Every year, 3 billion pizzas are sold in the United States. Every second, 350 slices are sold. As Americans, we are simply constantly eating pizza, and if we are not eating pizza, we are probably thinking about doing so!
Everyone knows that pizza came from Italy. But is that really the whole story?
What is the history of making pizza and what do you need to know to make it for yourself at home?
Let’s dive into the fascinating world of one of America’s favorite foods.
A History of Pizza
Pizza actually has ancient roots that stretch back further than you might imagine. In ancient Rome, Egypt, and Greece, people ate flatbreads with toppings in a way that represents a similar concept to the pizza that we know and love.
However, the region of Italy known as Campania is thought to be the modern birthplace of pizza. This region is in southwestern Italy and is where the city of Naples is located.
The Neapolitan Roots of Modern Pizza
Naples was founded as a Greek settlement around 600 BC. The city grew into a thriving waterfront location in the 1700s and early 1800s. At this time, it was technically an independent kingdom that was home to a large number of lazzaroni, or working poor.
This group of Neapolitans needed a type of food that was cheap and able to be eaten fast. Flatbreads that had various toppings were just the right thing to be served at informal restaurants and sold by street vendors.
These are thought to be some of the earliest modern pizzas that had toppings such as cheese, tomatoes, anchovies, oil, and garlic, which are still popular pizza toppings today.
In 1861, Italy unified. The king and queen at the time visited Naples in 1889, named King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. The story goes that this royal couple got tired of their fancy French meals and requested an assortment of pizza from the Pizzeria Brandi.
Queen Margherita’s favorite pizza had red tomatoes, soft white cheese, and green basil, and that’s how the classic margherita pizza got its name.
Pizza Moves Beyond the Borders of Naples
Even though Queen Margherita and her husband thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the lazzaroni diet, pizza was still basically unknown outside of Naples until the 1940s. Even other locations in Italy were unaware of this type of meal.
However, Neapolitans immigrated to the United States and were creating their delicious pizzas in American cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, New Haven, and Trenton.
These immigrants arrived for factory jobs as the Industrial Revolution took off. They were among millions of other Europeans during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Even though their purpose of coming to America didn’t have anything to do with being culinary ambassadors, people outside of the Neapolitan community started paying attention to the pizzas they were creating.
A pizza place in Manhattan was one of the first documented pizzerias in the United States in 1905. Before this, people were either making homemade pizza or it was being sold by unlicensed vendors.
Pizza Post-World War II
The popularity of pizza in the United States boomed after World War II. Italian Americans along with their cuisine migrated from the west and from the cities to the suburbs. Pizza increasingly became seen as a fun, fast food rather than an ethnic treat.
Different regional varieties started emerging that were decidedly non-Neapolitan. For this reason, you will notice that pizza is radically different in American cities across the country.
Starting to get hungry? You can order delicious pizza here.
Making Homemade Pizza
You might be wondering how to make pizza so that you can get that delicious goodness without leaving the house. The world is your oyster when it comes to making homemade pizza, and you can get traditional or as experimental as you like.
Your first decision is whether or not you are going to be making pizza dough or if you are going to purchase it from a pizza place or grocery store. Many people swear by making homemade dough, however you might find that the time savings makes it worth it to simply purchase it.
The next question is whether or not you are going to make homemade pizza sauce. As you can see, you can make pizza that is largely from scratch (heck you could even grow your own wheat if you wanted!) or can be a quick meal to throw together last-minute.
You are then tasked with choosing what type of pizza you are going to make. Perhaps you want to go with a classic Margherita pizza or a pepperoni pizza. Other traditional options include Hawaiian pizza and a vegetarian pizza.
Maybe you want to get more experimental than that. You could make things like Thai chicken pizza, taco pizza, and even kimchi pizza. Seriously, the sky is the limit!
Are You Making Pizza For Dinner?
As you can see, the history of pizza is a lot more interesting than you might expect at first glance. These days, we might be too busy bickering about whether New York-style pizza or Chicago-style pizza is inherently better to think about how pizza arrived in the United States in the first place.
No matter what you think the best pizza recipe is, it’s hard to deny that the story of pizza through history is one worth telling while sharing some slices with friends.
Did you find this article about the history of making pizza interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!