pizzeria
opened by a distant relative of Esposito. Benincasa, La pizza napoletana, p. 143.
68 It is important to note that the current owners of Pizzeria Brandi were supportive of this
research, though they do not agree with its conclusions, believing the famous letter to be
genuine.
69 Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their
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06 Nowak FCS 17.1:Layout 1 2/12/13 15:48 Page 123
Meanings (New York: Norton, 2003), p. 10.
70 The author is indebted to Ken Albala for this neologism.
71 Charles Briggs, “The Politics of Discursive Authority in Research on the “Invention of
Tradition,’” Cultural Anthropology 11 (1996), p. 438.
72 The present author has collected over thirty published textual variants; the internet groans
under the weight of countless others.
73 See Carlo Ginzburg’s book The Cheese and The Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century
Miller, Translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi (Baltimorem MD: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1992), in which the author uses the trial records of the sixteenth-century
miller Mennocchio to show that culture is not simply an top-down process whereby elite
knowledge moves downward into the minds of the “folk.”
74 Laura Martin, “‘Eskimo Words for Snow’: A Case Study in the Genesis and Decay of an
Anthropological Example,” American Anthropologist 88 (1986), p. 418. To be fair, Martin
describes how this myth originated in the academy and diffused outward into popular
culture, rather than vice versa.
Zachary Nowak Invented Tradition and the Origins of the Pizza Margherita
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... Pizza was created for poor people with inexpensive ingredients flour, yeast, water, edible oil, and salt. In the 16th century, when the tomato was imported from America, pizza became as we know it today [1]. In 1750, the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) was made, and in 1850 the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) was cooked [1]. ...
... In the 16th century, when the tomato was imported from America, pizza became as we know it today [1]. In 1750, the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) was made, and in 1850 the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) was cooked [1]. In 1889, the pizza maker Raffaele Esposito added the basil to the pizza "Margherita", giving it the Italian flag colors [1]. ...
... In 1750, the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) was made, and in 1850 the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) was cooked [1]. In 1889, the pizza maker Raffaele Esposito added the basil to the pizza "Margherita", giving it the Italian flag colors [1]. Recently, the food market has grown, offering novel chances to catering. ...
Article
Full-text available
Italian gastronomy experiences have ever-enhancing fame around the world. It is due to the linkage between taste and salubriousness commonly related to Mediterranean foods. The market proposes many types of pizza to suit all palates. The antioxidant potential of the “Pizza Napoletana marinara” included in the register of traditional specialties guaranteed (TSG) was determined in this work. ABTS (2,2’-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) method evaluated the antioxidant activity of the pizza homogenized. In vitro digestion models estimated the intestinal and gastric bioaccessibility of the main antioxidant compounds (lycopene and phenolics). To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide the content, antioxidant potential, and bioaccessibility of the antioxidants (polyphenols and lycopene) contained in the traditional pizza “marinara TSG”. Our results showed that the “Pizza Napoletana marinara” had polyphenols concentration, lycopene level, antioxidant activity, and bioaccessibility of phenolic compounds and lycopene better than other similar pizzas. They confirmed the nutritional importance of traditional preparations and established the nutraceutical potential of “pizza marinara TSG” as a food rich in bio-accessible antioxidants.
... The pizza was created for poor people with inexpensive ingredients flour, yeast, water, edible oil, and salt. In the 16th century, when the tomato was imported from America, pizza became as we know it today [1]. In 1750, was cooked the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) and in 1850, the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) [1]. ...
... In the 16th century, when the tomato was imported from America, pizza became as we know it today [1]. In 1750, was cooked the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) and in 1850, the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) [1]. In 1889, the pizza maker Raffaele Esposito added the basil on the "pizza Margherita", giving it the colors of the Italian flag [1]. ...
... In 1750, was cooked the first "marinara" (tomato, garlic, oregano, oil) and in 1850, the first "Margherita" (tomato, mozzarella, oil) [1]. In 1889, the pizza maker Raffaele Esposito added the basil on the "pizza Margherita", giving it the colors of the Italian flag [1]. Recently the food market has grown, offering novel chances to catering. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Italian gastronomy experiences have ever-enhancing fame around the world. This is due to the linkage between taste and salubriousness commonly related to Mediterranean foods. The market proposes many types of pizza to suit all palates. In this work, the antioxidant potential of the “pizza marinara” included in the register of traditional specialties guaranteed (TSG) was determined. An ABTS method evaluated the antioxidant activity of the homogenized pizza. In vitro digestion models estimated the intestinal and gastric bioaccessibility of the main antioxidant compounds (lycopene and phenolics). To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide the content, antioxidant potential, and bioaccessibility of the antioxidants (polyphenols and lycopene) contained in the traditional pizza “marinara TSG”. Our results showed that the “pizza marinara TSG” had a polyphenol concentration, lycopene level, antioxidant activity, and bioaccessibility of phenolic compounds and lycopene which were better than similar pizzas. They confirmed the nutritional importance of traditional preparations and established the functional potential of “pizza marinara TSG” as a food rich in bio-accessible antioxidants.
