The pizza-looking dish appears to lack two classic ingredients, tomato and mozzarella but might have pineapple on it.
A harmless stereotype tells us that Italians love their pizza and pasta. What we didn't know is that this love goes back 2,000 years. A still-life fresco resembling a pizza has been discovered in the ruins of ancient Pompeii. However, the pizza-looking dish lacks two classic ingredients - tomato and mozzarella. For the pineapple on pizza lovers, it includes what appears to be something similar to pineapple on it.
The "pineapple" on the plate, however, appears to be something entirely different, as Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter the fruit in Guadeloupe in 1493. According to archeologists at the Unesco World Heritage, the bread is seasoned with spices or pesto, an ancient Roman herb cheese spread, reports The Washington Post. A goblet of wine sits next to the bread, along with dried fruit, dates, pomegranate and a garland of yellow arbutus.
The 2,000-year-old fresco was discovered during excavations in the Regio IX area of Pompeii's archaeological park, close to Naples, the birthplace of pizza, reports BBC. They found the painting on a wall in what is thought to be the hallway of a house with a bakery in its annex. It "could be a distant ancestor" of pizza, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii said in a statement. Furthermore, it was influenced by the Greek hospitality ritual of xenia, and the tray represented gifts given to guests as part of a Hellenistic tradition. Such images were common in ancient Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum, both of which were destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.
Pizza, pesto, and wine were on the menu 2,000 years ago have been found on a fresco in the ancient city of Pompeii during recent excavations. pic.twitter.com/Ow5sMJTVZJ— Nrken19 (@nrken19) June 27, 2023
According to the Guardian, the fresco depicts a round focaccia bread on a silver tray supporting various fruits, including pomegranate and possibly a date. It is, however, rare to come across a fresco with the image of a focaccia. The fresco appears to reflect the contrast between a "frugal and simple meal" and "the luxury of silver trays and refinement of artistic and literary representations," according to Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of Pompeii archaeological park. "How can we fail to think, in this regard, of pizza, which was also born as a 'poor' dish of southern Italy, which has now conquered the world and is also served in starred restaurants," he said.
Naples is the birthplace of the Margherita, the traditional pizza made of tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and the idea of adding fruit to the dish enrages many Italians. Gino Sorbillo, the owner of one of Naples' oldest pizzerias, believes the image in the Pompeii fresco is surely a pizza. "In ancient Pompeii, we already knew that there were forms of flatbread, made with grains, water, salt and maybe beer as a leavening agent," he said. "Then they might have topped it with vegetables or the fish of the day... it was an ancient form of pizza."
He also said that fruit may have been considered more of a main course during the ancient Roman period. When it comes to modern fruit on pizza, he says, "You can use fruit, for example, figs or strawberries, if it's a sweet pizza." When asked if the fresco settled the debate over pineapple on pizza, Sorbillo said flatly, "No." "Tastes are tastes," he added. "We make traditional pizza and would never use pineapple."
As per an estimate, 2,000 people were killed by Vesuvius' eruption. The ruins were discovered in the 16th century, and excavations began in 1748. Excavations began in February on Insula 10 in Regio IX, a city district that had housed a cluster of homes, workshops and the bakery. In May, the skeletal remains of a few victims were discovered in a bakery, where they were thought to have sought refuge. The Italian culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said Pompeii "never ceases to amaze. It is a treasure chest that always reveals new treasures."