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The History of Pizza – Ancient Greece to Today

The type of pizza we know was born in Naples, which is in the Campania region of Italy. However, there have been many types of flavored flatbreads in ancient and medieval times which are similar to pizza so the exact origin of the pizza is not altogether clear and it is hard to say when the first pizza was invented or who invented pizza.

Bread is one of the oldest foods and people in ancient history would add other ingredients to bread to make it more interesting. This is perhaps the true pizza origin. The ancient Greeks used to top their bread with herbs, garlic, and onion to make it more flavorful. These types of flatbreads are from the Mediterranean region. Some people believe that pizza evolved from the Chinese green onion pancake, which Marco Polo introduced to Italy but the most likely pizza origin is ancient Greece.

The Addition of Tomatoes

What differentiates Greek flatbreads from modern pizza is the use of tomato as a topping. The ancient Greeks might have also used tomatoes if they had been discovered then. The tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 1500s but many Europeans thought it was poisonous. By the 1700s, it was common for the poorer people from Napes to add tomato to their flatbread to make a type of pizza. This dish became popular and visitors to the area would visit the poor areas to sample it.

Italian Pizza History

The History of PizzaPizza was sold from street vendors’ stands until 1830. The first ever pizzeria was Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples and the first pizza made in this bakery was for sale to peddlers in 1738 but by 1830 it had expanded to a pizza restaurant. Pizza is still served on the premises to this day.

In the late nineteenth century, Queen Margherita made a tour of her Italian kingdom. She noticed peasants eating a large flat bread and was curious about it. The queen ordered her guards to bring her a pizza bread. She found it delicious and ate it whenever she was in the poor areas. This caused consternation in the court because it was thought unseemly for a queen to eat peasant food.

The queen ordered Chef Rafaelle Esposito from the pizzeria to visit the palace and make her some pizza. Rafaelle topped the pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil to represent the three colors of the Italian flag. This became the favorite pizza of the queen and Pizza Margherita is still popular throughout the world.

The Evolution of Pizza

The Italians experimented with different toppings. In Bologna, meat was used as a topping. Neapolitan pizza with garlic and cheese was also popular and fresh vegetables; spices and herbs were experimented with. The idea of baking pizza in brick ovens was developed at this time and the bread was made from flour, salt, yeast, and oil, much as it is today.

Pizza spread to England, Spain, France, and America in the mid twentieth century. Many European and American soldiers fighting in World War II tasted pizza for the first time and were delighted with it. More styles and flavors were developed. Square Sicilian pizza is an American invention. Authentic pizza from Sicily does not contain mozzarella and is not as deep as the American version.

The history of pizza is very interesting and another example of a “peasant food” evolving into something we all know and love today. Perhaps the fact that there are so many varieties of pizza is one of the best reasons for its continuing popularity all over the globe.

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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hi I'm Christine, and I am happy you are visiting. Food is a large part of our family's lives, and we love to try new dishes, especially Italian food which offers so much freshness and flavor, whether you are making a classic Italian dish like lasagna or pizza, or experimenting with new appetizers, entrées or desserts from Italy.

Even if you are brand new to this cuisine, you will be able to find all kinds of tempting recipes here. I have been collecting classic Italian recipes, all conveniently in one place, along with unusual recipes from Italy plus some dishes inspired by Italian cuisine.

When the weather is cold, a baked pasta dish or juicy pork or veal recipe might be ideal. During the summer months, an Italian salad might be your dish of choice. We have vegetarian recipes, Italian soups, and even tips on how to work with Italian ingredients for the best results, whether you are making lasagna, gnocchi or an Italian casserole


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