The History of Pizza

Everyone loves pizza. Whether you prefer New York-style or Chicago-style, thin crust or deep dish, gluten-free or wood-fired, there’s a pizza out there for you. But where did this heroic dish originate? Let’s investigate...

Who Invented Pizza?

The question is actually the source of some debate, as pizza’s roots can be traced back to the flatbread dishes of ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. However, these baked flatbreads were more in the style of focaccia and didn’t include any tomato sauce. Pizza, as we know it today, didn't exist until the tomato was brought to Italy in the early 18th century. The first Italian pizzeria opened in Naples in 1738 and catered to primarily the lower class.

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Some claim that the father of pizza, as we know, it is Raffaele Esposito. Initially, the pizza was considered to be a working-class dish, since it was inexpensive and often produced by bakers who wanted to use their excess dough. However, that perception changed in 1889 when Esposito, owner of a pizzeria in Naples, served the dish to Queen Margherita on her visit to the city. The queen loved the combination of mozzarella, tomato, and basil toppings so much that it became known as Margherita pizza. And with that royal blessing, pizza’s popularity grew.

Immigrants from Naples introduced pizza to the United States at the turn of the century. In 1905 in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan, New York-style pizza began with the opening of America's first pizzeria, Lombardi's, by Gennaro Lombardi. Lombardi's served large, wide pies and, for only a nickel, you could get a single slice. Lombardi’s is still open today and claims that it still uses the same coal oven.

In Chicago, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo decided to put a spin on classic pizza by inverting the layers and baking it in a 2-3-inch-deep pan. The pair started selling their deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno in 1943.

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How to Eat Pizza in Italy

New York-style pizza should be folded in half and eaten by hand. Chicago, or deep-dish, pizza can't be folded and really isn't meant to be picked up - a fork is highly recommended. But how do you eat pizza in Italy? Luckily, it's pretty easy to figure out when you're there. If you order pizza from a street vendor, by the slice, eat it with your hands. If you order a whole pizza at a seated restaurant, you'll receive a fork and knife.  Served by the slice - eat by hand. Plated - eat with utensils. Though, no matter how you're enjoying your pizza, whatever you do, don't miss out on trying the chili oil local Italians drizzle on top. 

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