The origin of…Pizza

“Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around. “ Anna Quindien

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Legend has it that the modern pizza was invented in Napels in 1889 when Queen Margherita visited the city and the Neapolitan pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito, who worked at Pizzeria di Pietro, created the Pizza Margherita in honor of her visit. This pizza had the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). Before her visit, flatbread was sold in the streets of Naples and was regarded as a food for the poor. As of the 18th century, tomatoes were added as a topping on the flat bread (before that the tomato was considerer poisonous (see my post on tomatoes)) and the pizza gained in popularity.
However, food similar to pizza has been made long before this. People added other ingredients to bread to make it tastier and records of many different kinds of “pizza” can be found in several different places. Various types of flat bread were made a long time ago. For example, Ancient Greek made something called πλακοῦς (plakous), a flat bread with herbs, garlic and onion. Other examples are the German Zwiebelkuchen (with onions), Alsatian Flammkuchen (with cheese, onions and lardons)) and French Quiche (in different varieties, such as with meat or vegetables).

In 1984 the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) was founded. Specific rules on the authentic Neapolitan pizza were set. Some of the rules are that it must be baked in a wood-fired domed oven, that the pizza may not exceed 35 centimeters in diameter and be more than 1/3 of a centimeter thick at the center and that the base must be hand-kneaded.
The Italians brought the pizza to the United States in the late 19th century. The first pizzeria that opened its doors in the US (that was in 1905) is Lombardi´s Pizza in Manhattan, New York City (according to the Pizza Hall of Fame).
Until the end of WWII, the consumption of pizzas in the US was mostly limited to Italians. After that, allied troops who had been stationed in Italy brought back their love for this dish and the pizza became more and more popular. It is now a USD 32 billion industry, there are some 70,000 pizzerias and some 3 billion pizzas are sold each year (numbers in the US).  Worldwide some 5 billion pizzas are sold each year.

There are many different styles of pizza, some of which are:
Pizza Rustica: a whole pizza
Pizza al taglio: pizza by the slice
Neapolitan: thin crust (typically with tomatoes and mozzarella)
Roman: thin crust
Sicilian: rectangular with thick crust
New York City style: thin crust
Chicago style: deep-dish baked
Detroit style: square with a thick deep-crust, sometimes baked twice
St. Louis style: thin unleavened crust
California style: unusual toppings and flavor combinations, often from fresh produce

Want to read more?
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12355000/pdf/DBrief/11_consumption_of_pizza_0710.pdf
http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/01/a-list-of-regional-pizza-styles.html?ref=sectionnav

Pizza:
a food made from flat, usually round bread that is topped with usually tomato sauce and cheese and often with meat or vegetables (source: Merriam Webster).

The word pizza comes from dialect pinza, clamp, probably from Latin pinsere, meaning to press. It could also come from Byzantine Greek πίττα (pitta, meaning cake/pie) from Ancient Greek πίσσα (pissa, pitch).

Pizza in other languages:
Dutch: pizza
Spanish: la pizza
Italian: la pizza

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