Close your eyes! Imagine that mouth-watering burst of delicious, tomato-y, cheesy, killer pizza sliding over your taste buds! Ever wonder where it came from or how it has changed through the years? The truth is that pizza, with beginnings in the Mediterranean areas of Europe, has been enjoyed for centuries. In fact, some documents it as far back as the Stone Ages.  

The word ‘pizza’ literally means ‘pie’ in Italian; however, there is disagreement about the origin of the word in Italy. Some believe it may have come from the Greek word pitta while others believe that it came from the Latin word ‘pinsa,’ meaning flatbread. 

In its simplest form, pizza is a mixture of flour and water with seasonings heated on a stove or in an oven. Today, it is typically a pizza crust covered with tomato sauce, cheeses, and other toppings including olive oil, sausage, and veggies. In the US, our pizzas fall into two basic categories: traditional, thin-crusted New York-style pizza or thick, cheesy Chicago style pizza. And both are distinct from pizza in Italy.

Pizza in Italy

Early 1500s. Tomatoes were introduced in Italy from the New World (South America). At the time, however, people believed that tomatoes were poisonous. It was not until much later that poor people of Naples began to add tomatoes to their dough, creating the first pizza as we now know it. Pizza was consumed widely in Naples because it was inexpensive, easy to eat, and could be sold by street vendors. 

1889. The Italian classic Pizza Margherita was ‘invented’ in 1889 year when Queen Marguerita di Savoia selected the pizza with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes as her favorite. It also happened to carry the colors of the Italian flag. 

Pizza in the USA

The first pizzas in the US were actually known as ‘Tomato Pie.’ You can still hear this term today in some areas of New York. Below are a few landmark dates of pizza history here in the US.

1905. G Lombardi’s was one of the first licensed pizzeria in the US, located on Spring Street in Little Italy (Manhattan). Its owner, Gennaro Lombardi, emigrated at the age of 14 from Naples where he had made pizza using his grandfather’s dough recipe.

1943. Chicago-style deep-dish pizza came into being at Pizzeria Uno. 

1948. Frank Fiorello began production of “Roman Pizza Mix,” the first commercial pizza-pie mix.

1950s. Americans started to take notice of and love all things Italian, including pizza. This was helped along by celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Joe DiMaggio and Dean Martin.

1957. The Celentano Brothers marketed the first frozen pizzas in local grocery stores.

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