The History of Pizza

History of Pizza Image

The History of Pizza

Todays idea of pizza consists of baked circular bread with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top but that was not case when describing the origins of pizza. The word “pizza” was first recorded in Gaeta, Italy, 997 A.D. but archeologist have discovered flat disk shaped breads petrified in the hands of Pompeii victims which is as late as 79 A.D.

For as long as there has been flat bread, there may as well have been pizza with more localized ingredients as toppings such as onion, herbs, oils, butter, and cheese. Milestones in the history of pizza include Persian soldiers baking flatbread on their shields and covering it with cheese and dates in the early 500 B.C. Ancient Greeks baked flat bread called plakountos with toppings and this is where the history of what we know as pizza today, begins. The Greeks founded the city of Naples, known as Neopolis in 6th century B.C. Later conquered by the Romans in the 4th century, ancient pizza ovens could be found all over Italy. The Northern Italian bread called focaccia is known as a precursor of pizza. For centuries “pizza” at the time was seen as a poor mans staple and not much changed until 1492 when Christopher Columbus lands in the new world.

Pizza Coming to the New World

Colonization of the new world lead to The Columbian Exchange where the Old World and New Old exchange plants, animals, diseases and technology. This exchange included the tomatoes arrival into the Mediterranean. First thought to be poisonous for about 200 years, the pewter plates they used at the time where high in lead content and caused poisoning, it wasn’t until the Civil War Era did the tomato become a official kitchen fruit. Yes, tomatoes are fruits. Naples, being mostly a poor city, ate tomatoes during the poison scare simple because that might have been a cheap product to get. Sliced tomatoes soon became popular topping on flatbread and the pizza was officially born. For the rest of the 16th and 17th pizza climbs as a favorite dish in Italy, in fact travelers who specifically went to Italy to taste the poor mans pizza where known as pizzaioli. The Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples, sold pizza’s to vendors and became known as the Italy’s first pizza restaurant which is still open today. The modern pizza was made in 1889 when Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia, was vacationing in Naples and heard about the amazing pizzas made by a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) named Raffaele Esposito, of Pizzeria Brandi, which is still open today. She ordered what the American Pie book quotes “a marinara pizza with anchovies; a bianca, or white pizza, with lard, provolone or creamy caciocavallo cheese, and basil; and a pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil”. Raffaele Esposito took the pizza a step further and organized the red tomato, white mozzarella, and green basil in the shape of the Italian flag and named this creation: pizza Margherita.This was also known as the worlds first delivery pizza.

The Birth of the Frozen Pizza

As Italian immigrates move into the United States, so does their pizza. It only remained popular in the Italian sectors of the big cities until the end of WWII. Soldiers deployed from Italy returned home with a taste for pizza and the popularity grew nation wide. Pizza was no longer an ethnic food and considered a product in 1950s when the  Celentano Brothers became the first brand of frozen pizza to be marketed nationally. The next major jump in pizza would be made by DomiNicks Pizza in February 1961, later known as Domino’s, when they used the great American invention of the automobile to deliver pizza to customers home. Pizza delivery would define a culture of easy and convenient living to this very day.

Here is a a commercial from 1980 for the Celentano Brothers frozen pizza.