History of Pizza
is a type of bread and dish that has existed since time immemorial
in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. By 997 the term had
appeared in Medieval Latin, and in 16th century Naples a Galette
flatbread was referred to as a pizza.
The pizza was a baker's tool: a dough used to verify the
temperature of the oven. A dish of the poor people, it was sold in
the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long
time. Before the 17th century, the pizza was covered with white
This was later replaced by oil, cheese, tomatoes (after the
discovering of America) or fish. In 1843, Alexandre Dumas
described the diversity of pizza toppings. In June 1889, to honor
the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan
chef Raffaele Esposito created the "Pizza Margherita," a pizza
garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, to
represent the colors of the Italian flag. He was the first to add
The sequence through which flavored flatbreads of the ancient and
medieval Mediterranean became the dish popularized in the 20th
century is not fully understood.
Foods similar to pizza have been prepared since the
Neolithic age. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread
to make it more flavorful can be found throughout ancient history.
In Sardinia, French and Italian archeologists have found a kind of
bread baked over 3,000 years ago. According to Professor Philippe
Marinval, the local islanders leavened this bread.
Greeks had a flat bread called plakous (πλακοῦς, gen. πλακοῦντος -
plakountos) which was flavored with toppings like herbs, onion,
It is said that soldiers of the Persian King,
Darius the Great (521-486 B.C.) baked a flat bread on their
shields and then covered it with cheese and dates.
In the 1st
century BC, the Latin poet Virgil refers to the ancient idea of
bread as an edible plate or trencher for other foods in this
extract from his Latin poem, the Aeneid:
These flatbreads, like
pizza, are from the Mediterranean area and other examples of flat
breads that survive to this day from the ancient Mediterranean
world are focaccia (which may date back as far as the Ancient
Etruscans), coca (which has sweet and savory varieties) from
Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, the Greek Pita or
Pide in Turkish or Piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagna
Similar flat breads in other parts of the world
include the Indian Paratha, the South Asian Naan, the Sardinian
Carasau, Spianata, Guttiau, Pistoccu, the Alsatian Flammkuchen and
The innovation that gave us
the flat bread we call pizza was the use of tomato as a topping.
For some time after the tomato was brought to Europe from the
Americas in the 16th century, it was believed by many Europeans to
be poisonous (as are some other fruits of the nightshade family).
However, by the late 18th century, it was common for the poor of
the area around Naples to add tomato to their yeast-based flat
bread, and so the pizza was born.
The dish gained in popularity,
and soon pizza became a tourist attraction as visitors to Naples
ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local
Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air
stands and out of pizza bakeries. Pizzerias keep this age-old
tradition alive today. It is possible to enjoy pizza wrapped in
paper and a drink sold from open-air stands outside the premises.
Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples is widely regarded as the
city's first pizzeria. It started producing pizzas for peddlers in
1738 but expanded to a pizza restaurant with chairs and tables in
1830. It still serves pizza from the same premises today.
description of pizza in Naples around 1830 is given by the French
writer and food expert Alexandre Dumas in his work Le Corricolo,
Chapter VIII. He writes that pizza was the only food of the humble
people in Naples during winter and that "in Naples pizza is
flavored with oil, lard, tallow, cheese, tomato, or anchovies."
The Neapolitans take their pizza very seriously. Purists, like
the famous pizzeria “Da Michele” in Via C. Sersale (founded 1870),
consider there to be only two true pizzas — the Marinara and the
Margherita — and that is all they serve. These two "pure" pizzas
are the ones preferred by many Italians today.
is the older of the two and has a topping of tomato, oregano,
garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “Marinara” not
because it has seafood on it (it doesn't) but because it was the
food prepared by "la marinara", the seaman's wife, for her sea
faring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of
The Margherita, topped with modest amounts of tomato
sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil is widely attributed to
baker Raffaele Esposito. Esposito worked at the pizzeria "Pietro...
e basta così" (literally "Peter... and that's enough") which was
established in 1880 and is still operating under the name
"Pizzeria Brandi." In 1889, he baked three different pizzas for
the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The
Queen's favorite was a pizza evoking the colors of the Italian
flag — green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red
(tomatoes). This combination was named Pizza Margherita in her
"Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana" ("True Neapolitan
Pizza Association"), which was founded in 1984 and only recognises
the Marinara and Margherita verace, has set the very specific
rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza.
