Pizza’s History and Other Fun Facts

Pizza has become an American fast food icon; you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love this item(Well, maybe my brother Mike). What is it about pizza?

The common belief is that pizza is an Italian food, but ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Israelites, and other Middle Eastern cultures were already eating a variation of this product.

The word “pizza” may be a derivative of the Latin word “picea”, a Roman word used to describe the blackening of bread in an oven. The word “pizza”, in its current spelling, emerged some time in the Middle Ages. It was used to describe BOTH the sweet and salty pies that was becoming popular among Italian aristocracy. Another theory is that the word evolved from the Old Italian word “a point”, which became “pizziare”, which means “to pinch” or “pluck.” And it also means “pie”.

Pizza took the form that we’re now familar with in pre-Renaissance Naples, and was originally a peasant dish. Street vendors(usually young boys)walked around the city with small tin stoves on their heads, calling out their wares. The world’s first pizza parlor evolved from this in 1830 and is still in business today.

Naples gradually assumed its reputation as having the finest pizza in Italy throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, pizza became a popular fast food.

The man who is credited with making pizza an international hit is Raffaele Esposito, a baker, who in 1889, created three kinds of pizzas especially for King Umberto and Queen Margherita. The third one the queen particularly liked; a pizza consisting of mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes(to honor the Italian flag). Word spread, and others began to copy it.

Pizza migrated to America in the latter half of the 19th century-early 1900s, particularly New York and Chicago. Gennaro Lombari opened the first U.S. pizzeria in New York City in either 1895 or 1905(Exact dates vary). In 1943 Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was created by Ike Sewell at his Pizzeria Uno(Bless you, Ike!). American GIs stationed in Italy during World War II fell in love with pizza, and upon their return, further popularized the dish.

But it wasn’t until the 1950s that pizza really took off. Many Italian-Americans celebrities ate it, and the Dean Martin hit “That’s Amore” mentioned it. But teenagers and college students made pizza into a cultural icon!

In the late 1950s,frozen pizza was introduced. Pizza became the most popular of all frozen food. Pizza’s now consumed worldwide, and there are many styles and varieties of it.

Besides the traditional dish, different cultures have adapted pizza to their own native foods and preferences(Ranging from pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza to squid and octopus! There are apple and cherry pizzas, Mexican-style pizzas, spinach, and feta cheese, among countless others.

The most popular styles are deep-dish pizza, New York style(thinner crust), calzones(stuffed pizza rolls), pizza bread(also known as French bread pizza and one of the easiest to make. A French bread loaf is sliced down the center into two halves. Sauce, cheese, and toppings are then placed on the bread’s surface, and of course, frozen pizza.

Did you know that tomatoes, one of pizza’s most crucial ingredients, were originally thought to be poisonous? Spaniards returning from Mexico and Peru introduced the tomato to Italy in the 16th century.

The original mozzarella cheese was made from Indian water buffalo milk in the 7th century. It was introduced to Italy in the 18th century. Today, the best mozzarella cheese is still made from water buffalo milk.

Americans eat three billion pizzas every year, much more than the Italians do!

36% consider pizza leftovers a perfect breakfast! Out of 362 votes in a recent poll, 27.1% consider Di Giorno as the best frozen pizza; Tombstone came in at 16.0%, Freschetta, 15.2%, Tony’s Pizza and Other tied at 13.0%, Red Baron came in at 9.4%, and Totino’s trailed at 6.4%.

Additional polls found that out of 298, 40% chose a pizza on a mixture of toppings, brand, type of base, and price. 33% picked toppings for how they chose a pizza, type of base came in at 15%, while brand and price tied for 6%.

Of 2,240 polled, 32% or 721 chose their home town for the world’s best tasting pizza. 25% or 557 picked New York City, 19% or 430 picked Chicago(yay!), 12% or 272 selected Naples, while 7% or 161 picked Rome.

Pizza seems to be the number one food among computer personnel. There’s an unusually high number of pizza businesses within five miles of every computer center (White Castle burgers, fries, and milkshakes are probably the 2nd food of choice, where available; fantastic flavor and in bite-size pieces. Yum Yum!).

Pizza Trivia:

– Eating pizza once a week can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer; the ingredients, such as tomato sauce and olive oil, have proven cancer-fighting powers.

– Kids between ages 3 to 11 prefer pizza over everything else for lunch and dinner.

– Pepperoni is the No. 1 topping, anchovies the least favorite.

– Gourmet toppings include: chicken, oysters, dandelions, eggplant, Cajun shrimp, artichokes, tuna, venison(deer meat!), duck, peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, and mashed potatoes.

– 62% of Americans prefer meat toppings, 38% prefer vegetarian.

– Some popular international toppings are: pickled ginger and tofu(India), eel and squid(Japan), green peas(Brazil), mockba(a combination of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon, and onions)in Russia, coconut(Costa Rica), curry(Pakistan), and in Australia, it’s shrimp, pineapple, and barbeque toppings.

Pizza Hut is the world’s largest pizza maker.

– Domino’s is the world’s largest in pizza delivery.

– Pizza Expo, held yearly in Las Vegas, is the world’s largest pizza-only trade show.

– 61% in America prefer thin crust, only 14%, that thick stuff.(Take note, pizza makers!)

– More pizza is eaten during Super Bowl week than any other week of the year.

– Among the over-50 market, pizza’s the second most popular take-out food (chicken is No.1).

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