History of Pizza: Fun Facts You Never Knew

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History of Pizza

If you are looking for the cheesier history of pizza, then we have all the knead-to-know facts.

From its 1889 inception in Naples, Italy, to Pizza Hut’s expansion into 100 different countries around the globe, we are here to bring you a Chicago deep-dish filled with all of your favorite toppings and fun facts.

Let’s dig in.

Who First Invented Pizza?

If you are like most pizza lovers, then you probably asked yourself at least once in the past, “who invented the pizza?” and “what’s the history of pizza?

Da Pietro Pizzeria was founded in Naples, Italy, back in 1760 by Pietro Colicchio, who served an earlier version of the pizza that would be unfamiliar to most of the world.

You can check our article on who invented pizza for more information.

But a century later, that pizzeria was passed on to Raffaele Esposito, who renamed it, Pizzeria Brandi.

And by 1889, Rafael Esposito had transformed Colicchio’s creation into the modern pizza that we all have come to know and love.

At the time, pizza was not a very well-known dish in Italy. It was served to poor people using various ingredients that the restaurant would have otherwise wasted.

Nevertheless, it was prevalent in the city of Naples, and Esposito was considered to be the best pizza maker in the entire town.

What is the True Origin of Pizza?

There has been a lot of debate over where pizza indeed originated from.

There was a belief that it was brought over to the United States following the Second World War because the U.S. troops grew fond of the local delicacy.

But is that the pizza’s origin story?

No, not entirely.

Pizza as we know it was actually invented in Naples, Italy, at the end of the 19th century. It was an affordable and tasty way for the working class to fill their stomachs.

And while it is true that U.S. soldiers fell in love with the dish while they were stationed in Italy during World War II, it’s not the whole story.

For the origins of the pizza, we need to travel back to ancient Egypt, where flatbread was consumed regularly.

But something was missing. Sure, you could eat the flatbread by itself, but it tasted better if you could dip it in something flavorful or spread some topping on top of it to make it more delicious.

By 1889 the original Egyptian flatbread had been morphed into something magnificent.

At the time, Naples was a bustling Italian city filled with working-class people. They didn’t have time to spend all day cooking their meals. 

Instead, they were always looking for the quickest way to feed their family.

Esposito filled that requirement by topping the already popular flatbread with delicious ingredients that could be easily carried home for the evening.

Throughout the Second World War, U.S. troops were stationed throughout Italy. Those who found their way to Naples fell in love with the Italian dish.

So naturally, after the war was over, pizzerias began opening up in every major city. 

But it wasn’t just in the United States, because after the war, people worldwide wanted anything that was considered Americana.

As a result, pizza grew from a street food design for the poor working class to something greater than could ever be imagined.

What is the History of Pizza?

As Esposito’s reputation Naples group, people with power began to notice.

On one such occasion, Queen Margherita of Savoy had traveled to Naples with the King, where they saw Esposito’s pizza for sale on the street.

Hearing tales about how famous his pizza was, the King and Queen invited him to the palace to prepare a royal pizza.

His traditional pizza used plenty of garlic as a topping.

However, garlic was not seen as a fitting topping for royalty. As a result, Esposito put together a rich combination of basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes.

Rafael Esposito and Queen Margherita

His creation was intended to emulate the beauty of the Italian flag. And it was the first time that he had ever used mozzarella cheese on his pizza.

The Queen had never had his pizza before because street food was for the poor. But she enjoyed it so much that she sent a letter of commendation to Esposito declaring that his creation was simply delicious.

With the help of this recommendation, he promoted his restaurant by introducing the now-famous Pizza Margherita.

Whether that is the true history of pizza or just a simple myth, the world will never know.

History of Pizza Fun Facts

Since the 1940s, the love for pizza has grown by leaps and bounds.

In the United States alone, more than 350 slices of pizza are eaten every single second. This equates to roughly 100 acres worth of pizza consumed every day.

94% of Americans admit to eating pizza with regularity.

The most popular topping for pizza is pepperoni. It is so prevalent that 36% of all pizzas ordered in the U.S. alone are made with pepperoni as the main topping.

More pizza is sold in the U.S. during Super Bowl weekend than on any other weekend. And, for lunch on Su[per Bowl Sunday, 50% of all Americans eat pizza as per recent stats.

Worldwide, there are more than 5 billion pizzas cooked every single year. The pizza crust is even considered one of the most popular forms of bread globally.

Men are more likely to order an all meat pizza, while women tend to order vegetarian options instead.

More on the History of Pizza

Why is Pizza Called Pizza?

While pizza as we know it was created in 1889 by Esposito, it had existed for over a thousand years in various forms. The first reference to pizza can be dated back to the town of Gaeta in 997. 

There are two different groups of thought on where pizza got its name. While some insist that the origins come from the Lombardic word for a mouthful, others insist it comes from the Greek word for flatbread.

Based on historical research in the area, it has been well established that the Greeks had inhabited the region for at least a thousand years before the term was first recorded. 

Many linguists confirm that since Italians do not pronounce the “t” sound in their language, the original Greek word “pitta” would have been pronounced locally as “pizza.”

When and Where Was the First Pizza Made?

Although Raffaele Esposito created the first pizza as we knew it today in 1889, the dish has existed in various forms since 997. 

Whether we consider the original form of pizza in 997 or the modern form of 1889, the concept of pizza is purely Italian.

Today, Esposito is known by most of the world as the father of pizza, thanks to Queen Margarette. After the Queen visited Naples with King Umberto I, Esposito was invited back to the palace to prepare a royal dish.

Not wanting to use garlic as a topping, he opted instead to pay tribute to the beauty of the Italian flag and made the first pizza using mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.

This resulting combination is known today as the original Pizza Margherita.

History of Modern Pizza

Now let’s take a look at the history of modern pizza as we know it today.

History of pizza Infographic
History of Pizza Infographic

The Last Slice

The history of pizza spans almost the entire modern history of humanity. From its meager beginnings in southern Italy to its world-renown popularity, we have all become a crucial part of the history of pizza.

Even today, in homes worldwide, families attempt to create their version of what they believe is the best pizza in the world.

Everyone wants to become the best pizza baker, whether it’s pizzas from bagels or homemade hand-tossed crust. But, you’ll never make a perfect pizza using a standard household oven.

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