Who Invented Pizza? Amazing Origins

Who invented pizza?

You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like pizza, since pizza is among the world’s favorite foods, right next to hamburgers, pasta, rice, and bread. Pizza is hard to pass up with its bready, buttery crust, hot and cheesy center, rich and flavorful tomato sauce, and with whatever toppings may be resting on top which can range from simple pepperoni to the very controversial pineapple and ham or even anchovies. I myself have taken up pizza making ever since the COVID-19 quarantine and I haven’t turned back since. But the question we’re asking here is about the invention of pizza. Who did it? When? Where? All most people know about pizza is that it is an Italian staple food. But what more is it than that?

Today, we can find a pizza vendor on practically every corner in every city, but it wasn’t always like that. The history of pizza isn’t exactly straightforward, as it may be hard to exactly classify a pizza. The ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all had mastered the making of flatbread with toppings, sometimes with oil drizzled on top, but this doesn’t exactly sound like the pizza we’re familiar with these days (Turim, 2012). Our version of pizza does indeed have very Italian origins, beginning in the grand old city of Naples, which was first founded in the year 600 B.C. by Greeks. About two thousand years later, Naples exploded in population size, and the city itself became a massive and thriving ocean-side metropolis. However, it was full of poverty.

who invented pizza

Huge throngs of the working poor would spend the majority of their time outside since their homes usually never consisted more than a single, stuffy room (Turim, 2012). But we have these groups of working poor, known as lazzaroni, to thank for inventing pizza. They invented pizza somewhere between the 1700s and 1800s, specifically designed to be a food they could quickly eat on-the-go.

Who Invented Pizza

Much like today, the pizza makers of the past also used tomato, cheese, garlic, and toppings like herbs or various species of fish. Interestingly, since pizza was a food so heavily associated with the lazzaroni and extreme poverty in general, foreigners and those of the Italian upper classes such as authors looked down on the food, even going as far as to call it “disgusting” (Turim, 2012). How did pizza ever become so popular if its initial reviews were worse than abysmal?

The answer lies with the Italian royalty. Some time after the unification of Italy in 1861,¬†King Umberto I and Queen Margherita¬†decided to visit Naples in 1889. The royal couple, so fed-up with a constant supply of fine French cuisine, they dared to order a variety of pizzas from the city to try, which ultimately, they tremendously enjoyed. The Queen’s personal favorite was one that would soon be her namesake: the Margherita pizza, topped with soft white pieces of mozzarella cheese along with tomatoes and basil (the three primary colors of the Italian flag, as it turns out).

Easy Margherita Pizza at Home | Kitchn

Interestingly, pizza sales did not immediately explode after the royal visit to Naples. In fact, pizza remained relatively unknown to the rest of the world until the 1940s, thanks this time not to royalty but to Neapolitan factory workers that had immigrated to New York City. These immigrants continued to make pizza in New York just as they did back in their home country. They were not trying to make pizza an international sensation; rather, they were just trying to make dinner. However, the delicious smells of their pizza-making, full of herbs and melting cheese, soon caught the attention of many non-Italians.

Pizza popularity truly exploded after World War II when people started moving away from the cities and into the suburbs (Turim, 2012). The food slowly started shedding its ethnic roots and began to be enjoyed by people from all different walks of life. Interestingly, pizza started to be identified more with America than with Italy, and since everyone at the time loved to pick up on American trends, as with blue jeans, the world soon joined the pizza craze. With how loved pizza is today, it doesn’t look like this lazzaroni cuisine is going anywhere anytime soon.

References:

Turim, Gayle. (2012). “Who Invented Pizza?” History. https://www.history.com/news/a-slice-of-history-pizza-through-the-ages.

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