Legend has it that Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito was once commissioned to create a pizza to honor a visit by Queen Margherita, the consort of King Umberto I of Italy. Raffaele must have been a smart cookie, because instead of making just one pizza, he did what any of us would do when needing to provide food for people with whose tastes we are unfamiliar — he made three pizzas.
The queen’s favorite was a pie made with mozzarella, tomato, and basil — which not only matched the color of the Italian flag, but also tastes really delicious. The favorite pie was dubbed the Pizza Margherita, and while the legend of its origin may not have much basis in reality, it’s still a fun story to describe a pizza that is possibly one of the best things around.
I’ve had Margherita pizza at a huge number of places. Damgoode Pies had the Margie (although I don’t see it on their current menu), while ZAZA’s version is a crisp crust, fresh mozzarella delight. I snitched a bite of a Pizzeria Santa Lucia margherita one night at a food truck event, and it was fantastic, and one of the best versions I’ve tasted comes from a little cafe in Eureka Springs called Cafe Amore. That last pie was eaten right after Eureka Springs thawed out from a huge ice storm a few years ago, and the entire restaurant turned into something of an impromptu party celebrating a town who was coming back to life — the heavy pours of a very respectable Cabernet Sauvignon being handed out were a nice addition to a great pizza.
But my go-to Margherita ain’t nothing fancy, but it sure is delicious — and it comes from Vino’s Pizzeria and Brew Pub. Vino’s is a second home to me, and while I’ll occasionally grab a single slice of pepperoni or a sandwich if I’m in a hurry, it’s the Margherita to which I return constantly. Crust is just the right thickness — chewy, hefty enough to hold the toppings, but not so thick that it becomes more bread than pizza. Lots of cheese, lots of tomatoes, and while the basil isn’t fresh, I actually like the flavor of dried basil — it gets more peppery and strong and has a very compelling taste.
So there you have it — Pizza Margherita. Named for a queen, and utterly delicious. Maybe next time I’ll get into the other royal pizzas — Prince Meat Lovers and Earl Chicken Pesto — but for now, long live the Queen!