Pizza can technically be defined as a dish of Italian origin that has a flat base made of dough, and consisting of different toppings. These days, however, the pizza we know today has undergone many upgrades and modifications. This is how you have so many different types of pizzas today.
But let us dive a bit deeper into the history of pizza and learn where exactly this dish came from, which has become one of the most famous meals across the world.
The Precursors of Pizza
Although the origin of pizza is considered to be Italian, it was more the carrying forward and authentication of this world favorite food that can be attributed to the Italians. The origin on the other hand is linked at the earliest to the Romans, the Persians, the Greeks and a few others from the ancient Mediterranean world.
The earliest reference to a food similar to the pizza has been directed towards the Etruscan civilization around 768 BC. Research suggests that the precursor of pizza, is the Focaccia, a flat bread known to the ancient Romans as “panis focacius”, to which toppings were then added. In the 6th century BC, it is said that the soldiers of Darius the Great (521-486 B.C.), accustomed to lengthy marches, baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates. The Ancient Greeks had a flat bread called plakous which was flavored with different types of toppings, including some herbs.
Throughout Europe there have been several similar flat bread pies based on the idea of covering flat pastry with cheese, vegetables and seasoning and throughout history there have been mentions of this genius of a creation.
The Neapolitan Poor Man’s Meal
During the 16th century, tomatoes were first brought to Europe from the New World (Peru). Originally they were thought to be poisonous, but later the poorer people of Naples added the new tomatoes to their yeast dough and created the first simple pizza, as we know it. They usually had only flour, olive oil, cheese, and herbs to feed their families. All of Italy proclaimed the Neapolitan pies to be the best.
In the 19th century, Raffael Espossito, a well known Neapolitan pizzaioli (pizza chef) was summoned by Umberto I (1844-1900), King of Italy, and his wife, Queen Margherita di Savoia (1851-1926), who were in Naples on holiday. Raffael prepared three kinds of pizzas for the royal couple out of which the queen loved the one with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, the colours of the Italian flag. Raffaele dedicated this specialty to the queen and called it “Pizza Margherita.” This pizza set the standard by which today’s pizza evolved as well as firmly established Naples as the pizza capital of the world.
How Pizza Found America and the World
In the later half of the 19th century the italian immigrants that came to America brought with them the Neapolitan pizza. In 1903, Gennero Lombardi claims to have opened the first United States Pizzeria in New York City at 53 1/2 Spring Street. Before the 1940s, pizza consumption was limited mostly to Italian immigrants and their descendants, but when the American soldiers returned from world war II they brought back with them the taste of pizza. They went looking for this cheesy goodness in America once they returned and were glad to find the Italian immigrants were already creating the authentic tastes in their homeland.
A pizza revolution took place in the United States of America after 1940 and rapidly spread throughout the globe and has reached what we see of it today. Huge brand names along with unlimited types of fillings and room for innovation of many many more, have come to be and are ever growing.
The world today knows ‘pizza’ like the humble originators would have never imagined!
If you want to cook a pizza like the one you see in our image, all you need is a small list of ingredients and a good 2 burner gas stove.
Note: Source of featured image is Veg Recipes of India.