Origins: Pizza

In the latest episode of origins, host Aristidis Marousas takes a look at the history of what might arguably be the world’s favorite food… Pizza!

Flatbreads with toppings were consumed by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The pizza we all know and love today, however, can be traced back to Naples.

Unlike the wealthy minority, Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza, flatbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants, met this need. 

Legend has it that when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889, the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their pizzas in New York and other American cities. The first documented United States pizzeria was G. Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, is said to have the same oven as it did originally.

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed.

Pizza is now a world-wide phenomenon and can be found in many creative varieties.

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