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  • Ekaterina Egorova

The History of Pizza

Updated: Nov 12

By: Ekaterina Egorova

Pizza is an incredibly popular food found worldwide. Pizza can be sold fresh or frozen, and as whole or in pieces. It is a popular fast food item, especially in Europe and North America. Pizza is so popular in some parts of the world, such as the United States, that an entire month is dedicated to honoring the food item. In the US and parts of Canada, National Pizza Month is observed in October with pizza lovers consuming different types of pizza and visiting various pizzerias during this time. In some countries like Kenya, a specific day of the week is dedicated to promoting pizza, with pizzerias offering extra pizza slices.


What is a Pizza?

Pizza is a type of food made from flat, round yeast bread that is usually topped with tomato sauce and cheese. It is then topped with a selection of meats, vegetables, and condiments. Pizzas come in different flavors depending on the type of meat used in preparing it.


Pizzerias also offer non-meat pizza for vegetarians and those on a diet. Pizza can be prepared fresh or frozen. Pizza preparation has evolved with several other ingredients included and modified to make the best flavor. Pizzerias also offer some form of uncooked pizza that can be baked at home. Some stores also sell dough and basic ingredients to be completed at home before it can be baked in an oven.


In pizzerias, pizzas are baked in an electric deck oven, a conveyor belt oven, or a brick oven. The dough and the ingredients can be mixed on any type of table. A standard and purpose-built pizza preparation table are used for commercial baking of pizza.


Ancient Pizza

Foods that are similar to pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic age. Various cultures produced flatbreads with different toppings including vegetables and herbs. The ingredients were added to the bread to make it more flavorful.


The ancient Greeks topped their bread with oil, herbs, and cheese while the soldiers of the Persian army in the 6th century BC covered the flatbread with cheese and dates and used their shields to cook the bread. Ancient bread baked over 7,000 years ago was found in Sardinia. The bread had been leavened by the local islanders. People have likely been putting things like cheese on bread since the existence of bread and cheese.


However, many have argued that the ancient form of pizza was not truly pizza as it is today. The ingredients used in making the flatbread "pizza" varied from place to place. The flatbread may also have been used as a plate to hold other foods. Commentators have argued that the so-called pizzas were simple bread that took a round shape and those who made and consumed them treated them as bread and not as another food item altogether.


So Where Did The Word ‘Pizza’ Come From?

The word "pizza" was first used in a Latin publication in Gaeta which is in

Southern Italy and part of the Byzantine Empire. The text highlighted that an occupant of the property would then take 12 pizzas to the Bishop of Gaeta every Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Pitta, a Latin word for pizza, refers to flatbread baked in an oven at a high temperature with topping, and traces its origin from the ancient Greek word "pike" which means "fermented pastry". The Lombardic word "Pizzo", meaning mouthful, was brought to Italy around the 6th century and is thought to have influenced the wide use of the term ‘pizza’ in most parts of the world.


The Modern Pizza

The origin of the modern pizza is linked to Pizzarelli which was used as

Passover bread by the Roman Jews during the Passover holiday. Modern

pizza might have been made more than 2000 years ago according to the

Abba Eban when the Roman Soldiers topped cheese and olive oil with

matzah. In Europe, pies may have influenced the baking of pizza. A galette

flatbread made in Naples in the 16th century was considered a pizza. The

Napoletana pizza was flatbread topped with tomato sauce and cheese. It

was sold in the street as food for the poor and was not considered a

kitchen recipe for a long time. However, soon eating pizza became a

must-do activity for tourists who were visiting Naples, especially those who would access the less affluent parts of the town. In 1889, the pizza Margherita was invented with Raffaele Esposito commissioned to make a pizza in honor of Queen Margherita. By 1927, several recipes had been developed with most recipes including tomatoes, cheese, and mozzarella.

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