National Pizza Day – How did the Pizza begin?

January 24th 2020

The humble pizza goes back further than you might think, originally appearing in the form we know it as today during the mid 18th century in Naples. At this time, Naples had become the largest city in Europe and as a result, saw a massive rise in the city’s population. A large portion of the city was made up of casual labourers that lived on a meagre wage. Rushing about on a daily basis to find the job that would pay their wage that day, these workers needed a fast, cheap and easy to eat meal. Enter “The Pizza”, sold on the streets of Naples, these circular on the go meals, could be cut to match the customers budget or appetite.

The pizza, as we know it, is defined by its toppings; this was no different back then. Cost-effective, but full of flavour, turned simple flatbreads into mouth-watering and appetite crushing meals on the go, keeping the growing city of Naples sustained.

The simplest of topping would consist of garlic, lard and salt (Essentially garlic bread), more experimental toppings would include cheese, whitebait (Fish) and some even had tomatoes.

For a long time, pizzas were viewed as the food for the poor, often shunned by the upper-class societies. However, all this would change under the unification of Italy in 1889.

The king and queen of Italy had grown tired of the constant French cuisine that they would be served daily and demanded that a local pizzaiolo (a pizza chef) Raffaele Esposito create them some local specialities. What he served was the humble pizza in three styles. The first was lard, cheese and basil, the second, whitebait and the third, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The queen was delighted with this new serving and the third, her favourite, was named in her honour. And so, pizza Margherita was born.

The royal seal of approval, marked a huge turning point for the pizza, seeing it become a truly Italian dish, as much as pasta or polenta.

The post-war period accelerated its fame even further. As Italian immigrants reached the east coast of America in 1905, the very first pizzeria opened, “Lombardi’s” in New York. It wasn’t long before pizza became an institution in America with the growing population and development of urbanisation. Fast-forwarding to the 1960s as the car and motorcycle became more available to the everyday American, gave way to another significant landmark in the story of pizza. Starting in Michigan at “Dominik’s, customers were able to order their favourite pizza and have it delivered directly to their door.

Over the years, pizza developed from the topped flatbread of Naples to cheese and tomato-based creations. But no matter the form that a pizza takes, with over 5 billion sold every year worldwide, from humble beginnings, this fast-food icon has indeed forged its place as one of the worlds favourite foods.