Where did the first pizza come from? Well, the answer depends largely on what you consider pizza. As with many popular foods, pizza history is a fascinating look at the global migration of culture through time. It mirrors other world events like trade, politics and war.
Here’s a look at the beginnings of pizza as a staple food and how it became popular in America and around the world.
Pizza’s humble beginnings
If you consider pizza to be any kind of flat bread with toppings, then the first pizza can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. The Greeks later evolved this to be more like modern-day focaccia with herbs and oil. For the first cheese-smothered, tomato-topped delights, we have to fast-forward to Italy in the 18th century.
Naples in southwestern Italy was a bustling waterfront city with a large working-class population. The need was there for cheap, quick and sustaining food, and pizza fit the bill perfectly. This is where the idea of topping flat bread with tomatoes, cheese, oil and yes, anchovies, really took off.
Pizza fit for a queen
Queen Margherita of the newly unified Italy visited Naples around 1889 and there became infatuated with the city’s regional specialty. Her favorite was pizza mozzarella, which was bread topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Perhaps this is why the topping combination is today called a Margherita pizza.
After seeing the Queen’s delight with the humble, working-class food, pizza took off around Italy. It would still be a couple decades, however, before it started to catch hold in the United States.
As legend goes, the first pizza restaurant in the United States was G. Lombardi’s in New York City. The shop opened in 1905 and is still in operation today (though in a different location in the city but reportedly still with the same oven). Before this, however, pizza was served in homes and by unlicensed vendors, perhaps in informal pop-up dining experiences.
Other pizzerias followed suit in the coming decades, notably Mario’s in the Bronx and Pepe’s in New Haven. Italian-Americans had established pizza around the country by the start of World War II, from the first pizzerias in New York to the sunny shores of California—but it was the war that really helped pizza take off as an American classic.
Coming home to pizza
After the war, pizza became a global phenomenon. Despite Italy being part of the opposing force fighting against the United States and the Allies during the conflict, when the soldiers returned home, pizza was no longer viewed as an ethnic treat from Italian and Italian-American culture. It was adapted to fit every niche and desire—from smoked salmon to barbecued chicken and beyond. The rest of the world caught on, too, and today there are pizza chains in around 60 countries. Regional specialties can vary greatly from country to country, but it all comes back to flat bread with toppings.
Whether you want a traditional American-style sausage-and-mushroom pie or something more modern like chicken and artichoke, contact Giovanni’s Frozen Pizza today for the best selection and quality.