When our guests ask us why we choose Spanish and Southern Italian as the theme for tidbit, the simple answer is because we are passionate about both types of cuisines. However, not many people know that combining Spanish and Italian food also makes sense for historical reasons because Spain ruled Southern Italy for over two centuries and there is a great deal of cultural cross-over.
The Kingdom of Spain ruled Naples for over 200 years from the late 15th century onwards through viceroys—one at Palermo, one at Naples. Sad to notice but, under Spain, southern Italy became one of the most backward and exploited areas in Europe. Heavy taxation (from which the nobility and clergy were exempt) filled the Spanish treasury; agriculture suffered from the accumulation of huge estates by quarreling Italian and Spanish nobles and the church; famines were almost chronic; disease, superstition, and ignorance flourished. A popular revolt against these conditions, led by Masaniello, was crushed in 1648.
One of the good thing that Spain did was to bring many unique vegetables from the New World to Naples. Tomatoes were brought from the New World during Spanish rule in 1596. Funny is that the tomato was initially used only as an ornamental plant. The first historical indication of the use of the tomato in the kitchen is found in the “Cuoco Galante (Naples - Ed. Raimondiane 1733) by Vincenzo Corrado Oritano” head chef of Prince Emanuel of Francavilla (source: http://www.verapizzanapoletana.org/). The same Corrado in a successive tract on the foods most commonly used in Naples declares that the tomato was used to top both pizza and pasta, thus grouping together these two traditional products which helped to make Naples’ culinary fortune and establish its place in the history of world cuisine.