Pizza: that oven-baked, flat bread dish with we all know and love. In this post, we’ll cover a brief history of pizza. We trace that beloved molten, cheesy crust back to its origins in ancient Grecian times.
The Ancient Greeks and the Recipe
Pizza began when simple bread, made from flour and water, was flavoured with olives, olive oil and herbs. Like many of the best pizzas today, these proto-pizzas were often cooked outdoors on large stones.
The ancient Greeks brought the pizza recipe with them during their occupation of southern Italy.
By the Middle Ages, the unleavened bread had a more practical function. In 500 BC, the armies of the Persian leader, Darius the Great, would bake flatbread, topped with cheese and dates, on their shields, during long marches.
What's in a Name?
Experts are divided as to the origin of the word 'pizza'. Some say it comes from the Latin "picea". They believe it referred to the blackening of the crust in the fire. Others think the word comes from the Latin word for 'magpie' – pica – a bird with feathers of two colours.
Pizza in the 1500s to 1600s
During the 1500s, Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, built a royal pizza oven so the peasant dish can be made for her and her guests. However, it wasn't until the sixteenth century, when tomatoes came to Europe, that pizzas as we know them began to take shape. People initially thought the exotic red fruit was poisonous. But by the 1600s, public fear had subsided. The pizza-makers of Naples would finally begin using the ingredient in their kitchens.
Pizza in the 1800s
By the 1800s, pizza was a popular peasant food. Naples was also famous for being the Italian pizza capital. There, the world's first pizza delivery boys carried the tasty snacks on their heads in small tin stoves. They sold slices flavoured with oil, oregano and tomatoes on the streets.
In 1889, during a stay in Naples, Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanna noticed the popularity of this street food. She tried it and fell in love. However, it was unbecoming for royalty to be indulging in a working-class delight. So she called on pizzaiolo Rafaele Esposito to bake her pizza in the palace. Esposito, a patriotic subject, created a special pizza for his queen. It was a work of art, lovingly strewn with basil, tomatoes and - for the first time ever - mozzarella cheese. His toppings represented the colours of the Italian flag. Pizza Margherita was born. The queen said, "That's amore."
Pizza in the 1900s Until Today
In 1905, Italian immigrant, Gennaro Lombardi, opened America's first pizzeria in New York City, Lombardi's Pizzeria Napoletana.
Now you know about the history of pizza. Today, pizza remains a widely enjoyed, and celebrated food - perfect for parties! Queen Margherita's craving still echoes around the world today. Pizza: that's amore!