The history of pizza is rich and varied, dating back thousands of years. Its notable predecessors include the flat breads eaten by ancient peoples, which were made tastier by adding various toppings. The real breakthrough, however, came in the 18th century when the Neapolitans, as the forerunners of modern pizza, improved the simple flatbread by adding the characteristic tomato sauce and cheese. Pizza then became an essential part of communal dining and spread worldwide through the city of Naples.
Pizza’s popularity was unbroken among immigrants who brought it to the New World and adapted it to American tastes. This gave rise to different styles, such as the New York thin crust or the Chicago deep dish pizza, each with its own characteristics and texture, different from the Italian original. Today, pizza has become a global phenomenon, with countless local variations all over the world, where people reinterpret and adapt it to their own culture using local ingredients and culinary innovations.
The key to pizza’s success lies in its endless variations; whether it’s the classic margherita or unique gourmet creations, there’s a favourite for everyone. Continuous innovation and versatility keep pizza relevant and popular, as a dish that can innovate in its simplicity. The dish reflects both tradition and modern gastronomic trends, where taste and tradition meet modernity and local flavours.
The origins of pizza date back to ancient times, but it was in Italy that it gained its modern form. Both ancient and Italian roots are important in the history of pizza.
Even in ancient times, people made flat breads, enriched with various toppings. These are probably the forerunners of pizza. People in Egypt, Greece and Rome were already eating pies made with olive oil, herbs and sometimes cheese.
- Egypt: flatbreads with toppings
- Greece: plakous
- Rome: focaccia
The Italian peninsula excelled in pizza-type dishes as early as the 17th century. It was the Neapolitans who, in the 18th century, perfected an early version of the pizza we know today, which was eaten by the poorer classes as a quick and nutritious meal. Margherita pizza became famous in 1889, when it was made by the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito in honour of Margherita di Savoia, then Queen of Italy.
- Naples: the birthplace of pizza
- Margherita: iconic pizza
The popularity of pizza has taken on different forms and flavours in different cultures and countries, while spreading globally.
Pizza is one of the most popular foods in America. The first pizzeria was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in New York in 1905. Over the decades, many American pizza styles have developed in different regions. Among the most famous are the New York thin crust pizza, which is easy to fold, and the Chicago deep dish pizza, which features a high crust and generous toppings.
Global variations of pizza are adapted to each country, creating a variety of international flavours based on the traditional Italian recipe. In Japan, for example, mayo jaga (with liver honey and potatoes) is a common variation, while in Brazil, catupiry (with cream cheese) is a common topping. The following list shows some other creative variations:
- Canada: poutine pizza – characterised by French fries, cheese noodles and brown sauce.
- India: tandoori chicken pizza – enriched with chicken marinated in tandoori spices.
- Russia: mockba – featuring salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and onions.
Today’s pizza-making technologies and the high standards of the industry have brought significant changes. Modern production processes allow for the rapid production of large quantities of high quality pizza, coupled with the expansion of world-renowned pizzeria chains.
Mass production is dominated by automated dough making machines and robotic technologies that can stretch and shape perfect pizza dough in minutes. Baking technologies have also evolved, with modern convection and impinger ovens ensuring even baking.
- Pasta production: automated mixing and moulding machines
- Baking: convection and convection ovens
- Toppings: topping applicators with precise dosing
The global market for pizza is expanding, and the network of pizzerias and delivery services is growing. The proliferation of franchising systems and online ordering platforms has contributed greatly to the expansion of the industry.
- Piai growth: significant annual growth
- Franchise networks: large international chains
- Order online: innovative and user-friendly ordering
Image by stockking on Freepik