The History of Pizza

Pizza began its evolutionary history in ancient Greece, where some bakers tried making long and relatively flat loaves. These were meant to accommodate oils, olives, and dates. Like most things Greek, this idea spread to Italy. In the 1700s these flat breads, without any toppings were sold on the streets especially of Naples.

Queen Margherita (the Pizza Queen)

After Italy became unified in the 1800s, Queen Margherita, loved to travel around her kingdom. She noticed the peasants were frequently seen to be eating these large flat breads. One day, she ordered one of her servants to buy her one of these loaves. One bite and she was hooked. However, the king's court was scandalized that a noble lady would condescend to eat pizza bread. Yet the queen refused to bow to pressure and frequently was seen eating the lowly repast. The story goes, that eventually a prominent pizza baker, Rafaelle Esposito, was called on by the king's steward to provide pizza bread for a special event. To make the pizza patriotic he included toppings that would reflect the colors on the national flag of Italy, red, white, and green. He chose a tomato sauce with green herbs and a white cheese. The new invention was a hit at the palace and soon became a craze throughout Italy. In fact, in Italy pizza with these ingredients is still called pizza Margherita.

Pizza spread throughout western Europe and even came to North America with a tide of Italian immigrants. However, pizza did not become widely known in the United States and Canada until troops who had fought in Italy in World War II began to return home from the war. During their few leisure hours they had discovered the Italian specialty laced with Italian herbs such as oregano, basil, and garlic. It was a flavor combination that invigorated the new world.

Pizza remains immensely popular in North America. Americans and Canadians consume on average over 23 pounds per person per year. The most favored topping is pepperoni. Today pizzerias dot the commercial landscape of most towns. The word "pizza" may come from the Greek word for pie (pitta).

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