Pizza has become a beloved favourite among people worldwide, but its humble origins can be traced back to 18th-century Naples where it was very much a local dish. It only gained popularity elsewhere in the world after WWII.
Fast forward to today, and almost every restaurant will have pizza prep tables in their kitchen, ready to meet the unwaning demand for this delicious pie. However, with no real archives detailing the history of pizza, a lot of what is thought to be true about this dish may not necessarily be so.
Let’s look at some of the commonly accepted facts surrounding pizza:
Pizza was popularized in the U.S. by returning soldiers
Soldiers who reputedly tried pizzas in Italy during WWII were said to have brought the new food to American shores. While this might be somewhat true, it isn’t likely that this alone was responsible for popularizing pizza.
During the war in Italy, pizza was in short supply, as were most food types due to terrible food shortages and brutal poverty. While American soldiers may have sampled pizza when they were in Italy, what they ate then significantly differed from the pizza that was made in America in the 1950s, which was described as pies with thick crusts or as pizza bagels with sweet toppings.
Italian immigrants made pizza widely available
Millions of Italian citizens left the country of their birth between the years of 1870 and 1970 to look for work in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. The spread of pizza around the world is often accredited to the Italian immigrants who opened pizzerias to feed other immigrants from Italy; however, most non-Italians had never heard of pizza until the 1950s. Instead, the spread of pizzerias may be attributed to the minimal investment and low overhead costs, making them an appealing option for immigrants with an entrepreneurial disposition from all over the world.
Global chains have ruined pizza
For smaller pizzerias who struggle to put in place online ordering systems like those of the global pizza chains, or pizza aficionados who claim outlets such as Pizza Hut and Dominos have spoiled the creativity of pizza-making, pizza chains will always be blamed for putting smaller pizzerias out of business or spoiling the taste and flair of traditional pizzas. However, pizza chains have readily adapted their pizza recipes to suit the preferences of the countries they’ve set up shop in, perfectly embodying ‘glocalization’ and ensuring that pizza remains a popular food all over the world.
Margherita pizza was created for Italian royalty
A much-celebrated myth in pizza lore surrounds the creation of the Margherita pizza, traditionally topped with tomatoes from San Marzano, mozzarella from the milk of buffalos, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil. While few dispute the fact that pizza existed in Naples in the 19th century, or that it was popular, considerably more controversy surrounds the claim that when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita had grown bored of eating French cuisine on a visit to Naples in 1889 and wanted to try something new, the pizza that the queen enjoyed the most was said to have been named after her. Of this, historians are skeptical.
Everyone loves pizza
With pizza making having been elevated to an art form nowadays, with countless books dedicated to it, you could be forgiven for thinking that pizza has always been loved by everyone. But having originally been created as a food by the poor for the poor, not everyone who tried it enjoyed it, let alone loved it; in fact, many Italians looked upon it with disdain and disgust.
Whatever you believe the truth to be about pizza, its origins, and its popularity, if you’re a restaurateur who wants to keep your diners satisfied, there’s a strong chance pizza-making and baking commercial food equipment is present in your kitchen today. And if it isn’t; well, perhaps it ought to be!