I work at Papa Gino’s, a Massachusetts-based pizza chain. So it should come as no surprise that I love pizza, as so many do. Pizza is an American tradition. It seems that the only pie that is more authentically American is apple pie (both foods originated in Eurasia, sorry, the expression is inaccurate!).
But who invented pizza? Where did it come from? It’s from Italy, right?
Pizza as we know it today does come from Italy, but it’s origins are a lot more diverse. Flatbread recipes similar to pizza were eaten for millennia throughout the Mediterranean, Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal today), Greece, and even Egypt and Babylonia! During the Roman era, Roman Jews ate a type of kosher cookie during Passover season, which some people think might also have been among the origins for modern-day pizza. There also is focaccia, which is highly similar to pizza, but with a thicker crust due to a higher yeast content.
But pizza as we experience it today is attributed to the Italian port city of Naples during the 1600s. Bakers often served cheap flatbread to peasants, who couldn’t afford the time and money to buy and wait for higher quality breads. These breads were often flavored with a vegetable that had been brought over across the Atlantic Ocean one hundred years before: Tomato.
These early pizzas often met with scorn from the upper-class, who dismissed them as disgusting. However, within two hundred years, Neapolitan pizza was considered a fine example of Italian cuisine. Until around 1830, pizza was mostly prepared and served in outdoor, open air venues, as many pizzerias do today.
I apologize to any non-US resident readers, but, to conclude, I will discuss the spread of pizza into the United States only. The food was brought into the United States by Italian immigrants during the late 19th century. While there are earlier examples, the first generally cited pizzeria in the United States was Gennuardo Lombardi’s shop on Spring Street in New York City. However, for the next forty-five years, pizza was typically only eaten by Italian immigrants. It wasn’t until the 1950s that people of non-Italian origin started consuming pizza in large quantities, and non-Italian shops, often featuring non-Italian ingredients, catered to a new-found market. In the 1960s, the invention of the frozen pizza cemented the food’s popularity within the United States. Toward the end of that decade, pizza delivery had emerged as another major market.
Today, pizza styles from Milan, Pompeii, and Palermo compete with Neapolitan pies, and there are multiple variations within the US, such as New York and Chicago style pizza. Other countries such as Greece and Mexico also feature their own distinct variants
- History of pizza, accessed October 9, 2016
- Focaccia, accessed October 9, 2016
- A Slice of History: Pizza Through the Ages, accessed October 9, 2016
- Where did pizza originate?, accessed October 9, 2016