These include that the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired, domed
oven at 485°C for no more than 60 to 90 seconds; that the base
must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared
by any mechanical means (i pizzaioli — the pizza makers — make the
pizza by rolling it with their fingers) and that the pizza must
not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter or be more than one-third of
a centimetre thick at the centre. The association also selects
pizzerias all around the world to produce and spread the verace
pizza napoletana philosophy and method.
There are many
famous pizzerias in Naples where these traditional pizzas can be
found like Da Michele, Port'Alba, Brandi, Di Matteo, Sorbillo,
Trianon and Umberto (founded: 1916). Most of them are in the
ancient historical centre of Naples. These pizzerias will go even
further than the specified rules by, for example, only using "San
Marzano" tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and only
drizzling the olive oil and adding tomato topping in a clockwise
The pizza bases in Naples are soft and pliable.
In Rome they prefer a thin and crispy base. Another popular form
of pizza in Italy is "pizza al taglio" which is pizza baked in
rectangular trays with a wide variety of toppings and sold by
In December 2009, the pizza napoletana was granted
Traditional Specialty Guaranteed status by the European Union.
Pizza in the United States
See also: Pizza in the United
Pizza first made its appearance in the United States
with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.
This was certainly the case in cities with large Italian
populations, such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and
Philadelphia where pizza was first sold on the streets of Italian
In late 19th century Chicago for example, pizza was
introduced by a peddler who walked up and down Taylor Street with
a metal washtub of pizzas on his head, selling his wares at two
cents a chew. This was the way pizza used to be sold in Naples, in
copper cylindrical drums with false bottoms that were packed with
charcoal from the oven to keep the pizzas hot. It wasn't long
until small cafes and groceries began offering pizzas to their
The first printed reference
to "pizze" served in the US is a 1903 article in the Boston
Journal. The first "official" pizzeria in America is generally
believed to have been founded by Gennaro Lombardi in Little Italy,
Manhattan. Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store in 1897 which
later was established as the first pizzeria in America in 1905
with New York's issuance of the mercantile license. An employee of
his, Antonio Totonno Pero, began making pizza for the store to
sell that same year.
The price for a pizza was five cents
but, since many people couldn't afford the cost of a whole pie,
they would instead say how much they could pay and they were given
a slice corresponding to the amount offered. In 1924, Totonno left
Lombardi's to open his own pizzeria on Coney Island called
Totonno's. While the original Lombardi's closed its doors in 1984,
it was reopened in 1994 just down the street and is run by
Pizza was brought to the Trenton area
of New Jersey very early as well, with Joe's Tomato Pies opening
in 1910, followed soon by Papa's Tomato Pies in 1912. In 1936, De
Lorenzo's Tomato Pies was opened. While Joe's Tomato Pies has
closed, both Papa's and Delorenzo's have been run by the same
families since their openings and remain among the most popular
pizzas in the area.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven,
Connecticut, was another early pizzeria which opened in 1925
(after the owner served pies from local carts and bakeries for
20–25 years) and is famous for its New Haven style Clam Pie. Frank
Pepe's nephew Sal Consiglio opened a competing store, Sally's
Apizza, on the other end of the block, in 1938. Both
establishments are still run by descendants of the original
family. When Sal died, over 2,000 people attended his wake, and
the New York Times ran a half-page memoriam. The D'Amore family
introduced pizza to Los Angeles in 1939.
