This ain’t no Hallmark holiday, this is actually a real thing based in history. Today marks the 124th anniversary of the naming of the Pizza Margherita! On June 11, 1889 the Italian “Department of the Mouth” issued a letter on behalf of her majesty Queen Margherita, consort of King Umberto I, to thank pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raphaele Esposito for presenting “three quality pizzas” in honor of the royal couple’s trip to Naples. The purpose of the trip was to dedicate a road (Corso Umberto I) but the most memorable event was clearly this peasant meal. Legend has it the queen’s favorite was a pizza with mozzarella, tomato and basil — a pizza featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients. This dish now carries the queen’s name and helped pull pizza out of the slums and into the mainstream.
Check out photos of the letter and the pizzeria where it all happened in my post from 2011.
Today is the 118th anniversary of Gennaro Lombardi’s arrival in America. Just 20 years old at the time, Lombardi arrived at Ellis Island aboard a ship called Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm after departing from the port of Naples, Italy. He ended up on Spring Street, where most of his family worked as tailors. Lombardi took a job at a grocery/bakery on Spring Street, of which he took ownership in 1905 and converted into the nation’s first pizzeria.
At the time, pizza was only being sold in bakeries as a side item but Lombardi’s was the first to make it the focus of a restaurant. Several of New York’s most storied pizzerias were founded by former employees of Lombardi’s, such as the recently reopened Totonno’s on Coney Island (1924) and John’s on Bleecker Street (1929).