Pizza today is one of those, perhaps few, things that are popular around this world. So many of our differences divide us, yet if you ask a child in New York, London, Paris, or Rome, what is their favorite food, many will say pizza. How did this phenomenon happen? Has it always been this way?
Perhaps you would be surprised if I told you that the first pizza restaurant in America only opened in 1905. To put that into perspective, by that time, the first subway line had opened as well as multiple elevated railway lines. New York was already considered an affluent, global metropolis. You might be even more surprised if I told you that until the 1950s pizza was actually seen as a strange, foreign food. However, in the next decade, things really started to change, particularly because of the spread of frozen pizza. Now people could consume the delicacy at their homes without having to make dough or go to a restaurant! And don’t get me wrong, frozen pizza wasn’t exactly the same quality as handmade pizza, but it certainly did give rise to the increase in popularity of the dish. With time, it started to evolve. Different cities had their own take on pizza, notably Chicago’s deep-dish pizza.
Pizza, in its present form, originated in Naples, Italy, a prosperous city yet with a fair dose of working poor. The many workers needed a quick, simple dish that was not expensive and could be eaten quickly. To fill that need, someone came up with an ingenious idea for a dish with a flatbread and various toppings on it. Thus, pizza was born, and was soon sold by vendors around the city. There is a legend that says that pizza was developed as a way for bakers to use up their extra dough, and then sell it to the poor. However, pizza soon became popular not only amongst the working class but also amongst the rich. Before they knew it, pizza shops were springing up around town, the first of which was in Port Alba, and is in fact, still there today. A certain baker, called Raffaele Esposito was asked to make pizza for Queen Margherita’s visit to Naples. She loved the pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil so much that it was actually named after her. Americans might better know this pizza as Cheese Pizza. This was an important moment in the flatbread’s fate, as some say that if the Queen did not take such a liking to the pizza as she did, it would not have spread to become a global dish that it is today.
In any case, pizza has come along way since then. But if you ask for a pizza in Naples, will you get the same thing as in Mexico? Probably not. In fact, they might hardly have anything in common other than being called ‘pizza’ and bringing joy and deliciousness to the person who has the privilege to eat it. But at the end of the day, we can all stand together and yell, “I love pizza!” And really, that’s all that matters.