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Where Did Pizza Really Originate?

a pizza baking in a traditional wood-fired brick pizza oven
Andrewshots/Shutterstock

It’s one of American’s favorite foods, but it didn’t get its start in the United States. Pizza is like a smorgasbord on breaded-goodness. With so many options, it’s interesting to know the history of the pizza.

The History of Pizza

The modern version of pizza has been around since the 1700s, created in Naples. Most people attribute the beginnings of pizza to Italy, but it was really that one city where pizza was a “thing.” In fact, it seems that before pizza became a popular cuisine in Italy, it stormed America. So, it was created in Naples in Italy, but it took a while to catch on.

Even before the round dish covered in cheese and toppings were first baked in Naples, flatbreads were enjoyed in many ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all enjoyed flatbreads with various toppings, including olive oil and herbs. Flatbreads are still a popular dish, sometimes the pizza alternative in fancier restaurants.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that pizza would spread across Italy and become a much-loved food item, instead of being a treat found only in Naples.

The First Pizzas

Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is the very first place in Naples to serve pizza. It started as a street vendor in 1738 and then opened a pizzeria opened in 1830. They’re still open and serving pizza to this day.

In the United States, Lombardi’s of New York City takes a claim on being the first pizzeria in America. They opened in 1905. They are also the creators of what is referred to as the “New York Style” Pizza, which is a large pizza made with hand-tossed dough that comes out a thinner crust and crispy.

Another popular pizza, the Pizza Margherita, was birthed early on in Italy and got its name for Queen Margherita. Queen Margherita, the wife of King Umberto I, was a fan of pizza. Her favorite was a topping combination of green basil, red tomato sauce, and white cheese. Called pizza mozzarella initially, it soon got a change in name.

And What About the Pizza Toppings?

No conversation about the pizza is complete without discussing pizza toppings. There are only so many ways you can make the crust—round, square, thick, thin, deep dish, stuffed—but there are hundreds of toppings to choose from, from types of sauces and cheeses to the rest of it.

You can get almost anything you want on your pizza, depending on where you’re ordering it. Fancier restaurants offer Greek-style pizzas with kalamata olives and feta cheese. You can get vegan pizza, with no real dairy or meat. You can get pizza with various meats and no veggies.

But what are some of the weirdest things people enjoy on their pizza? There’s a restaurant in Michigan that puts zucchini on pizza. As for the rest of the world, here are some common toppings:

  • In Australia, they like a little shrimp on their pizza. They also enjoy breakfast pizzas with eggs, bacon, and other standard morning meal essentials.
  • Brazil adds some things that are undoubtedly strange, including green peas, raisins, and corn.
  • In Germany, you can enjoy tuna atop a pizza. Think open-faced tuna melt!
  • Much like the standard Greek pizza toppings in the U.S., in Greece, they enjoy olives, feta, and oregano on their pizza.
  • Indian food is popular in restaurants all over the U.S. If you make your way to India, you can order pizza with some popular local toppings like minced mutton and pickled ginger.
  • If you’re OK with eating eel and squid, Japan has the pizza toppings you’ve been longing for.
  • Russians like their pizzas fishy. Some typical toppings to expect include mackerel, red herring, salmon, and tuna.
  • In Sweden, pizzas bring warmth to your soul with the addition of curry powder. Bananas and peanuts are also standard options.

How do you take your pizza?

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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