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The evolution of pizza; a brief history

Check out the origin story of pizza and the many forms it has taken around the world.



The evolution of pizza; a brief history
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Who doesn’t adore the doughy, cheesy pizza? Famous among all cultures and almost impossible for anyone to dislike. Pizza wasn’t always so popular. Not off to a great start, pizza existed in some form for thousands of years before an Italian ever saw a tomato. While people have been eating it in one form or another, what we’ve come to know is, the modern pizza appeared in the late 1800s. 

With more than five billion eaten annually, Pizzas have a fascinating and deep-rooted history before becoming one of the world’s most popular foods. As per Giuseppe Nocca, a food culture historian, the first known record of the word ‘pizza’ was discovered in AD 997 on a notarial document written in Latin from Gaeta—a city in southern Italy. 

From Poverty To Luxury

Pizza started as a dish for poor people, like so many other foods. The history of pizza begins in antiquity, starting with a culinary tradition carried overseas by Neapolitan immigrants. Various ancient cultures produced basic flatbreads with several toppings, since then pizza has evolved so much. In ancient times, pizza consisted simply of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. 

In the early 1800s, the Italian city of Naples was packed with lazzaroni – the poorest of the lowering class— who needed inexpensive food that could be eaten as quickly as possible. Baked in a hot oven and sold street-side, paper-thin pizza became the quintessential fare for the Neapolitan poor. The most basic of these early pizzas was just garlic, lard, and salt. 

Over the next decades, pizza grew in popularity, moving beyond Naples and spreading across both the country and social strata. In 1889, Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Espisito created the infamous Pizza Margherita – a simple blend of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil – to honour the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. The worldwide recognition of pizza is related to the pizza decorated with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil tasted by Queen Margherita. 

Since then pizza came out of the table of poor people, entered the palace kitchen, and began to be eaten by rich people.  

Bogus Pizza Myth; Italians Invented Pizza 

Being originated in Naples, founded as a Greek port city, the pizza may be part of the lineage of Greek flatbreads—debunking the myth that Italians invented pizza, but the delicacy had a history preceding its rise to popularity in Italy. 

The word pizza is derived from the Latin word “pinsere”, meaning ‘crush and grind’. 

Rules For Proper Pizza

There were strict rules about how a true Neapolitan pizza must be prepared, including that your pizza can only be a marinara or a margherita; it must be cooked in a wood-fired oven; and use a particular set of ingredients like type 00 or type 0 flour.

Largest Pizza In The World

As an additional note, we would like to note that the largest pizza in the world ever was made in Italy. Reportedly, five cooks—who worked 48 hours nonstop— made the pizza, with a total area of 1208 square meters, using 4 tons of tomatoes; 680 kilograms of salt; 22 pounds of vinegar; 25 pounds of cheese, and at least 9 tons of flour. When the pizza was ready, it weighed 16 tons. 

The record was included in the Guinness Book of Records. 

Pizzas Around The World: A Pictorial Tour

From classic cheese and tomato pizza to pizzas with mashed potatoes, fermented soybeans and crocodile meat, pizzas have evolved incredibly—even sometimes showcasing that pizza do not even need any dough at all.