Today, there are plenty of
pizza places near Palo Alto, just as there are in every town across the U.S. and the world. Everyone
knows that pizza can be traced back to Italy, but not everyone knows the
detailed history of the world’s most popular food. No modern pizza—not
Chicago pizza, not gluten-free pizza—would exist if it weren’t
for a royal visit to Naples in 1889. To learn more about the history of
pizza, read on.
Background and Origins
People around the world have enjoyed flatbreads for millennia, but the
people who lived around the Mediterranean in ancient times had a special
affinity for this food. Archaeologists and historians have discovered
that the ancient Greeks and Sardinians ate flatbread topped with garlic,
onions, olive oil, and herbs—ingredients that are still popular
pizza toppings around the world to this day.
s Tour of Italy
Did you know that modern Italy was not a unified country until 1860? Before
that, the peninsula was a collection of different states and kingdoms.
Almost three decades later, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita went on
tour in Naples, which used to be an independent kingdom. Her Majesty noticed
the flatbreads that some local peasants were eating, and a famous Neapolitan
chef prepared a special version for her that featured toppings in the
colors of the flag of the recently unified Italy: Red tomatoes, fresh
white mozzarella, and green basil. Thus the Margherita pizza was born.
Pizza Crosses the Atlantic
Shortly after the invention of the Margherita pizza, Italian immigrants
brought this classic, hearty dish with them to the United States. The
basic toppings stayed the same: tomatoes, cheese, and Italian herbs. The
form of pizza would change as it made its way across the country: in some
cities, different types of cheese other than mozzarella were used, and
in some places simple crushed tomatoes were replaced with complex seasoned
tomato sauces. Pizzerias in Chicago invented the now classic deep-dish
style that is the signature dish of the Windy City.