It’s said that the pizza that made Naples world famous is the Pizza Margherita in Italian or Pizza Margarita to the rest of the world. It was first baked in 1889 by a local man and the town baker called Esposito. He created the pizza in honour of a visit to Naples by the Queen of Italy, Queen Margherita. —rachel webb
as a little girl, i did not like pizza. when my family moved to sacramento, my best friend’s father owned a pizzaria–ricco’s. ricco’s was filled with arcade games and egg-machines, and we always got a handfull of tokens to use as we wanted. i still didn’t really like pizza, but i tolerated cheese pizza. i did like to dip the crusts in melted butter, which came in plastic cups. through grade school and middle school i really only liked pepperoni pizza and my parents ordered pizza for dinner on special occasions when we were allowed to eat in front of the tv. when i started high school, the local pizza hang out had a “highway man” combo–which had italian sausage with mushrooms and olives–which was my favorite at the time.
the first evening i spent in italy on a family vacation my brother and i ordered pizzas and were interested to see that they came paper-thin, and individually sized. we were careful not to order pepperoni–which came topped with peppers. however, probably the most amazing pizza i’ve ever had was margherita pizza in naples. i haven’t been back to italy since this family trip–but i did take the feel of an amazing and perfect pizza.
i tried many kinds of pizza trying to recreate the cracker thin, perfectly balanced, light pizza. i’ve eaten frozen trader joe’s pizzas that are made in italy. i’ve been to tutta bella pizza which makes their pizzas in the Neapolitan style–and has delicious nutella espressos. my farmer’s market features a wood-fire pizza stove on a cart–verachi pizza which fires the pizzas right in front of you out in the street–and on the right day, topped with cured meats from mario batali’s family’s deli, salumi. pagliacci pizza, our favorite order-in pizza, makes an amazing margherita pizza with the crust dusted with sea salt–addictive. but none of these pizzas really had the feel of that pizza in naples. while delicious, all these pizzas have a distinctive northwest feel to them–they lack something intrinsically italian.
in fact, i’ve had no success finding an authentic margherita pizza in my city. but that’s ok, because the wonderful combination of fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and baked fresh tomatoes is delicious regardless of whether or not it has the distinctive feel of my city, or an intrinsic italian feel. i feel that to some degree, there can’t be a recreation of eating margherita pizza in naples–unless i am in naples eating a margherita pizza.
what i do know is that i can eat a pizza i create in my home that has a distinctive feel of home. and so, my husband and i picked the four tomatoes that our little potted plants have produced, picked basil on our italian basil plant (barely hanging on!), and sliced through fresh mozzarella cheese that we bought at the market down the street. we cheated–pizza dough was purchased with sauce–and we pre-baked the crusts. with little regard for the effect of roundness on the taste of a delicious pizza we rolled out the crusts in whatever shape they wanted to be. paper-thin. cranked the oven up to 500 degrees, and warmed our pizza stone.
northwest margherita pizza
divide store-bought pizza dough–roll out paper thin
pre-bake on a hot pizza stone for 1/2-1 min
the dough will be puffy, flatten with a cutting board
spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce and spread
layer rounds of cheese and tomatoes
sprinkle sea salt to taste
bake for 3-5 mins or until the crust is crackly and the cheese is bubbly
remove and sprinkle whole basil leaves on top
it’s not super authentic, but it was made with our fresh ingredients–and it’s not sitting in a pizzeria in naples. but it’s our own–and special in that way.