Though flatbreads with toppings were consumed by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, the modern birthplace of the pizza is southwestern Italy’s Campania region, home to Naples. Founded around 600 BC as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza — flatbreads with toppings that can be eaten for every meal — fulfilled this need. These early pizzas featured tasty toppings such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic. More well off Italian authors judged Naples’ innovation, often calling their eating habits disgusting.
In 1861, Italy finally unified, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend says that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed the most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil — much resembling the Italian flag. Since then, this particular choice of toppings has been dubbed the Margherita pizza.
However, even with the Queen’s love for the dish, pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s. Across the sea, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their flatbreads in New York and other American cities. They were coming for factory jobs, but accidentally made a culinary statement. Relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians alike.
The leading chain pizza restaurant was founded in Wichita, Kansas
Pizzeria Uno in Chicago invents the deep dish pizza, sparking the still unsettled debate of whether a casserole can really be a pizza.
Immigrants to New York in the 1940s brought along the Neopolitan delight that is pizza.
King Umberto and Queen Margherita of the newly unified Italy visit Naples and the Margherita pizza gets its name.
That’s how many slices of pizza are sold in the U.S. every second. Roughly 120 of those slices per second are delivered to the National Today offices.
17% are pizzerias
17% of all restaurants in the U.S. are pizzerias and more than 10% of those are located in New York City.
251.7 million pounds
This is how many pounds of pepperoni are consumed in the U.S. every year. Most of which ends up on a pizza.
I mean, why mess with a good thing? No matter what age you are, the words “pizza party” are guaranteed to delight and put a smile on everyone’s face.
Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yes—that is the kind of perfect world we live in today. Crack an egg on it in the morning. Toss that salad on top for lunch. And why not go for the meat-lovers’ dinner?
Chances are, you know your perfect slice down to the finest details. (Mine includes corn, pasilla chiles and feta cheese). But why not break out of the routine on National Pizza Day? We know you’ve been curious about that artichoke pesto pie at the place around the corner.
Thin crust or deep dish? Sauce or no sauce? Classic mozzarella or that new provolone? Wood-fired or out of the oven? Part of pizza’s appeal is that it’s never the same and can easily be adapted to changing tastes, preferences, and diets.
Admit it, you still remember those grade school pizza parties with a certain sense of child-like glee. Whether it’s the red, white and green of a classic margherita pizza or the sparkle of perfectly cooked pepperoni, pizza adds something extra special, wherever you are.
The interplay of cheese to sauce to crust creates an almost addictive food bomb of different aromas, textures and flavors. Other foods are hard pressed to do the same.