Who Invented Pizza? Mystery Solved! [Infographic + Video]

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Are you wondering who invented pizza?

There are as many answers to the question as there are types of pizza.

As with all great stories, the history of pizza starts a long, long time ago, in a far, far away land. 

So let’s get started!

Who Invented Pizza?

Back in the day of the ancient Egyptians, flatbread was consumed with toppings regularly.

This flatbread was eventually passed to the Romans and the Greeks, who would later eat it with toppings similar to focaccia.

By 600 B.C., flatbread with toppings would make its way to a tiny little Greek settlement in Italy. Over the centuries, that small settlement would grow into the bustling city of Naples.

And by the 1700s, it became a thriving city along the coast, filled with the working class. The lazzaroni community was densely populated.

The space for living indoors was very cramped, and as a result, many spent their days outside.

There was a need for inexpensive food that could be quickly consumed because there was no place to store it for later. 

Street vendors became de facto restaurants, and the food of choice was flatbread with a wide variety of toppings.

At the time, tomatoes were still considered poisonous and were merely grown as ornamental plants. 

As a result, they weren’t used by the street vendors of the era to make pizza.

Who Invented Pizza Infographic

Tomatoes In Italy

During the 15th century, the Spanish Empire first set out to seek riches and glory in the Americas. It was here that they encountered a fruit native only to the South American continent.

No one had ever seen such a beautiful, red, round fruit like the tomato in Europe, so it was brought back to locations under the Spanish Empire.

Not much was known of this exotic plant, but it was believed to be poisonous for quite some time.

As a result, it was introduced as an ornamental plant grown throughout the Spanish Empire. One such city that was part of the Spanish Empire was the city of Naples.

Three centuries after the Spaniards they have first discovered tomatoes while on an expedition through Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, this voluptuous red fruit started finding its way into recipes.

By the mid-17th century, tomatoes had become commonplace in kitchens throughout southern Europe. Eventually, street vendors offered crushed tomatoes as a topping for their flatbread.

The Pizza Marinara

If you want to know who invented pizza with tomatoes as a topping, then the first recorded use of tomatoes as a topping for flatbread was back in 1738.

The city of Naples was a port city that was often filled with sailors year-round.

The Italian word marinara means sailor’s style.

Although it is unknown who first used tomatoes as a topping for pizza, it is understood that it was an affordable and readily available meal for sailors just returning from years on the open seas.

Pizza Margherita

Raffaele Esposito first envisioned the pizza as we know and understand it today in 1889. Queen Margherita of Savoy wanted to show the people that she would be a great queen for the common folk.

And to do this meant that she would regularly eat food that the common folk ate. It was not uncommon for the Queen and King to make their way into Naples to feast on street food.

She so loved pizza that she summoned Raffaele Esposito, the most preeminent pizza connoisseur in Naples, to present her with the best pizzas he could make.

So he made three different pizzas for the queen to try. The first pizza was merely flatbread topped with garlic. The second pizza was flatbread with anchovies.

But the third pizza was unique because it was covered with crushed tomatoes, lightly sprinkled mozzarella, and basil.

The third pizza was the clear winner because it tasted better and matched the Italian flag. Raffaele Esposito named his creation Pizza Margherita to commemorate his love for the future queen.

Who is the father of modern pizza?

So, if you want to know who invented pizza as we know it today, then the father of modern pizza is Rafael Esposito.

Pizza In America

When it comes to pizza arriving in the United States, there are many different stories.

The most common of these is that service members stationed in Italy had brought it back with them during the second world war.

Although these servicemen most likely did have access to limited quantities of pizza during the war, Naples had been struck. Therefore there weren’t a lot of open restaurants in the city.

Nevertheless, by 1910, more than three decades before the second world war, pizza had begun popping up in Italian restaurants along the East Coast.

In Manhattan, the first pizzeria received its license in 1905. The New York-style pizza featured long, wide slices that could be easily folded to keep while on the go.

However, historians believe that pizzerias were already operating in Brooklyn before.

Who Invented Pizza? – Mystery Solved!

So after reading all this, can you identify who invented pizza?

To solve this mystery, we must first define what pizza is. At least pizza as we know it today.

What is Pizza?

