Pizza as we know it today was invented in Naples. Before the 1700s, flatbreads existed but were never topped with tomatoes, now a defining characteristic of pizza. Tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century by explorers returning from Peru, but they were believed to be poisonous by many Europeans until poor peasants in Naples began to top their flatbread with it in the late 18th century. The dish soon became popular, with visitors to Naples seeking out the poorer neighborhoods to try the local specialty. Marinara pizza, which does not have cheese, is so named because it was traditionally prepared by “la marinara,” the seaman's wife for her husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.
Baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked at the Naples pizzeria “Pietro... e basta così,” is generally credited with creating Margherita pizza, now known as the classic Neapolitan-style pizza. In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples and Esposito baked them a pizza named in honor of the queen whose colors mirrored those of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil leaves).
The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) was founded in 1984 in Naples, Italy to certify pizzerias that use the proper ancient artisan traditions of authentic Neapolitan pizza. They have several requirements that must be met to gain certification, which must be applied for by a restaurant. They now also have an American branch and there are currently a few hundred restaurants in Italy and around the world that are VPN certified.
An authentic Neapolitan pizza has a crust made from a dough that is made with highly refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour, Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast (not dry yeast), water and salt. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer and formed by hand, without the help of a rolling pin. The dough is topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, fior di latte, which is mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk, or mozzarella di Bufala, which is mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos, usually raised in the Campania and Lazio marshlands in Italy. It's topped off with fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. The ingredients must be all-natural and fresh. The pizza is baked for 60-90 seconds (baking time cannot exceed 90 seconds) in a minimum 800 F stone oven with a wood fire.