Sunday, February 9, is National Pizza Day, and in this article, we’re going to look at the history of this very special American “holiday!”

If you love pizza, you join millions of people who would gladly eat it every day! But, do you know the history of it?

Ancient History

Did you know that ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians were eating flatbread with various toppings? While this is an interesting tidbit, the recognized birthplace of pizza as we know it is Italy’s Campania region. More specifically Naples is the birthplace of the type of pizza we eat today.

The Greeks established the area around Naples in the 2nd millennium BC. For thousands of years, the area continued to develop. Most important here is that the Greek culture of Naples was later important to Roman society in Naples.

History of the 1800s

Once Naples, a waterfront city, became part of the greater Roman republic, it became a hub and cultural center for poets, philosophers and scientists. By the 1800s, Naples continued to thrive.

Yet, during the 1800s, there were numerous Neapolitan working poor called the lazzaroni. Because they were poor, they looked for ways to eat inexpensively.

Thus, flatbread pizza became popular. The lazzaroni ate this for every meal with various toppings including cheese, oil, tomatoes, garlic, and the readily available anchovy. The cultural elite of Naples didn’t have the same liking for pizza.

By 1861, when Italy became unified, the King (Umberto I) and Queen (Margherita) went for a visit. According to legend, they’d become bored of their traditional French cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas.

Queen Margherita loved the pizza so much, this is where we get today’s Margherita pizza. During the time she ate it, it was called pizza mozzarella and was topped with cheese, red tomatoes, and basil.

Modern Day History

Pizza wouldn’t become popular outside of Naples until the 1940s as immigrants from Italy came to New York and began recreating their flatbread pizzas in New York and elsewhere in the United States.

America’s newest factory workers remade the culinary world in America with their delicious pizzas. Today it is one of our favorite foods. According to The Pizza Joint:

  • Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second.
  • Pizza is a $30 billion per year industry.
  • There are approximately 61,269 pizzerias in the United States. (Source: American Business Lists, Omaha, Nebraska.)
  • Each man, woman and child in America eats an average of 46 slices (23 pounds) of pizza a year. (source: Packaged Facts, New York)
  • Approximately three billion pizzas are sold in the United States each year.
  • According to a recent Gallup Poll, kids between the ages of three and 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner.
  • Pepperoni is the most popular pizza.
  • Antica Pizzeria, the first Pizzeria, opened in Naples, Italy, in 1738.
  • Gennaro Lombardi, the first Pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1895 in New York City.

Final Thoughts

Hungry? We sure are! Head on over to our blog and check out all our recipes for grilled pizza! You’ll love our choices. Enjoy!