Pizza History

The origins of pizza go back to ancient times.  Babylonians, Egyptians and Middle Easterners ate bread that was unleavened and cooked in mud ovens.  This bread most resembled a pita.  The Greeks and Romans ate the bread topped with olive oil and native spices.

Peasants in Naples developed the pizza that we would recognize today.  Bread was a staple of their diet since it was inexpensive.  With the discovery of tomatoes from the New World, the pizza really began to take shape.  However, tomatoes weren’t added until the late 1600s because Europeans believed that they were poisonous.

One of the most common ingredients – cheese – was not introduced until 1889.  Tavern owner, Don Raffaele Esposito, was asked to make a special dish for the visiting Queen Margherita.  Esposito added tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese to represent the colors of the Italian flag, thus changing the pizza forever.

It wasn’t until World War II that pizza became popular worldwide.  American soldiers raved about the dish they enjoyed in Italy while stationed there and pizzerias soon began popping up in the U.S.  Frozen pizza at local grocery stores was introduced in the 1950s.  It has since become one of the most popular frozen foods.

In the U.S. alone, pizza is an $11 billion a year industry.  We consume 12 billion slices of pizza each year, roughly 23 pounds per person.  America’s favorite topping is pepperoni and the least favorite is anchovies.  No longer are we confined to the classic tomato and cheese pizza.  Pizzas are  being topped with  everything you can imagine including barbecue chicken and even dessert toppings.  But the classic pizza is still preferred by most Americans.

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