We often associate pizza with Italian cuisine, but do the Italians deservedly get the credit? Or did someone else beat the Italians to it and make the very first pizza? Many historians have different answers to these questions. Let's explore these answers together!
If you consider flatbreads baked in an oven as a pizza then the Italians lose all credit. Ancient civilisations have been baking flatbreads since antiquity such as the Greeks, Persians and Egyptians, to name but a few. The Greeks were known to use olive oil, herbs and spices to add more flavour to their flatbreads - nowadays known as focaccia bread. Fun fact, the word pizza derived from the Greek word pēktos meaning solid or clotted.
While it is difficult to really pinpoint who invented the very first pizza, the modern-day pizza that we all know and love was first made by baker Raffaele Esposito from Naples. Historians note, however, that street vendors in Naples sold flatbreads with toppings for many years before then. In fact, it was common for the poor of the area around Naples to add tomato to their flatbreads.
Legend has it that Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. There, Esposito was asked to make them a pizza. He topped the pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. That pizza is still known as the Margherita pizza today.
Many years later, Italian immigrants brought pizza with them to Spain, France, England, and the United States, but it didn’t gain popularity until after World War II. That’s when returning soldiers looked for the food they had come to love while fighting overseas.
Now, pizza is found everywhere! With a variety of toppings, sauce and even a variety of pizza dough itself. The evolution of pizza has come a long way to what we have now.