If you’re like a lot of people in the modern United States, you can barely comprehend the notion of life without pizza. From football game days to family game nights, pizza is one of the most popular foods throughout the nation. It’s great when you have to serve a crowd and it is ideal for picky eaters because it’s easy to customize to suit anyone’s preferences. How, though, you might be wondering, did pizza actually come to be? This guide will answer that question.
It isn’t as Italian as you think.
Although pizza absolutely has roots in Italy, other ancient cultures also enjoyed pizza-like foods, perhaps even before the Italians cemented its popularity. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, for instance, also regularly ate flatbreads with various toppings. In Greece, the concoction was something akin to today’s olive oil-brushed focaccia. Neither Egypt nor Greece, however, made pizza quite like the Neapolitans began doing in the 18th century.
Naples is the birthplace of modern pizza.
Naples, Italy technically operated as an independent kingdom during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The region was infamous for its lazzaroni, or peasant class. The families in this demographic often lived in one-room houses and required food that could be easily eaten outdoors and prepared with relative speed. Pizza was the ideal choice. Although it didn’t immediately catch on, early pizza eaters enjoyed many of the same toppings we still use today, including anchovies, cheese, tomatoes, and garlic.
It was popularized in the U.S. at the turn-of-the-century.
Nowadays, multiple U.S. cities, notably Chicago and New York City, are known for their unique takes on pizza. In fact, deep dish versus thin crust is such a big deal in some families that it is tantamount to politics and religion at holiday dinner tables. At the turn of the twentieth century, however, pizza was just beginning to make its mark in the United States.
As Neapolitans started making their way to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their loved ones, their culinary habits soon started making a mark. The first licensed pizzeria in the country was Gennaro Lombardi’s restaurant in Manhattan. Founded in 1905, the pizzeria still operates in a different location and still possesses its original oven.
At this point, pizza has pervaded American culture to such a degree that children learn what it is by the time they are young toddlers and brick oven pizza joints are taking over the trendiest districts in cities from coast to coast. Next time you sit down to enjoy a slice of pie at our authentic Italian pizzeria on Boston’s North End, take a moment to think of the people of Naples who invented your favorite dish so many years ago.