According to Britannica, Pizza is a “dish of Italian origin consisting of a flattened disk of bread dough topped with some combination of olive oil, oregano, tomato, olives, mozzarella or other cheese, and many other ingredients, baked quickly—usually, in a commercial setting, using a wood-fired oven heated to a very high temperature—and served hot.

One of the most straightforward and traditional pizzas is the Margherita, topped with tomatoes or tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.

So who invented pizza? Accordingly, the Italians are the inventors of Pizza as we know it today. Being Raffaele Esposito, the father of the Neapolitan Style Pizza, also known as Pizza Margherita.

Post-War Popularity

The popularity of pizza didn’t start picking up until about the 1950s. With so many soldiers returning home after the second world war, the United States was going through a period of rapid advancements.

More people had money to spend, so they looked for ways to spend it. Technology also made it possible to travel further and store the ingredients for pizza longer.

The concept of suburban America was beginning to blossom. And while service members were purchasing most of the new homes being developed in suburban America, Italian Americans were also beginning to leave the big cities for a more suburban lifestyle, bringing with them pizza.

In 1950, it was estimated that only 20% of all American households had a television. But, by 1960, that number had grown to 90%.

Every night people all over the country sat down to watch their favorite episodes of the Honeymooners and I Love Lucy. In one episode of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball worked in a pizza parlor.

In an episode of the Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason came home with the pizza he had picked up at a local pizzeria.

And on the radio, the 1953 song Amore by Dean Martin was at the top of the charts.

By 1957, the first frozen pizza made its way into supermarkets along the East Coast, and the following year, Pizza Hut opened its first location in Wichita, Kansas.

Little Caesars opened its doors for the first time in 1959, and by the 1960s, Domino’s was in the game. Thanks to the availability of affordable cars and motorcycles, pizza was delivered hot and fresh to the front doors of suburban America.

Who Invented Frozen Pizza?

So, if you want to know who invented pizza that can be frozen and sold at the local grocery, then that would be the Celentano Brothers back in 1956.

The American Style Pizza

There are two distinct styles to choose from when it comes to pizza in America. The original New York-style pizza features a thin, hand-tossed crust.

Then there is also the famous Chicago-style pizza which features an intense crust. While some are very specific on which one they prefer, others like pizza regardless of that style.

Pepperoni Pizza

In Italy, you will not find a pepperoni pizza. While pizza in Italy is known for tempting vegetarian toppings, if you want to know who invented pizza with pepperoni, that is considered by many to be Domino’s Pizza.

In 1906, the Ezzo family began producing its sausage, which would become known to Americans as pepperoni.

Unlike other sausage makers at the time, pepperoni was sold pre-sliced. These pre-sliced pieces of pepperoni would eventually make their way into a pizzeria in New Haven, Connecticut.

The 1950s saw the popularity of pizza in the United States. And although pepperoni pizzas were first made in New Haven, it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became a popular topping. Domino’s Pizza had just opened its doors and focused on delivering hot pizzas to suburban America.

Domino’s Pizza teamed up with Ezzo to introduce pepperoni pizza to America.

The Hawaiian Pizza

Some will insist that the only fruit that belongs on a pizza is tomatoes.

But regardless of whether you love or hate pineapples on a pizza, Hawaiian pizza is one of the most popular flavors available today.

And although it is referred to as a Hawaiian pizza, if you want to know who invented pizza with pineapple and ham, you would probably be surprised to find out that it was initially created in Canada.

Back in 1962, Sam Panopoulos introduced modern-day Hawaiian pizza. Although a pineapple-topped pizza was available in Oregon for almost five years, the earlier version did not have any ham.

Instead, it featured other fruits like papaya. Today, the Hawaiian pizza not only comes with pineapple and ham but generally features other toppings such as green peppers and, sometimes, bacon.

More on Who Invented Pizza and its History

The Last Slice

In the end, if you want to know who invented pizza, you must start by asking yourself which version. The original pizza concept was a flatbread with toppings that the ancient Egyptians created.

The Romans and Greeks eventually adapted the flatbread and topping idea into something new.

By the 1800s, the pizza as we know it today was invented in Naples, but pepperoni never appeared on a pizza until Domino’s opened its doors in the 1960s.

With so many different styles and flavors, anyone can make their version of what they feel is the perfect pizza.

The best pizzas are made in a pizza oven, ensuring the crust is cooked perfectly. But you cannot bake a pizza properly in a regular oven.

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