Pizza: A Brief History Of America’s Favorite Food
Do you love pizza? If you are an American, chances are you do, and that you consume it at least once a month. From takeout to dine-in to frozen varieties, this delicacy is the ultimate convenience food in our fast paced American society. Toppings range from traditional to quite unique and fit almost every taste and preference. But where did this tantalizing dish come from? The answer may surprise you, or it may not. While pizzas have not always been called by their current name, flat breads topped with sauces and cheese have been made and served for centuries. As far back as the Neolithic age, historians have found records of people adding toppings to flat breads. Many people consider pizza to be an Italian food, and this is not far off. Flat breads originate from the Mediterranean region, including Italy and Sicily, and these were the origins of today’s modern pies. In fact, in Northern Italy, Tuscan tribes once believed that this dish held the spirits of deceased relatives. Yes, today’s popular food was once a part of ancient religious ceremonies. Flat bread alone does not make pizzas. It was the addition of the tomato that made the predecessor of the modern dish. Tomatoes originated in the Americas, so it was not until after the discovery of the Americas that they could be added to these flat breads. However, at first Europeans believed that these fruits were poisonous, just as other fruits in the same area. It was not until some time between the 16th and 18th century that they were deemed safe to eat and added to the top of flat breads, bringing this dish to life. The dish was wildly popular almost as soon as it was created. Tourists started traveling to Naples, where the dish was originally created, to buy pizzas from open-air stands and bakeries. In 1738, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples opened, and pizza historians often cite this as the world’s first pizzeria. By the 1830s, pizzerias were popping up all over Italy. It still serves today from the same historic location. These early pizzas were flavored with oil, tallow, cheese, lard, tomatoes, and anchovies. Yes, the smelly little fish that are a joke among modern eaters were one of the original toppings. The originals were marinara and margherita. The marinara pizzas had tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil as its toppings, lacking the cheese most people believe to be a fundamental ingredient to this popular dish. The margherita pizza had tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Both varieties are still served throughout Naples. Pizza followed the Italian immigrants to the Americas in the late 19th century. It was introduced first in large cities where it was sold on the streets in predominately Italian neighborhoods. The first official pizzeria in America opened in Manhattan in 1905, and the rest, as they say, is culinary history. By the 1940s and the international breakthroughs that came after the second World War, it began to spread outside of Italian neighborhoods and onto the tables of the modern American family.