Pizza is practically a staple in the American diet. What’s a game night without some pie, or a college party without ‘za? Some form of the dish has been eaten for centuries and has evolved from the time when the first pizza in America arrived to its current form we love today. Whether you prefer delivery, frozen pizza or a custom pizza creation, we can all agree that we love pizza.
But when did pizza first get to America? We’ll have to travel way back in time first for the answer.
A brief history of pizza
People have eaten some form of pizza as far back as the ancient times, when they enjoyed flat bread covered in toppings. At Pompeii, archaeologists discovered flat flour cakes that people had been eating when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The Romans enjoyed adding toppings on what we know as focaccia bread.
A Roman cookbook, also from the first century A.D., is credited to Marcus Gavius Apicius, who includes a pizza recipe. The author recommends adding garlic, oil, cheese, chicken and pepper to the flatbread. The noticeably missing ingredient is tomatoes, which wouldn’t reach Europe until sailors began shipping New World delicacies in the 16th century.
The birth of modern pizza
We have the people of Naples to thank for creating pizza as we know it today. In the 18th century, now having access to tomatoes, they added red sauce to their flatbread creations. The addition of red sauce is what distinguishes this recipe as modern pizza. Pizza marinara is a pizza with tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, named after the fisherman’s wife (“la marinara”) who would prepare the dish before he went to sea.
Neapolitans perfected the art of pizza making. By 1807, there were already 54 pizzerias in Naples. People traveled from all over to try their famous pies. As pizza grew in popularity, it spread to other regions where chefs expanded on its culinary potential.
Pizza arrives in America
When did pizza get to America? Many Italians immigrated to the United States in the 19th century, bringing with them their beloved dish. Pizza became popular in cities with large Italian communities, such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Although it is impossible to know when the first pizza in America was eaten, its name was first printed in a 1904 article in The Boston Journal, where it was referred to as, “pizze.” Pizzerias popped up in major U.S. cities during this time, mostly owned and operated by Italian immigrants.
Pizza was almost exclusively an Italian dish through World War II. When soldiers returned home from the Italian campaign, they brought with them a love of Italian cuisine, including pizza. After the war, in the 1950s and 1960s, pizza chains spread nationwide.
Today, there are a plethora of options available to the hungriest pizza lovers at all hours of the day and with all the toppings imaginable. Buon appetito!
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