Brought to you by Red Star®Yeast
Americans young and old have a love affair with pizza and eat the equivalent of 350 slices per second, consuming an annual average of 46 slices of pizza each. Pizza lovers get this glorious day, February 9, National Pizza Day, to eat with abandon an overwhelming range of varieties, such as thin-crust, thick-crust, Chicago deep dish, Sicilian, Margherita, white, and toppings from Pepperoni and onions, to broccoli, pineapple, mushrooms and even pasta, there’s something for everyone to indulge in on Pizza Day - any way you slice it.
Not a new obsession, the history of pizza dates back to ancient times, when Mediterranean cultures would form flatbread from flour and water, top it with spices, then bake it on a hot stone and enjoy as is or use as an edible bowl for thick stews. Historian Abba Eban has suggested that modern pizza "was first made more than 2000 years ago when Roman soldiers added cheese and olive oil to the Jewish matzah.”
Pizza was essentially Focaccia until the mid-1700s, when Italian peasants began using flat “pizzas” as a method for testing heat distribution in their communal ovens. To minimize waste, they topped the dough with tomatoes so it could also be eaten as a snack. Although tomatoes were said to be poisonous and grown only as an ornamental plant, the trend quickly caught on. Before long, pizza was being sold on the streets of Naples for every meal and by 1830 the “Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba” became the first true pizzeria, still producing pizza perfection to this day.
Legend has it that baker Raffaele Esposito baked a special pizza for Italian Queen Margherita of Sovoy, who was charmed by its colors, reminiscent of the Italian flag (green basil leaves, white mozzarella, and red tomatoes). It was then named “Pizza Margherita” and its popularity extended to royalty as well.
Pizza eventually journeyed to the United States with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first licensed American pizzeria, Lombardi’s Pizzeria Napoletana, in New York City. Others followed suit and pizzerias soon became a hallmark of Italian culture. Mom and pop pizza shops gave way to franchised chains, and today, we’re more enamored with this Italian food than ever.
This American favorite is more than just a quick meal- it’s a culture unto itself: