History Of Pizza: Top 10 Interesting Facts

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Top 10 Interesting Facts About The History Of Pizza

Pizza is regarded as one of the most famous fast food in the world. It can be seen everywhere from restaurants to street corners. In the United States, people consume 3 billion pizzas annually, averaging 46 slices each person. However, through the history of pizzas, from the beginning to such global supremacy, the history of migration, economic and technological progress are also revealed. Here are top 10 amazing facts you may not know about the pizza origin.

History Of Pizza

1. Pizza-like foods, such as flatbread and oven-baked bread with varied toppings, have been around since the Neolithic period. They can be found in most areas in the world.

In the Neolithic era, flatbread was one of the most common foods, especially among the impoverished who did not have enough money to buy plates. That is why, for a long time, many people look down on flatbread dishes, considering them a typical sustenance of have-nots.

In the ruins of Pompeii, there is evidence of flatbread dishes and what appears to be early pizzas. In fact, for thousands of years, flatbreads with oil and other ingredients have been prepared like some popular dishes such as modern pizza and focaccia. To make the bread, people baked it on a warm stone or in mud ovens, and then topped it with herbs and mushrooms.

According to most historians, these assembled pizzas were the favorite food of all the ancient Romans, the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians. Pisna is a type of pizza that is popular in Rome. It was a flatbread-like dish that was also said to be served to the gods. The term “pisna” actually means “stretching, squeezing”.

Nowadays, the most distinct cuisine in Italy is flatbread covered with olive oil and a variety of spices. It has a slim paper edge that crumbles a little when you eat.

2. However, in the early 17th century, bakers created the first “pizzas” in Naples to serve the poor who spent most time on streets. They would buy pizza slices and eat them while walking, which was called “disgusting” by Italian authors at that time. 

Naples had grown to be one of Europe’s most populous cities under the Bourbon kings, and it was developing quickly. Due to international trade and migration of villagers, there was a twofold increase in its population within just 48 years. As the economy in the city struggled to keep up with the number of inhabitants, a growing percentage of the population became impoverished. The most destitute of these were termed lazzaroni because they looked just like Lazarus. They worked as porters, couriers, and temporary laborers, and exceeded 50,000 people. Always busy working to make ends meet, they required inexpensive fast food, and pizzas with various kinds of toppings met their need. Sold by street merchants, not in shops or restaurants, these pizzas would be chopped depending on buyers’ budget or requirements. According to Alexandre Dumas, a two liard slice would be enough for a breakfast, whereas two sous would be sufficient to buy a large pizza for the whole family. None of them were too costly. Though they were comparable to Virgil’s flatbreads in certain ways, they were now characterised by cheap and readily available ingredients with plentiful flavor. The simplest were just covered with garlic, lard and salt. Other options featured caciocavallo (a horse-milk cheese), cecenielli (whitebait), basil or even tomatoes.

For a long time, food critics despised pizzas. Characterised as food of the poor lazzaroni, they were described as “disgusting”, especially by foreign tourists. In 1831, Samuel Morse wrote that “pizza was the most sickening cake …. sprinkled with pomodoro, tomatoes, little fish, black pepper and other toppings that I did not know.”

When the first cookbooks were published in the late 1800s, pizzas were conspicuously absent. Despite the fact that lazzaroni’s standing had progressively improved, leading to the first pizza being sold in restaurants, those who loved Neapolitan food avoided mentioning it.

3. King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited a united Italy for the first time in 1889, passing via Naples. According to legend, they had become uninterested in diets of French haute cuisine, so the Queen called for a variety of pizzas. Raffaele Esposito created a pie in three colors of the Italian flag: tomato sauces in red, mozzarella in white, and basil in green. This delectable mixture rapidly gained Queen Margherita’s favor. Margherita pizza was then born, and it is still popular today. 

After the unification of Italy, everything changed. King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita grew bored of elaborate French breakfast, lunch and dinner when visiting Naples. Raffaele Esposito, a famous baker, then prepared three types of pizza to serve the King and the Queen. She ended up choosing a pizza sprinkled with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and this was named after the Queen – Pizza Margherita.

This was a significant movement. Margherita’s favor not only raised the pizza from a lazzaroni-only snack to something suited for a royal family, but it also converted pizza from regional to a national food. It popularized the idea that pizza, like spaghetti and polenta, was an authentically Italian dish.

4. Despite Queen Margherita’s royal approval, pizza would not gain widespread popularity to the rest of the world until the migration of Italians in the 20th century. They moved to the Americas and brought their culinary traditions with them. 

Despite the historic movement mentioned earlier, pizza took a long time to spread outside of Naples. It is the migration of people from Italy that brought about the initial impetus. An increasing number of Neapolitans went northwards to find a job in the 1930s, bringing their culinary traditions with them. Moreover, wars also responsible for the fame of this food. When invading Italy in 1943-4, the Allies were enamoured by the pizza they found in Campania, so they demanded it everywhere they went. Not to mention, tourism in post-war years cemented pizza’s status as an authentic Italian meal. As tourists were more interested in Italian cuisine, restaurants began to serve more local dishes, including pizza. Initially, the quality was inconsistent because not all places were equipped with a pizza oven. Despite this, pizza quickly became popular in Italy. As a result, new toppings were added to meet local residents’ taste and to match its increasing price.

