Pizza is one of my favorite foods, it's probably alot of other peoples favorites too. Especially here in the U.S. I thought this story of one of America's favorite foods just to break away from the stuff that happens each and every day. It's not just a Italian favorite, but also probably one of most Americans top foods to eat.
The history of pizza is cloudy at best, with a variety of theories and speculation. Some claim it is based on the pita bread found in the Mid-East. There is also a theory that pizza came from the unleavened bread "matzo" brought to Rome by Italian legionnaires. Others insist, pizza evolved from the famous "foccacia" served in Rome about 1,000 years ago, as a snack. Another theory is that pizza was brought to Italy by Greeks, during the first century.
There may be as many theories about the origins of pizza as there are different types of pizza!
There is agreement that pizza may have been developed by peasants in Naples, Italy. This early pizza consisted of flattened bread dough with olive oil, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Tomatoes were discovered in the "New World" and were for centuries, thought to be poisonous. A peasant may have tried to add bulk to his pizza by using the devils fruit. The first "pizza joint" was Port' Alba, opened in Naples in 1830. This restaurant served pizza baked in ovens made from lava rock.
Pizza, as we know it, is credited to one Raffaele Esposito of Naples. In 1889, to honor a visit by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, he created a special pizza which resembled the Italian flag. The pizza consisted of basil (greeen), mozzarella, (white), and tomatoes (red). This dish sets the standard for our modern day pizza. This patriotic pizza was an instant success with the King and Queen, as well as his other patrons. He named this pizza in honor of the Queen, the Margherita.
The first American pizzeria was opened in New York in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi. This restaurant, Lombardi's, is still in operation today. The pizza is baked in a coal burning oven with the same recipe Gennaro Lombardi brought from Naples in 1897.
There is no doubt that Italian immigrants brought pizza to the United States, as part of their culture from the "Old World". Pizza was generally seen as a snack, not for a meal. Many Italians looked upon pizza as "peasant food"! They would use a little left over dough and tomato sauce. If available, cheese and meat was occasionally used.
Numerous Italian bakeries offered pizza to their patrons. For many years, the only place to get pizza was in an Italian neighborhood. Here, pizza remained in the "underground" for decades. An undiscovered treasure that took a World War to make it a part of the American landscape!
Pizza was popularized in the United States by returning W.W.II veterans. These soldiers had gotten a taste of pizza while they served in Italy. Upon returning, tales of pizza flourished, and with this word of mouth advertising, a demand for pizza grew. Pizza started to become mainstream.