So THAT'S Why We Call Pizza 'Margherita'

Sorry, it has nothing to do with margaritas.
Margherita of Savoy pre-pizza in 1875, and post-pizza in a portrait that was released close to her death in 1926.
Margherita of Savoy pre-pizza in 1875, and post-pizza in a portrait that was released close to her death in 1926.

Have you ever ordered a pizza Margherita and wondered why it’s even called that?

Before you even question its name, it’s possible that, if you’re American, you don’t even know what pizza Margherita is in the first place. (If you do, we apologize for the condescension and hope you forgive us.) There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between cheese pizza, plain pizza and Margherita pizza.

According to the book Pizzapedia by Dan Bransfield, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana recognizes three types of genuine Neapolitan pizzas, one being pizza Margherita. It’s defined as being “made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil.” It’s a pared-down, more flavorful version of what Americans think of as cheese pizza, and it looks like this:

A Margherita pizza in its full glory.
A Margherita pizza in its full glory.

So how did it get its name? The most widespread ― though not undisputed ― belief suggests that Margherita of Savoy, onetime queen consort of Italy, was visiting Naples with her husband, King Umberto I (who happened to be her first cousin), in June 1889. This came on the heels of the unification of northern and southern Italy, and southern Italy was in need of a morale boost after its loss of independence.

Enter Queen Margherita and her appetite.

Legend has it that the queen tired of the gourmet French food she’d been served on the trip, and asked the most famous pizzamaker in Naples, Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi, to make her pizza.

The story goes that the pizza she liked best was made with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, which just happened to represent the three colors of the Italian flag. Convenient, huh? Esposito named the dish after Queen Margherita, and the rest is disputed history.

An alternate theory revolves around the fact that the word margherita translates to “daisy” in Italian, so some suggest the pizza got its name from the daisy-shaped arrangement of mozzarella and basil on top of the pizza.

No matter how you slice it, pizza Margherita is delicious. If you can’t get some from your local pizzeria, make yourself a pie. We’ve got 29 different recipes.