Pizza is undoubtedly a food that is enjoyed worldwide. However, here in the United States we just don’t enjoy Pizza, we live, eat, sleep, and breathe it. Approximately 3 billion pizzas are estimated to be sold in the United States every year. What those three billion pizzas equate to are the average person consuming about 46 slices each year. That’s right, just one individual person in the United States will eat an impressive 46 slices a year all by themselves.
However, despite our unwavering affinity for Pizza, the United States was actually one of the more recent societies to add pizza to its repertoire of cuisines. That’s not to say we haven’t made the divine semblance of dough, sauce, and cheese our own, but Pizza, believe it or not, actually has ancient roots. So, where did Pizza really first originate? When and how did it get to the United States? And what are the top varieties that we enjoy here in the US today? We did an all-out deep dive into Pizza’s indulgent history to find the very answers to those questions.
PIZZA’S EARLIEST ORIGINS
The first mentions of pizza can actually be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The ancient Greeks, in particular, often spoke of putting a combination of herbs and oil on a popular focaccia-like bread of the time. There are even mentions of a pizza-like food in Virgil’s Aeneid. The epic talks of Aeneas enjoying “thin wheaten cakes” that were topped with mushrooms and herbs.
However, modern-day Pizza, which will likely not come as surprise, has its origins rooted in Italy. It was first made in Naples in the 1700s, which ironically was initially a Greek settlement back when it was first founded in 600 B.C. Neapolitan pizza was first invented out of a need for its Lazzaroni, or working-class poor, to have something to eat that they could both afford and consume quickly so they could get back to work.
Nearly two hundred years later in 1889 after Italy had been unified for well over two decades, the country’s King Umberto I and Queen Margherita went on holiday to Naples. It was during that time that a famous pizzeria in the region called Pizzeria Brandi made an assortment of different style pizzas for the king and queen to try. Queen Margherita found the combination of soft white cheese, fresh tomatoes, and basil particularly delectable. Her love of the specific trifecta is was led to it ultimately being christened the Margherita.
NEW YORK CITY HERE I COME
Although Pizza wouldn’t really become a global phenomenon until sometime in the 1940s, thanks to a surge of Italian immigrants making their way to and settling on the northeastern seaboard of the United States, it got its start in America beginning in the early 1900s. Lombardi’s, the very first pizzeria in the United States, opened its kitchen in New York City in 1905.
It didn’t take long for the divine fast food, if you can even call it that, to catch fire. Not only did a slew of pizza joints open up in and around New York City’s five boroughs, But major metro areas in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts also caught the pizza bug and began to lay claim to making some of the best pies around. Frank Pepe’s in New Haven is an example of a pizza chain that has risen to garner nationwide acclaim for its famous New Haven-style pizza.
As the adoration for pizza continued to sweep that nation many advantageous pizza-loving non-Italians began to try their hand at offering their own unique varieties in different areas of the United States. By the end of the second World War pizza was as widespread and diverse as the United States itself. Famed varieties including the quintessential New York style began to pop up in their respective cities.
PIZZA FOR EVERY PALETTE
Fast forward to the modern-day, and the United States’ love for pizza has not wavered in the slightest. Of all the different styles to come out of Pizza’s American evolution, most notably there is of course the New York style, as well as the Chicago style, St. Louis style, and the Detroit style.
The New York style is characterized by its signature large, thin and foldable slices. And its irresistibly crispy crust. You will find many a New York or New Jersey resident who is adamant about this being the only way a pizza should be made, and there is by far nothing better. Although, the same can be said of any pizza enthusiast who is a fan of their respective styles.
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pie which is characterized by its super-thick and fluffy crust with raised edges. It is assembled in the reverse of the traditional New York-style starting with the cheese on the bottom, fillings in the middle, and ending with the tomato sauce on top. The popular pizzeria chain Uno was inspired by this type of pie.
St. Louis’ pizza is made with a super-thin, flakey crust that is usually assembled into rectangles and then cut into squares or what St. Louis natives refer to as the “tavern cut.” Detroit’s style is also of the rectangular variety and actually indirectly pays homage to the motor city’s rich vehicular history because the pies were originally baked in square pans meant to hold automotive parts. What is also interesting about Detroit-style pizza is that its cheese topping goes all the way to the edge.
All in all, there really is nothing that beats downing a delicious slice of piping hot pizza. There is something so innately comforting and satisfying about the combination of cheese, dough, and tomato goodness. From its earliest roots to its modern-day varieties, Pizza unmistakably and unquestioningly proves that life’s simplest pleasures truly are among the absolute best. So now that your stomach is growling, and your mouth is watering open up that DoorDash app or dial up your local Pizza joint and reward your tastebuds with the tantalizing combination.