The History of Pizza

It is well-known that pizza, before arriving to our kitchen tables in its current shape, went through numerous transformations over centuries.

Mediterranean cultures are credited with a discovery of this food specialty, as many historical references describe a presence of small-round-buttery bread, which resembles the pizza of today, found in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Pizza could be referred to as some variation of pita bread of Italian origin, with thin crusty dough pasted with tomato sauce, covered with cheese and other toppings, such as ham, olives, spices, etc...

In regards to the origin of the name “Pizza”, numerous theories exist: according to some documented references, word “Pizza” originates from ancient-Italian word for “top”, which over time evolved into word “pizzicare” and means “to pinch” or “to prick”.

In today’s world, pizza is consumed world-wide and is found on the menus in many different countries.

It is perceived that Pizza was originally developedby Phoenicians, Greeks, or Romans, possibly even some other culture(s). However, one thing is for certain: whoever developed Pizza knew the secret of mixing flour with water and baking it over hot rocks. According to one of the numerous theories, pizza was a main nutritious article in Stone Age.

It is believed that in the early stages of the Persian kingdom, the soldiers of Darius the Great (6,000 B.C.) baked pieces of thin bread on their shields, and later covered the bread with cheese and dates.

Traveling farther through history, we arrive to a recipe book by culinary expert Apicius, which gives us an inside peek into Roman kitchen. In Apicius’ book of recipes there is a mention of chicken meat, cheese, pepper, oil, etc...(mainly ingredients found on today’s Pizza), and many recipes are ended with instructions to “insuper nive et infers”, which means - “cool it off on snow and serve”.

In 1522, tomatoes arrive to Europe from Peru. Tomatoes, in the beginning, were considered as a poisonous plant. When the residents of Naples added toma-toes to baked dough, first simple pizza was made.

Today, tomato is considered an integral ingredient in Mediterranean kitchen(s), and is used in almost all existing pizza recipes.

In 17th century, pizza rapidly expands in region of Naples, Italy. Special chefs were employed for making pizza, and were referred to as “pizzaioli”.

In 1889, while vacationing in Naples, Umberto I, king of Italy, and his wife, queen Margherita (princess of Savoy) invited to their palace the most famous “pizzaioli” (expert in pizza making), Rafael Esposito, in order to taste his delicacies. For this special occasion, Rafael made three different types of pizza. Third pizza was topped with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes (colors that represent Italian flag).

Queen liked the third pizza the most. In her honor, Rafael named his specialty “Pizza Margherita”.

Towards the end of XIX century on the street of Naples, pizza is sold for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is prepared on large baking sheets, cut in large piecesand topped with mushrooms and sweet basil. As pizza became more and more popular, there was an increase in pizza stands that made pizzas in various shapes and sizes, and topped them to customer’s liking. Pizza stands quickly grew into pizzerias, where people could meet, eat, drink, and converse.

In the second half of the 19th century, pizza, along with Italians, migrated to the American continent. In Chicago, pizza was made famous by street sellers that offered potential customers, for only 2 cents, a chance to taste the newest culinary invention.

Only in 1950s did the Americans start to give more attention to the new culinary specialty called Pizza. Famous celebrity of Italian origin, such as Frank Sinatra and baseball star Joe DiMaggio, were frequent visitors at local pizzerias. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie...” - lyrics from the Dean Martin song that some credit for popularizing pizza in America.

February 9th, worldwide, is celebrated as the International Pizza Day. Guinness Book of Records holds that the largest pizza was made in Havana, Cuba and it measured around 25 meters.

Copyright ©Europa Magazine, 2006 | DS Design | All Rights Reserved