A recently discovered still-life fresco at the Pompeii archaeological site looks like a pizza, but it’s not, experts at the archaeological site said Tuesday.
They noted that the key ingredients needed to prepare Italy’s iconic dish — tomatoes and mozzarella — weren’t available when the fresco was painted some 2,000 years ago.
Tomatoes were only introduced to Europe from the Americas a few centuries ago, and some stories tell that the discovery of mozzarella led directly to the invention of pizza in nearby Naples in the 18th century.
Instead, the image is believed to be a focaccia topped with fruit, including pomegranate and possibly dates, finished with spices or a type of pesto, experts said. In the fresco, it is served on a silver plate and next to it is a goblet of wine.
The contrast of the frugal food served in a luxurious setting, denoted by the silver tray, is not dissimilar to today’s pizza, “born as a dish for the poor in southern Italy, which has conquered the world and has become works even in stars. restaurants,” said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii archaeological site.
The ancient Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The sudden and deadly event left much of the structure intact, embalmed in volcanic ash, and the site is now a major archaeological project and tourist attraction.
The Coldiretti ag lobby immediately seized on the discovery of the fresco to promote pizza, invented as a fast food for the working poor, as a national treasure. Today, pizza accounts for a third of the food budget of foreign visitors and generates a total annual revenue of 15 billion euros ($16.4 billion) in Italy.
The art of the Neapolitan pizza maker was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list in 2017, recognized for its four phases of dough preparation and for being baked exclusively in a wood-fired oven at 905 degrees Fahrenheit.