... politique : c'est l'exemple de la légende urbaine de origines de la pizza Margherita (Nowak, 2014). ...
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Dès l'orée des années 1980 (Domowitz, 1979 ; Fine 1980 ; Turner, 1992), des chercheurs américains ont identifié des légendes urbaines basées sur des histoires exemplaires relatives à la nourriture ou l'alimentation. Cependant, hormis l'ouvrage de l'ethnologue Jean-Loïc le Quellec (1991, réed. 2012), Alcool de singe et liqueur de vipère : Légendes urbaines, peu de travaux ont placés les « légendes alimentaires » (Campion-Vincent et Renard, 1992, réed. 2002) au coeur de leurs recherches. Bien souvent, celles-ci sont diluées dans l'un des trois sous-ensembles (Fine, 1992) importants des légendes urbaines : les atteintes au corps humain. Les deux autres sont les peurs relatives aux nouvelles technologies et les questions liées aux pratiques sexuelles et/ou amoureuses. 1°) Légendes urbaines alimentaires : un rappel à l'ordre moral et à la prudence. Définitions et exemples Les légendes urbaines sont ainsi caractérisées par le récit « d'événements insolites, amusants ou horribles qui renferment des thèmes se rattachant à la vie moderne, qui sont rapportés comme quelque chose ayant eu lieu ou ayant pu se produire, dont on trouve des variantes en des lieux et à des époques différentes, et qui contiennent des implications morales » (Bordia et DiFonzo, 2006 : 36). Pour Renard, elles définissent « un récit anonyme, présentant de multiples variantes, de forme brève, au contenu surprenant, raconté comme vrai et récent dans le milieu social dont il exprime de manière symbolique les peurs et les aspirations » (2013 : 6). De ces définitions, il ressort alors que les légendes urbaines partagent le besoin de (re)créer du sens dans des situations sociales déstructurées en produisant un discours qui mobilise et réaffirme des valeurs morales et culturelles. En ceci, les légendes urbaines nous renseignent en quelque sorte sur les inquiétudes fondamentales d'une société et/ou d'une culture donnée en affirmant une triple nécessité d'appartenance identitaire, de compréhension d'un environnement sociopolitique troublé et, enfin, de contrôle sur le réel. L'aspect moral est alors au coeur des légendes urbaines en ce qu'il exprime, du point de vue fonctionnaliste, une sorte de punition résultant d'un manquement, culturellement sanctionné 1 , à une 1 Ainsi, dans l'anecdote de la viande de rat servie au KFC, les victimes sont surtout des femmes qui au lieu de se conformer aux pratiques attribuées de leur genre, en l'espèce la cuisine, ont préféré servir à leurs enfants de la nourriture industrielle. En règle générale, hormis les légendes incriminant de l'alcool, ceux sont à des femmes que les mésaventures liées à des légendes alimentaires arrivent.
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There is a general consensus on the importance of the nomenclature, description, and classification of foods and food groups due to the significant impact in nutritional field, especially in the epidemiological one. Particular attention should be addressed towards composite dishes and food preparations that are widely consumed by the population. In this work, 49 Italian composite dishes were selected, described, classified, and coded according to two types of classification and description systems. LanguaL™ is a multi-faceted food categorization system that addresses the requisite of flexibility in terms of food description, allowing description and categorization at different levels of detail. FoodEx2 represents a system of flexible combinations of classifications categories and descriptors based on a hierarchical system for different food safety-related domains. Dishes from different Italian regions were selected according to the EuroFIR Network and the QUALIFU-SIAGRO project, supported by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies and Tourism. For each recipe, ingredients, amount and preparations methods were defined. Accuracy of the description of food items becomes very important to ensure a correct link between different Food Composition Tables and/or Food Consumption Databases. All recipes were described and codified by LanguaL™ and FoodEx2 and will be used to update the Italian Food Composition Tables of the CREA Research Centre for Food and Nutrition and further of the international European Food Data Platform: FoodExplorer™ developed by EuroFIR.