However, it was assumed that the second home of pizza was America. In the late 19th century, emigrants from Italy had arrived to the East Coast, paving a way for a new historic movement.

5. In 1905, the first pizza parlor was opened in the United States by Gennaro Lombardi. He sold pizza on the street in a neighborhood of Italian-Americans. Lombardi’s shop is still open today, and despite being now located in a new place, it has the same oven. 

Gennaro Lombardi traveled from Naples, Italy to New York in 1895. At the age of 14, he worked in a bakery shop on Mulberry Street, making pizzas with the same recipe as his father and grandfather’s.

In 1905, the proprietor of the bakery shop offered Gennaro the opportunity to purchase the business, which he eagerly accepted. After a few years, he found that while bread and groceries were still profitable, pizza was the way of the future. Lombardi dreamed of running a true American pizza shop, so he got the first pizza-selling license for his shop at 53 1/2 Spring Street. It was immediately adopted by ambitious restaurateurs (many of whom were not from an Italian background) and altered to reflect local tastes, identities, and demands as the country’s urbanisation accelerated.

Nowadays, Lombardi’s is still open. Although it has been changed to a new location, the restaurant maintains the same oven.

6. The pizza industry burgeoned in the 1930s. In Manhattan, New Jersey, and Boston, Italian-Americans opened pizzerias. Ike Sewell started Uno’s in Chicago in 1943, pioneering Chicago-style pizza. Despite its widespread appeal, pizza remained essentially a poor man’s food.

In the late 1930s, Ike Sewell launched a Chicago pizza that featured a thicker crust stacked high with toppings. His pizzas had a pile of chunky tomato sauce on top and cheese on the bottom. Rocky Mountain pie was invented in the same period, and it was intended to be served as a dessert with honey. However, at this time, pizza remained as a typical dish of the poor.

7. When World War II ended, American army returned to their hometown, eager to try the pizza they had been eating across oceans. In 1945, the Baker’s Pride pizza oven using gas was invented by Ira Nevin, a veteran. Thanks to it, stores can make pizzas cheaply and conveniently. Pizzas grew more popular in restaurants and stores.

Ric Riccardo Sr. followed in Lombardi’s footsteps and opened these eateries in the United States. He, nevertheless, began with a deep-dish pizza. In 1945, it was Ira Nevin who made life easier for pizza bakers. The exorbitant cost and hassle of utilizing wood or charcoal were eliminated thanks to his gas-fired pizza oven invention.

8. With the introduction of the pizza chain, pizza became truly ubiquitous. Pizza Hut debuted in 1958, followed by Little Caesars in 1959, Domino’s in 1960, and Papa John’s in 1989. All of these chains were founded with the intention of selling pizza to the general public. 

The tremendous speed of economic and technical transformation in the United States changed pizza even more dramatically from the 1950s onwards. At this time, the pizza chains started to run, with Pizza Hut in 1958 and two other restaurants, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s in 1959 and 1960, respectively.

Besides, the 1950s also saw the commercialization of pizzas. Thanks to an increasing number of vehicles, freshly prepared dishes could be delivered to customers’ doorsteps – and pizza was one of the first options to be chosen. In 1960, Tom and James Monaghan launched Dominik’s, which was renamed Domino’s after gaining a reputation for quick delivery. After that, they spread their business, and now their pizza chains appear in most cities in the world.

9. Frozen pizzas were first introduced by Celentano in 1957. They quickly became the most preferred among all frozen dishes. 

During the1950s – the period of pizza craze, someone found it necessary to find a way to keep pizza for a longer time. Therefore, they decided to start freezing it. By this time, thanks to the development of the economy, people could earn enough money to buy refrigerators or freezers so that they can store more pizzas at home. Moreover, due to a faster pace of life in America, fast food became a preferred option. People now love a more convenient meal, and therefore, to store pizza longer, bakers began to use tomato paste and new cheeses to suit the new desire of their customers.

10. The pizza industry is now booming worldwide with thousands of restaurants in the United States and other countries in the world. 

In the U.S today, the pizza industry generates an estimated $46 billion in revenue, with the top 50 pizza chains earning around $27 billion. Even more amazing is the fact that the entire sector is worth around $145 billion globally. In 2019 alone, there were around 77,000 pizza restaurants in the U.S Boating, in which California has the most stores with 7,125, followed by Pennsylvania with 4,650.

In the world, Norway is the country which consumes the most pizzas. Although its population is 5.5 million, each citizen there eats 5kg annually on average. Top 10 countries eating the most pizzas in the world includes:

  • Norway
  • USA
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Russia
  • France
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • China
  • Turkey

Although it is rooted in ancient Greece and Italy, pizzas are now enjoyed by the majority of people all over the world. Every slice harbors a diverse history from different regions of the world. When it comes to the quality, it can reflect social, cultural and economic marks in every country.

The toppings have evolved throughout time to reflect many world cultures. Despite the fact that pizza is now custom-made by bakers from all over the world, its base remains unchanged. Every decent pizza needs a crust to keep everything together.

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