Before the 1940s,
pizza consumption was limited mostly to Italian immigrants and
their descendants. The international breakthrough came after World
War II. Allied troops occupying Italy, weary of their rations,
were constantly on the lookout for good food. They discovered the
pizzeria, and local bakers were hard-pressed to satisfy the demand
from the soldiers. The American troops involved in the Italian
campaign took their appreciation for the dish back home, touted by
"veterans ranging from the lowliest private to Dwight D.
According to an article in American Heritage
Magazine, the modern pizza industry was born in the Midwestern
United States. Ric Riccardo pioneered what became known as the
Chicago-style deep dish pizza when, in 1943, he and Ike Sewell
opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. Others might argue that the
"modern pizza industry" began with the birth of Pizza Hut in
Wichita, Kansas in 1958.
In 1948, the first commercial
pizza-pie mix — ‘Roman Pizza Mix‘ — was produced in Worcester,
Mass., by Frank A. Fiorillo.
The introduction of a 1957
broadcast on Canadian television documents the dawn of pizza's
North American success:
Good afternoon, I’m Mrs. Brady. Today,
I’m going to make a popular Italian dish, pizza pie. You’ve all
probably heard about it; and if you’d like the recipe, please get
a pencil and paper and then you can take it down as I go.
pie is becoming very popular, especially down in the States. There
are some restaurants that even specialize in it. These are called
pizzerias; and Saturday night, if you drive down, you can see cars
lined up for miles, waiting for their pizza.
Pizza pie is
composed of three parts. First, there is a base, which is usually
a biscuit or a yeast dough. This is covered with a tangy tomato
sauce, sprinkled with oregano, and then topped with nippy cheese.
With pizza's rising popularity chain restaurants moved in. Leading
early pizza chains were Shakey's Pizza, founded in 1954 in
Sacramento, California, Pizza Hut, founded in 1958 in Wichita,
Kansas, and Josey's Pizza founded in Newnan, Georgia in 1943.
Later entrant restaurant chains to the dine-in pizza market were
Bertucci's, Happy Joe's, Monical's Pizza, California Pizza
Kitchen, Godfather's Pizza, and Round Table Pizza.
American pizza business is dominated by companies that specialize
in pizza delivery, such as Domino's, Brooklyn Pizzeria, Papa
John's Pizza, Giordano's Pizza, Pizza Ranch, Mazzio's, and
Godfather's Pizza. Pizza Hut has shifted its emphasis away from
pizza parlors and toward home delivery. Another recent development
is the take-and-bake pizzeria, such as Papa Murphy's.
The first recorded use of the word "pizza" dates from 997 AD and
comes from a Latin text from the town of Gaeta in southern Italy.
The origins of the word are uncertain and disputed. The following
are seven theories of its derivation:
The Ancient Greek word
πικτή (pikte), "fermented pastry", which in Latin became "picta",
and Late Latin pitta > pizza. See Greek pitta bread and Apulia and
Calabria cuisine "Pitta"
The Ancient Greek word πίσσα (pissa,
Attic πίττα, pitta), "pitch", or ptea, "bran", (pétítés, "bran
The Latin word “pinsa”, the past participle of the
verb “pinsere” which means to pound or to crush and may refer to
the flattening out of the dough.
The Latin word “picea” which
describes the blackening of bread in the oven or the black ash
that gathers at the bottom of the oven.
The Italian word “pizzicare”
meaning “to pluck” and refers to pizza being “plucked” quickly
from the oven (“Pizzicare” was derived from an older Italian word
"pizzo" meaning “point”).
The Aramaic word “pita” (as פיתא)
which exists in the Babylonian Talmud, referring to bread in
general, tracing the word to a cognate for pine pitch, which forms
flat layers that may resemble pita bread.
The Old High German
word “bizzo” or “pizzo” meaning “mouthful” (related to the English
words “bit” and “bite”) and was brought to Italy in the middle of
the 6th century AD by the invading Lombards. This is the origin
favored by the Oxford English Dictionary though they state that it