Margherita, the story of the queen of pizzas

Local records reveal no contemporary reference to the Esposito pizzeria incident. The Gazette of the Kingdom of Italy, which published the royal news, made no mention of the Queen’s visit or Galli’s letter to Esposito. Moreover, samples of Galli’s handwriting were compared to the signature of the letter sent to Esposito: they do not match.

If Galli wasn’t the one who signed the letter on behalf of the queen, who was? The name of the recipient of the letter could conceal a clue: “Raffaele Esposito Brandi”. It is strange to have included this second surname. The maiden name of Raffaele Esposito’s wife, Maria Giovanna, was Brandi. Traditionally, European men do not take their wives’ surnames, so Esposito would not have used the name Brandi. However, two people linked to the pizzeria would have been likely to do so: Giovanni and Pasquale Brandi, Maria’s nephews who took over the pizzeria in 1932.

One theory is that the Brandi brothers, seeking to trade, set up the hoax. Having renamed the establishment Pizzeria Brandi in 1932, this potentially forged letter had to refer to the name Brandi. Tales of kings eating street food were widespread in Italy. In 1880, ten years before the letter was allegedly sent, a similar story appeared in the newspaper Il Bersaglierein which Queen Margherita praised the products of a pizza maker.

Esposito’s pizzeria is still in operation today and is still called Pizzeria Brandi. The veracity of the Margherita pizza story is still debated but, in 1989, to mark the 100e anniversary of the day the pizza was baptized, a commemorative plaque has been installed on the wall outside the establishment.

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