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The Origin of Pizza: Is it Authentic Italian Food?

The answer to this question is not simple as the answers may vary depending on what we consider is pizza. Pizza exists in many forms around the world; even in America, there are different styles of pizza like New York and Chicago. There is no single origin for the invention of Pizza. However, many trace the beginning of pizza back to the 7th century when the Byzantine Empire colonized the current city of Naples.

The First Pizza

The Byzantine Empire, including Napoli or Naples

When the Byzantine Empire conquered the southern part of the Italian Peninsula, many Greeks migrated and built a city called Neapolis, later being called Napoli or Naples. During the 7th century, Greeks introduced the pita, a thin circular dough that they would eat with olive oil, feta cheese, and herbs on top of it. It is likely that the origin of pizza was the pita that the Greeks brought to Naples during this era. Some suggest that the word pizza even derived from the pita.

However, this dish was very far from the pizza that we are familiar with. To become the pizza of today, a new ingredient had to be introduced.

Tomato

During the 15th and the 16th centuries, the Spanish Empire sailed to the Americas and colonized much of South and Central America. From these new, exotic lands came a new fruit, the tomato, that was introduced to Europe. Being native to Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the tomato had never been known in other parts of the world.

When tomatoes were first introduced, they were grown as ornamental plants in Spain. In the 16th century, Naples was controlled by the Spanish Empire and was one of the first cities in Europe to be introduced to tomatoes. By the 17th century, tomatoes were being used in cooking in Spain, France, and parts of Italy.

Pizza Marinara: the first tomato pizza

The first instance of tomatoes being used in a pizza was in 1738. The marinara pizza was invented in Naples that year. Naples, being a port city, harbored many ships and crewmen. The marinara pizza was often enjoyed by sailors and was probably invented by a sailor who found his home in Naples. Marinara in Italian means a sailor.

Margherita Pizza

By the 18th century, many pizzerias started popping up, serving freshly made pizzas across Naples. One of them was Da Pietro, which later changed their name to Brandi (Brandi still operates in Naples today). Da Pietro was the first restaurant to invent the famous Margherita Pizza, which is the first modern version of a pizza.

Margherita Pizza (Cooking Channel)

In the 19th century, the Kingdom of Sardinia unified the long divided Italian Peninsula, changing its name to the Kingdom of Italy. During this time, Naples became a part of the newly unified kingdom. In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples and dined at Da Pietro. She favored one pizza that the chef had specifically made for her. The new pizza had tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese curds, and basil as toppings; the combination of three ingredients in which the colors resemble the Italian flag. The chef saw that the Queen liked the pizza and named the pizza after the Queen, hence the name Margherita Pizza.

Pizzas around the world

The 19th and early 20th century were when the popularity of Margherita Pizza was exploding, as well as the influx of Italian immigration to the United States. Most Italian immigrants were from Naples, as it was one of the least wealthy regions of the country. Many sought better jobs and living conditions and moved to the East Coast of the United States.

As immigrants from Naples flooded into the United States, so did pizzas. The first pizzeria in New York opened in 1905 and it was named Lombardi’s, it famously still runs today.

Since 1905 Gennaro Lombardi crafted pizza in the United States using his bakers trade he learned from Naples.

Pizza took a new spin in New York City, as it was the food for the working-class immigrants. It had to be simple, easy to eat, and filling. Pizzas became larger and had new toppings like pepperoni and anchovies, and were sold in big slices for convenience sake. Many workers folded their slices and ate them like a sandwich, which is the origin of the New York pizza. As pizza became popular in the States, many variations came along, like Chicago’s deep-dish pizza and Detroit’s rectangular pizza. Different toppings were introduced, like pepperoni, ham, bacon, and even pineapples.

Pizza spread across the United States and the world when pizza chains started in the mid 20th century. Pizza Hut started in 1958, in Kansas, and Domino’s Pizza started in 1960, in Michigan. The two chains popularized pizza as a casual meal or a game-time meal for many Americans. Pizza Hut was the first to start a chain restaurant for casual dine-ins and Domino’s was the first to introduce fast deliveries of pizza. Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza opened stores around the world and popularized pizza, making it into the globe’s favorite fast food.

By Daniel Choi

Before you go, Here are some Quicks Facts

The most expensive pizza in the world costs $12,000. Luis XIII in Salerno, Italy has the world’s most expensive pizza with a price tag of $12,000! This is no ordinary pizza, first the dough is aged perfectly before the chief arrives at your home. Yes, they will create this masterpiece in your home kitchen. Some of the ingredients include, three types of caviar, lobster from Norway, Cilento, bufala mozzarella cheese and grains of pink Australian sea-salt from the Murray River.

The most popular pizza topping is pepperoni!

A Pizza was Delivered in Space. In 2001, the Russian Space Agency was paid more than a million bucks to deliver a six-inch pizza to the International Space Station. Russian cosmonaut,Yuri Usachov had the honor of being the first person to receive a pizza delivery while in orbit.

The Outer Edge Is Called the Cornicione
Did you know that there is technical term for “crust”? Well there is, it’s called cornicione or the “end crust”. No matter what you call it, your kids will not eat it!

Yes you use a knife and fork when the slice is too hot to pick up.

The world record for the largest pizza is 122 feet, 8 inches in diameter. The pizza, named “Ottavia,” was made in Fiera Roma, in Rome, Italy, on December 13, 2012, by Dovilio Nardi, Andrea Mannocchi, Marco Nardi, Matteo Nardi and Matteo Giannotte of NIPfood, according to the Guinness World Records. The pizza was also 100% gluten-free and was made to spread awareness about health-conscious food choices.

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