Chapter
The kitchen is the site of Hybridization and exchange, of Foodand identity negotiation in a dialogic interaction with the other. This is especially true for migrant groups and mobile people, who carry with them their food habits and cultures and change those of their places of destination. The Italian case is paradigmatic: the proletarian diaspora of the nineteenth–twentieth century was the most important means of diffusion of a culinary model that penetrated and remade the cuisines of many destination countries.
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Italian food is very popular around the world, but the knowledge of the proximate composition of traditional composite dishes consumed in Italy is limited. This is mainly due to the large regional variety and complexity of such dishes. The present study provides new analytical data in order to fill this gap. Thirty dishes from different regions in Italy were selected including main courses, side dishes and desserts. For each dish, samples were prepared and then analyzed to determine the nutrient composition in terms of moisture, protein, fat, starch, sugars, dietary fibre and energy value. The nutrients varied between the dishes as can be expected. Moreover, to assess their specific nutritional quality, in terms of adequacy or deficit, the nutrients of one portion of every dish were compared with the Dietary References Values (DRVs) for the Italian population. Our results provide an important update of the national Food Composition Database (FCDB) of the CREA Research Centre for Food and Nutrition. The new data widen the nutritional knowledge of a variety of traditional Italian dishes and provide dietary information to health workers, the food industry and consumers.
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Transatlantic Italian foods offer a paradigmatic commercial and cultural product of a migrant marketplace in which waves of mobile cooks and eaters from used food as a material and symbolic component of their identity as Italians in America, while also shaping notions of Italian food and the Italian nation. This paper advances the migrant marketplace framework by showing how notions of culinary regionalism and nationalism were constructed through the transatlantic circulation of culinary and cultural imaginaries. Combining commodity chain analysis and ethnic studies methodologies reveals a long-term synchronization of taste between Italy and America and across social and regional lines in Italy. By the mid-twentieth century, the American food industry had standardized diverse Italian regional cuisines into an image of red sauce and pizza, but in the 1970s, a new generation of mobile Italians and Italian Americans recovered those regional traditions and raised the global status of Italian food.
Chapter
Nothing appears more ancient, and linked to an immemorial past, than the pageantry which surrounds British monarchy in its public ceremonial manifestations. Yet, as a chapter in this book establishes, in its modern form it is the product of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. ‘Traditions’ which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented. Anyone familiar with the colleges of ancient British universities will be able to think of the institution of such ‘traditions’ on a local scale, though some - like the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve - may become generalized through the modern mass medium of radio. This observation formed the starting-point of a conference organized by the historical journal Past & Present, which in turn forms the basis of the present book. The term ‘invented tradition’ is used in a broad, but not imprecise sense. It includes both ‘ traditions’ actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner within a brief and dateable period - a matter of a few years perhaps - and establishing themselves with great rapidity. The royal Christmas broadcast in Britain (instituted in 1932) is an example of the first; the appearance and development of the practices associated with the Cup Final in British Association Football, of the second. It is evident that not all of them are equally permanent, but it is their appearance and establishment rather than their chances of survival which are our primary concern. © E. J. Hobsbawm, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Prys Morgan, David Cannadine, Bernard S. Cohn, Terence Ranger. 1983.
Restano da fare gli italiani Its constant repetition (and misattribution) suggests its aptness The Making of Italy
  • L 'italia È Fatta
L'Italia è fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani. " Its constant repetition (and misattribution) suggests its aptness. Cited in Edgar Holt, The Making of Italy: 1815–1870 (New York: Holt, 1971), p. 258.
Invented Tradition and the Origins of the Pizza Margherita 4 All translations are mine unless otherwise stated. Antonio Gramsci Il lanzo ubriaco
  • Zachary Nowak
Zachary Nowak ◊ Invented Tradition and the Origins of the Pizza Margherita 4 All translations are mine unless otherwise stated. Antonio Gramsci, " Il lanzo ubriaco, " in Valentino Gerratana and Antonio Santucci (eds) L'Ordine nuovo 1919–1920 (Turin: Einaudi, 1987), p. 422.
Controstoria dell'unità d'Italia: Fatti e misfatti del
  • Di Fiore
Di Fiore, Controstoria dell'unità d'Italia: Fatti e misfatti del Risorgimento (Milan: Rizzoli, 2007), p. 259.