Raffaele Esposito (Italian pronunciation: [raffaˈɛːle eˈspɔːzito]) was an Italian chef and owner of a tavern called Pizzeria di Pietro e basta così ("Pietro's Pizzeria and that's enough") in the 19th century that had been founded in 1780 by Pietro Colicchio. Esposito is considered by some to be the father of modern pizza.
In 1889, pizza had not yet become a popular or well-known dish and was typically eaten by poor people as a way to use up various ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. At that time, Esposito was considered the premier pizza-maker in the city of Naples.
Esposito was, therefore, requested to prepare a pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy, who had traveled to Naples with King Umberto I. Esposito and his wife were admitted to the royal kitchens to prepare this dish as he saw fit. Deeming the traditional garlic topping to be unfit for the royal palate, Esposito instead prepared three different pizzas, the last of which used a combination of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil to emulate the red, white, and green of the Italian flag. It is claimed by some sources that this was the first time pizza was made with mozzarella cheese.
Queen Margherita, having never had pizza before, so enjoyed the dish that she had her head of table services send Esposito a letter to commend his pizzas, stating that they "were found to be delicious". Esposito used this recommendation to successfully promote his restaurant, naming the pizza most enjoyed by the Queen, "Pizza Margherita". The legend of pizza Margherita is considered a false history, as a pizza made with the same toppings was already present in Naples between 1796 and 1810.
It is widely reported that this event caused pizza to become a fad, from which it retained enduring popularity. Because of Esposito's experiments with ingredients and presentation, and his successful preparation of the dish for Queen Margherita, it is suggested by some that Esposito was the father of the modern pizza. Esposito's restaurant still exists, although the name has been changed to Pizzeria di Brandi, and the royal letter favoring Esposito's pizza is on display in the restaurant.
- Luciano Pignataro (2018). La pizza: Una storia contemporanea (in Italian). Hoepli.
- Arthur Schwartz, Naples at Table: Cooking in Campania (1998), p. 68. ISBN 9780060182618.
- John Dickie, Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food (2008), p. 186.
- Paul Hofmann, That Fine Italian Hand (1991), p. 32.
- Father Giuseppe Orsini, Joseph E. Orsini, Italian Baking Secrets (2007), p. 99.
- James McNair, Pizza (1987), p. 5.
- Linda Stradley, "History and Legends of Pizza" (2004).
- Angelo Forgione (2013). Made in Naples. Magenes. p. 195. ISBN 978-88-6649-039-5.
- Media related to Raffaele Esposito at Wikimedia Commons