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The History of Pizza

Pizza has been pleasing taste buds for a very long time. In prehistoric times, people baked large pieces of bread on flat cooking stones. Later, in Italy, these flat pieces of bread were seasoned with herbs and called focaccia bread. To this day, many people like to eat focaccia bread as an appetizer or snack.

When Europeans came to the New World, they were introduced to tomatoes, which they then took back to their home countries. The Italians needed something to add to their bread-filled diet. The people of Naples, Italy, were the first to put tomatoes on focaccia bread. At first, people were hesitant to use tomatoes. They thought this red fruit may be poisonous.  

The world’s first pizzeria opened in 1830. Pizzas were baked in an oven lined with lava from a local volcano. The first pizza delivery occurred in 1889 when an Italian restaurant owner was asked to create a special dish for the guest of honor, Queen Margherita Giovanni.

He wanted to include the colors of the Italian flag in his dish for the queen. He added tomatoes (red), mozzarella cheese (white), and basil (green) to focaccia bread. He named the meal the Pizza Margherita, using part of the guest of honor’s name. The pizza was delivered to the palace because the queen did not want to go all the way to the restaurant.

In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in the U.S. The pizzeria still stands in New York City today but at a different location. Pizza did not become popular until after World War II. War veterans who had been stationed in Italy returned home craving the pizza they had eaten there.  

Soon, pre-made pizza mixes, frozen pizza, and pizzeria chains appeared around the country. Today, pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world. Some interesting pizza facts include

  • Pizza Hut is the largest pizza company in the world.

  • The world’s largest pizza measured 131 feet in diameter. It was baked in Rome, Italy in 2012.

  • Youth between the ages of 2 and 19 eat more pizza than any other age group.

  • Halloween is the top day of the year to eat pizza, followed closely by Super Bowl Sunday in January.

  • Americans prefer pepperoni more than any other meat topping on their pizzas.

  • Mozzarella cheese was originally made from the milk of water buffalo.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners

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