While the advent of online food delivery is relatively new, pizza delivery most certainly is not. Before you could get your McDonald’s Big Mac brought your doorstep via UberEats, calling up your local pizzeria and ordering a few pies was the norm.
And, it turns out, the act of delivering pizza to hungry customers is a pretty old-school business, beyond just predating online food delivery apps. It’s not an ancient tradition by any means — we’re not talking Middle Ages-level old— but it’s a practice that dates back more than a century.
So when and where was the first pizza delivery made — and who were the lucky recipients of those pies?
Slice looked into the matter and found that the first pizza delivery supposedly occurred in the purported birthplace of modern pizza, Naples, Italy, and and that it was made at the behest of a royal couple, according to the magazine Food & Wine. It’s also believed that it was on this occasion that the pizza variety pizza Margherita was created.
Here’s the story:
In 1889, Italy’s Queen Margherita of Savoy and her husband, King Umberto, paid a visit to the waterfront municipality of Naples. Italy had been unified for only a few decades and the couple traveled to the region — as it did elsewhere in the country — to promote peace and assuage any unrest that may have been simmering.
Legend says that, while Queen Margherita was in town, she became weary with her lavish meals and wanted to try a dish that was more local — fare that a regular person would eat. The queen’s food was often inspired by French cuisine, according to Food & Wine, and modern pizza — believed to have been created in Naples in the 1700s— was viewed as commoner’s food and looked down upon by the noble folk.
But Queen Margherita’s desire to eat like Naples residents was not to be ignored. (After all, who doesn’t want to eat what the locals eat when they’re traveling?) So, pizza chef Raffaele Esposito was recruited to satisfy his majesty’s craving — and he did so exceptionally.
With his wife, Esposito whipped up three varieties of pizza for the queen and then proceeded to hand deliver the pies to the royal couple’s quarters. In the process, it seems that Esposito inadvertently became the first person to make a pizza delivery.
At the same, Esposito also allegedly coined the pizza variety that is now known as pizza Margherita. One of the three pies he made for the queen included the ingredients of red tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. It was intentionally crafted to look like the Italian flag and it also happened to particularly delight Queen Margherita. A few days later, a letter was relayed to Esposito, informing him of the queen’s contentment. He was so pleased he decided to name the tomato, basil and mozzarella pie after the monarch. Thus, pizza Margherita was ostensibly born.
Of course, there are some who claim that this is just a fable and contend this series of events never happened. But, if the story is true, I think we can all agree that Esposito set a pretty high standard for exceptional service in the pizza delivery business.
— Melanie Lawder