Pizza is one of Italy’s greatest gifts to the world, and it has been adapted to suit local food preferences across the globe.
People have been eating pizza for centuries. In an article published by History Today Magazine in 2018, the dish as we know it came to being as early as the 18th century, with the rise of overseas trade in the country.
By the 19th century, tomatoes had been introduced to Italy which formed an essential topping on the pizza. The dish soon found recognition all over the world.
This month, a fresco of a platter was found in the ruins of a bakery in ancient Pompeii in Italy. The platter consisted of a dish resembling a pizza alongside a goblet of wine and some dried fruits, reported a story by the Associated Press.
The city, which was buried under volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, has been excavated by archaeologists since as early as 1738.
“Pompeii never ceases to amaze, it is a chest that always reveals new treasures,” said the Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, in a statement released by the Pompeii Archaeological Park on Tuesday.
A peculiar feature of the dish shown in the fresco was its lack of the key toppings of mozzarella and tomatoes. This led archaeologist and food writer Farrell Monaco to believe that the dish was not actually pizza, but rather a round focaccia bread called mensa that acted as an edible plate or utensil, much like a taco, published on her blog about the role of food and cooking in ancient Roman life, Tavola Mediterranea, on Tuesday.
This is because the dish has also been depicted in another fresco in Pompeii that was discovered in 2019. As per the blog post, literary references to mensa have also been made in Virgil’s Aeneid written in 30 BC, thus corroborating the existence of the flatbread.
According to an article published The Guardian yesterday, the bread would have been seasoned with moretum, a type of condiment made with herbs, salt, oil, and vinegar. The statement released by the Pompeii Archeological Park on Tuesday also stated that this dish could be the distant ancestor to the pizza we see today. So, the next time you eat a delicious slice of pizza, you have mensa to thank first.