Bread, cheese and sauce. Few trinities are more iconic.
But where exactly this this holy concoction begin? Mainstream historians will inevitably say Italy. And they’d at least be mostly correct.
Legend has it that the concept of pizza began in Naples, circa 600 B.C.
Back then, workers had little more to own for themselves but the clothes on their backs and a small, single-room hovels. Their long work hours demanded quick and easy meals made from the sheer basics. Bread, of course, was a start. Soon, they developed a combination of bread, cheese and oils that formed the genesis of pizza.
Many years later, after the unification of Italy in the 1800’s, King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita, visited Naples. The legends claim that they had an appetite for something they’d never had – having tired of the same old French cuisine.
They wanted something unique – something like what the peasants would eat.
The cook brought them pizza. The Queen was mystified, and said that her favorite type of pizza was the one with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil leaves. Hence, the Margherita pizza got its name. The pizzeria they visited, Pizzeria Brandi, still exists to this day.
Afterwards, the whole of Italy became obsessed with the concoction.
While Italians were not the very first persons to conceptualize of a flatbread with toppings, they created the most famous iteration of the food which is called pizza nowadays. For instance, however, the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans also consumed some variants. Of course, it was always a peasants’ food.
Many years later, in America, immigrant Neapolitans started to experiment with their crusty and cheesy pizzas in New York and other major cities, such as Trenton, Chicago, St. Louis and Boston. Most Europeans came for factory jobs, but that didn’t stop the most passionate among them from trying to find success in their heritage and traditions.
Soon, their pizzas gained the intrigue of non-Italians in their neighborhoods and, eventually, entire cities.
The very first pizzeria in the United States was G. Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, which was licensed in 1905. The pizza restaurant still features out-the-door lines and cooks its pizzas in the very same oven they used in the early twentieth century.
Debates in New York can always be rather heated when it’s about who carries the very best pizza in town. There is general consensus, however, that three restaurants in particular do the Neapolitan staple proud. Those would be Totonno’s in Brooklyn, Mario’s in The Bronx, and, of course, Lombardi’s.
As the 1900’s progressed and the economy grew, more and more Italians moved from the inner city to growing suburbs. Of course, they brought their pizzas with them. Soon enough, all 50 states had pizza.
Pizza became so popular that the market expanded ferociously to include major chains like Pizza Hut and Dominos, which now operate in over 60 countries. Pizza delivery is basically a weekly occurrence for almost every American household. Now, everyone has their favorite kind of pizza with their favorite toppings. Even the style’s changed from city to city.
One thing is for sure; without pizza, we’d all feel a little empty inside.
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