History of pizza

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This article entails the history of pizza. Although the word "pizza" was documented the first time in 977 in Gaeta[1] and successively in different parts of Central and South Italy, the history of the dish itself are not very clear or well documented.

The precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as "panis focacius", to which were than added some toppings.[2]



The term 'pizza' first appeared "in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD, which claims that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta 'duodecim pizze', "twelve pizzas", every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday,".[1][3]

The origins of the word are uncertain and disputed. The following are theories of its derivation:


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.

When the poor fare drove them to set their teeth
into the thin discs, the rest being eaten, and to break
the fateful circles of bread boldly with hands and jaws,
not sparing the quartered cakes, Iulus, jokingly,
said no more than: ‘Ha! Are we eating the tables too?’

These flatbreads, like pizza, are from the Odyssey 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. Lepinja or Trafalgar[disambiguation needed] in the Balkans or Piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagna in Italy.[13]

Similar flat breads in other parts of the world include the Indian Paratha (in which fat is incorporated), the Central and South Asian Naan (leavened) and Roti (unleavened), the Sardinian Carasau, Spianata, Guttiau, Pistoccu and Finnish Rieska. Also worth note is that throughout Europe there are many similar pies based on the idea of covering flat pastry with cheese, meat, vegetables and seasoning such as the Alsatian Flammkuchen, German Zwiebelkuchen, and French Quiche.

In 16th century Naples a Galette flatbread was referred to as a pizza.[citation needed] A dish of the poor people, it was sold in the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time.[14] This was later replaced by oil, tomatoes (after Europeans came into contact with the Americas) or fish. In 1843, Alexandre Dumas, père described the diversity of pizza toppings.[15] In June 1889, to honour 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 cheese.[16] The sequence through which flavored flatbreads of the ancient and medieval Mediterranean became the dish popularized in the 20th century is not fully understood.

Pizza is now a type of bread and tomato dish, often served with cheese. However, until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, the dish was sweet, not savory, and earlier versions which were savory more resembled the flat breads now known as schiacciata.[17] Pellegrino Artusi's classic early twentieth century cookbook, La Scienza in Cucina E L'arte Di Mangiar Bene gives three recipes for pizza, all of which are sweet.[18] However, by 1927, Ada Boni's collection of regional cooking includes a recipe using tomatoes and mozzarella.[19]


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.[citation needed] 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 specialty.

Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries. Pizzerias keep this 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.[20] 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.

A description of pizza in Naples around 1835 is given by the French writer and food expert Alexandre Dumas, père in his work Le Corricolo, Chapter VIII.[15] 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),[21] 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.

The Marinara is the older of the two and has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “marinara” because it was traditionally the food prepared by "la marinara", the seaman's wife, for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

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).[16] This combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor.

"Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana"[22] ("True Neapolitan Pizza Association"), which was founded in 1984, 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; 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).[23] 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 direction.

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 weight.

In December 2009, the pizza napoletana was granted Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status by the European Union.[24]

Pizza in the United States

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 New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia where pizza was first sold on the streets of Italian neighborhoods. In the late 19th century, for example, pizza was introduced by peddlers who walked up and down the streets with a metal washtub of pizzas on their heads, selling their 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 was not long until small cafes and groceries began offering pizzas to their Italian-American communities.

The first printed reference to "pizza" served in the US is a 1904 article in the Boston Journal.[25] The first pizzeria in America was founded by Gennaro Lombardi in Little Italy, Manhattan, and the large, wide pizzas made in the city would become known as the New York-style. Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store in 1897 which was later 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 could not 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 Lombardi's grandson.

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. Eisenhower."

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. 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.[clarification needed]

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.[26]

Today, the American pizza business is dominated by companies that specialize in pizza delivery, such as Domino's, 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.

See also


  1. ^ a b Salvatore Riciniello (1987) Codice Diplomatico Gaetano, Vol. I, La Poligrafica
  2. ^ Anderson, Burton (1994). Treasures of the Italian Table. William Morrow and Company. p. 318. ISBN 978-0688115579.
  3. ^ Martin Maiden (2012) "Linguistic Wonders Series: Pizza is a German Word", YourDictionary.com
  4. ^ "Pizza, at Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pizza. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  5. ^ "Pissa, Liddell and Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus". Perseus.tufts.edu. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2383267. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  6. ^ "Pizza, at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=pizza&r=66. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  7. ^ "Pizza, History and Legends of Pizza". Whatscookingamerica.net. http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Pizza/PizzaHistory.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  8. ^ "Garzanti Online dictionary of the Italian Language, sub voce". Garzantilinguistica.it. http://www.garzantilinguistica.it. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  9. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary: The definitive record of the English language". Oed.com. http://www.oed.com/. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  10. ^ http://www.sardegnaturismo.it/documenti/1_39_20060829130058.pdf
  11. ^ Plakous, Liddell and Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  12. ^ Virgil:Aeneid VII
  13. ^ "Food and Drink - Pide - HiTiT Turkey guide". Hitit.co.uk. http://www.hitit.co.uk/foodrink/pide.html. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  14. ^ "History of Pizza Margherita". tobetravelagent.com. 2012-04-09. http://www.tobetravelagent.com/history-of-pizza-margherita-recipe/. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  15. ^ a b Dumas, Alexandre (1843). Le Corricolo (Oeuvres Complètes (1851) ed.). p. 91. http://www.dumaspere.com/pages/bibliotheque/chapitre.php?lid=v4&cid=9. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  16. ^ a b "American Pie". American Heritage. April/May 2006. http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/2006/2/2006_2_30.shtml. Retrieved 2009-07-04. "Cheese, the crowning ingredient, was not added until 1889, when the Royal Palace commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three contenders he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella)."
  17. ^ Alexandra Grigorieva, "Naming Authenticity and Regional Italian Cuisine [1]," in Richard Hosking, ed., Authenticity in the Kitchen: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2005 (Prospect Books, 2006): 211-216.
  18. ^ Pellegrino Artusi, La Scienza in Cucina E L'arte Di Mangiar Bene (1911; rpr. Torino: Einaudi, 2001)
  19. ^ Grigorieva, Naming Authenticity," p. 211-212.
  20. ^ "Avpn". Pizzanapoletana.org. 1984-09-28. http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/showassoc_eng.php?id=140. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  21. ^ "Antica Pizzeria "Da Michele" dal 1870". Damichele.net. http://www.damichele.net/. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  22. ^ "Avpn - Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana". Pizzanapoletana.org. http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/index_eng.php. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  23. ^ "Benvenuti su umberto.it". Umberto.it. http://www.umberto.it/. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  24. ^ Hooper, John (9 December 2009). "Pizza napoletana awarded special status by EU". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/09/italian-pizza-wins-protected-status. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  25. ^ "Dear Slice: Boston May Have Had the First Pizza in America". slice.seriouseats.com. 2009-01-10. http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2009/01/dear-slice-boston-may-have-had-the-first-pizza-in-the-us.html. Retrieved 2010-07-17.
  26. ^ 1957 CBC broadcast

External links