Archestratus, a Sicilian Greek living in Italy in the 4th Century B.C. and one of the first food writers on record, commented  in his book of poems The Deipnosophists, that “ingredients should be fresh, of top quality and seasonal, and that their flavour should be distinct and not masked by the addition of spices herbs and seasonings”.

On re-reading the approximate translation, the original being lost in antiquity, one could be forgiven for believing it to be a forward from a Gordon Ramsey cookbook some 25 centuries later.

In addition it summarised for me the essence of Italian cuisine.

A romantic view I admit, as there are times when even I squirm as Jamie introduces a baked aubergine to a class of 14 year olds in Bethnal Green or Hugh regales the single mother intent of preserving that grotesque cruelty of the battery chicken based solely on her receipt of a limited family allowance.

But my recent visits to Italy reminded me of the Neapolitan simplicity of the Pizza.

Bread-making in Italy was the preserve of the poor South whilst the rich burghers of the Renaissance North indulged in the Saracen import of expensive rice. Where the South had to suffer olive oil, the Northern culinary lubricant of choice was by the end of the 14th century – butter.

It was only as late as the 18th century that the Pizza, as we know it today, had spread throughout Italy and across Europe, mainly due to the widespread growth of suitable sweet tomatoes – the second major ingredient. My visit recently to the countryside in Northern Italy with a wily Italian friend or two brought us to a Pizza restaurant near Bologna. The Pizza on offer, whilst we made our choice from a virtual telephone directory of toppings, was the bread equivalent of hors d’oeuvres. It was oblong in shape, measuring a metre in length x 30 centimetres wide, and served on a wooden paddle straight from the oven. Along its length were four of the more popular house ingredients from tomato to rocket, anchovies to pepperami sausage. The idea was that our table of ten were to share various bits of the paddle whilst discussing and deciding our personal choice for the main meal. The total cost so far was 10 Euros, working out at about 75p per head. The bread was crisp, well cooked and as thin as a poppadum – it had not absorbed any of the moist ingredients but remained solely as a vehicle to carry the delightful fresh ingredients on top.

Now the man who could have written this article thus far was one Peter Boizot. Peter, a native of Peterborough, was taken as a boy on holiday to Italy in 1948. The effect was electric and after studying at Cambridge University, he opened his first restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho in 1966.

He named it Pizza Express.

The second, in Coptic Street near the British Museum, opened a few years later in a disused dairy. Both restaurants remain as a testament to his gregarious, authentic, bohemian and generous nature. Unfortunately it also reflected Peter’s less than aggressive commercial side and the whole operation got sold on, creating something of a franchise deal to the mercurial Luke Johnson, our present head of Channel 4. Luke of course, managed to make the most of it all when he resold over 200 Pizza restaurants in 2007.

I don’t wish to moan as over many years I and my family have been frequent visitors to the temple of fast convenient food. I have also partaken in the children’s party booking of the middle class restaurant of choice, but after perusing the staff manual and meeting some of the middle management, the operation now has more in common with an Ibis Hotel chain than the heady days of metre long meals.

All things change and grass is inevitable greener I know, but selection from the present menu, albeit laudable, shows less than 50% of dishes on offer being Pizza. Of those, and for an additional £1.15, you can have the choice of thinner (authentic?) bread, although my last outing proved that the thinner bread could not even support its own weight after 5 minutes.

I am not against commercial security, even suitable profits, without both a restaurant is doomed, nor am I against rationalisation or portion control, but this is a column about food not contented shareholders. Good honest, fresh food rocks my boat not the share index in the F.T.

With ever new acquisitive owners, the present being British Coal and the Railway industry, I doubtless will have my romantic viewpoint rocked in one way or another even more, but then I haven’t even mentioned Pizza Hut yet!