Pizza’s ancestry can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Persians who would place oil and spices on simple flatbreads. Pizza as we know it today did not come about until tomatoes were added to the breads. The following timeline indicates important dates in pizza history:
- 79 A.D. – Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying the Italian city of Pompeii. Excavations of the city have revealed evidence of flat breads being baked in stone hearth ovens along with tools that resemble modern pizza supplies.
- 16th Century – Tomatoes were brought back from the New World. Originally thought to be poisonous, it was not until later in the century that poor Neapolitans began to add tomatoes to their flatbreads to create the first example of pizza as we know it today.
- 17th Century – Visitors and locals would travel to poor areas of Naples to sample the widely popular peasant fare, solidifying the city as the birthplace of pizza.
- 1780 – Pizzeria Brandi (originally Pizzeria Pietro) opened in Naples, Italy and is the first authentic pizzeria. Pizzeria Brandi is still operating today.
- 1889 – Queen Margherita of Savoy summoned pizzaoli (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to the palace to sample his culinary skill. Esposito prepared a special pizza for the occasion that used mozzarella cheese, plum tomatoes and fresh basil to resemble the Italian flag. Pizza Margherita, as it is still called, is now considered to be the gold standard for pizza. >> Learn More
- 1905 – Gennaro Lombardi opened America’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, in New York City. Several other pizzerias followed and were found exclusively in Italian neighborhoods.
- 1943 – Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago and created the Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza.
- 1945 – Soldiers returning home from WWII brought with them a taste for pizza that they developed while stationed overseas, and pizza’s popularity exploded in the United States. The increasing popularity also gave rise to modern pizza delivery, in which a customer calls to place an order, and the pizza is driven to the person’s house.
- 1957 – Frozen pizza was introduced by Celentano Brothers. Countless frozen pizzas are now being sold to bachelors, college students and families across the country. Some frozen pizzas are even rumored to taste just like delivery.
- 1958 – Pizza Hut was founded and has since become the world’s largest pizza franchise.
- 1967 – The first Domino’s Pizza opens. Domino’s is now the world leader in pizza delivery.
- 1984 – The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) was formed to protect Neapolitan pizza and promote it as the standard against which all pizzas are judged. Also, the first Papa John’s was opened and has since become the third largest pizza chain in America, behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s.
Pizza has evolved from simple oil covered flatbreads into one of America’s favorite foods. Today, America eats approximately 100 acres (or 350 slices) of pizza each day, and it accounts for approximately 10% of all food service sales.1 Knowing the history of pizza and its present foothold on American taste buds, one can only assume that pizza has a tasty future.
1 Pizzaware.com, “Pizza Industry Facts, General Sales & Consumption Statistics, Favorite US/World Pizza Toppnigs,” http://pizzaware.com/facts.htm (Accessed August 11, 2009).
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