Pizza, the way we know it today, is a derivation from focaccia, flat bread that has been prepared since antiquity in different forms and garnished with herbs, olives, fat, raisin, honey, and nuts. In fact, the word pizza in Italian identifies any type of flat bread or pie—fried or baked.
A Brief History of Pizza
Pizza or one of its forms has been a basic part of the Mediterranean diet since the Stone Age. This earliest form of pizza was crude bread that was baked beneath the stones of the fire. After cooking, it was seasoned with a variety of different toppings and used instead of plates and utensils to sop up broth or gravies. Some say that the idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread baked with an assortment of toppings. It was eaten by the working man and his family because it was a thrifty and convenient food. In the Sixth Century, B.C., at the height of the Persian Empire, it is said that the soldiers of Darius the Great accustomed to lengthy marches, baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates.
Although you’d find many types of pitas or pizzas around the Mediterranean, it is in Naples that pizza in the form we know it today first emerged, after the tomato appeared on the table in the 1700s.
Naples has many records of pizza since around the year 1000; the first mentions call these flat breads laganae, and later they are referred to as picea. In those times, pizzas were dressed with garlic and olive oil, or cheese and anchovies, or small local fish. They were baked on the open fire and sometimes were closed in two, as a book, to form a calzone.
In Naples is also where the first pizzerias opened up, with brick wood-burning oven, covered with lava stones from the mount Vesuvius. The chefs of those times ignored pizza because was considered a poor people’s food, but the new combination with the tomato, when it entered the kitchen around the 1770s, must have raised some curiosity, even in the royal palace.
Ferdinand I Bourbon, King of Naples, loved the simple food of the people and went to taste the pizzas made in the shop of Antonio Testa. He liked it so much that he wanted pizza to be included in the menu at the court. He failed after the opposition of his wife, Queen Maria Carolina. His son Ferdinand II also liked all kind of popular food and he loved pizza to the point that he hired Domenico Testa, son of the now famous Antonio, to build a pizza oven in the royal palace of Capodimonte.
Pizza became very popular, earning its place in Neapolitan folklore. Simple and economical, it turned into the food for all people, even sold on the streets, as shown in many illustrations of the time.
A famous episode extended the popularity of pizza beyond the limits of the city of Naples. It was 1889, and Margherita, queen of Italy, was visiting the city. She was told about pizza and wanted to taste it. A famous cook by the name of Don Raffaele, helped by his wife Donna Rosa, was invited to cook pizza at the royal palace.
They prepared three pizzas, typical of that time: one with cheese and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomato; and one with mozzarella, basil, and tomato. The queen, impressed by the colors of the last pizza, which resembled the national flag, preferred that one. Since then this pizza is known as Pizza Margherita, and Don Raffaele is credited with its invention, even if we know that it already existed for a long time.
At the beginning of the last century, with Italian immigrants, the first pizzerias appeared also in the United States, where pizza has become a mass phenomenon. Yet, even today the best pizza is found in Naples, where it is rigorously made with buffalo mozzarella.
Superior pizzas are considered those obtained by moderate variations of the simplest and most popular: Pizza Napoletana with tomato, garlic, oil, and oregano; Pizza Margherita; Pizza Marinara with tomato, anchovies, capers, and olives; and Pizza Four Seasons, divided in four quadrants, each dressed in a different way. Pizza with hot salami, the American pepperoni pizza, is instead found in the Calabria region south of Naples, where this type of hot sausage is produced.
Interesting facts about pizza
1. The biggest pizza ever made was baked in Norwood, South Africa in 1990. It was a massive 100 feet across.
2. The word pizza was originally spelled as “pitsa”. Americans eat billions of slices of pizza every year; in fact the annual per capita pizza consumption is 23 pounds!
3. Saturday night is traditionally the biggest night of the week for eating pizza.
4. America’s favorite pizza topping is pepperoni.
5. America’s least favorite pizza topping is anchovies.
6. Americans eat 90 to 100 acres of pizza per day.
7. During TV news broadcasts, most pizza is ordered during the weather forecast, and the delivery folks report that women, perhaps not surprisingly, are better tippers!
8. Post Columbus tomatoes were brought back to Europe from the New World in the 16th century. Originally they were thought by many to be poisonous, but later became accepted and added to pizza and bread in Italy.
9. In 1889 Raffaele Esposito, the most famous pizza chef created a pizza pie for Queen Margherita – tomato, basil and cheese, to resemble the Italian flag, which remains the basis for American pizza and many pizzerias serve it as a margherita pizza.
10. In 1905 the 1st American Pizzeria opened in New York City at 53 1/2 Spring St.
11. In 1945, soldiers returning from WWII brought with them a taste for certain foods, and as their rations were dull when fighting in Italy pizza was at the top of their list.
12. Outside of Italy, Argentina may well be the second best place for Italian food, especially pizza. Over sixty per cent of Buenos Aires’ residents are of Italian descent, which is evidenced by the massive number of pizzerias lining the city’s beautiful streets. But America may be a close second or third also.
13. The people of America eat around 350 slices of pizza each second, or 90 to 100 acres per day. Each year, the pizza market is a $30 billion industry.
14. In the U.S. alone there are about 61,269 pizza parlours.
15. Everyone in the United States eats about 23 lbs., or 46 slices, every year. That’s a lot of pizza!
16. Each year in the United States, over 3 billion pizzas are sold.
17. The most popular ethnic food in the US today is Italian.
18. Children aged 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other foods for lunch and dinner, that’s according to a recent Gallup Poll.
19. Thirty six percent of all pizza orders want their pizza topping to be pepperoni, far and away the most popular pizza topping! We consume around 251,770,000 pounds of pepperonis every year.
20. In the 16th century, Maria Carolina, the Queen of Naples eventually convinced her husband, King Ferdinand IV, to allow the peasant dish pizza to actually be made in the royal oven.
Few jokes about pizza
George W. Bush ordered pizza
George W. Bush ordered pizza delivery for the White House. The Pizza guy,
wanting to do an especially good job with the president’s pizza, asked if he
should cut it in six or twelve pieces. George responded, ”Six, please. I
could never eat twelve pieces.”
Pizza Delivery Man
Q: What do the gynecologist and the Pizza delivery man have in common?
A: They both get to smell the goods but neither one of them can eat it.
What is a dog’s favorite pizza? – PUParonni!!
Pizza in a hospital
A man wakes up and finds himself in a hospital room, one with only himself in it. He has no recollection of how he got there. While pondering it, his bedside phone rings, and he answers it. A doctor on the other end identifies himself, and tells the man: “I have really bad news. You’re very sick. After your collapse yesterday, we ordered several tests, and got the results back this morning. I’m afraid you have Avain flu, Ebola, and you’re positive for HIV and hepatitis.” Stunned, the man asks “Well, what’s next!? What are you going to do?”
The doc replies: “Well, for starters, we’re putting you on a strict diet of only pizza.” The patient asks: “Will that really help me, doctor?”
“No”, the doc responds. “But it’s all we can fit under the door.”
FBI agents conducted a raid of a psychiatric hospital in San Diego that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents had worked up quite an appetite. The agent in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.
The following telephone conversation took place and was recorded by the FBI because they were taping all conversations at the hospital.
Agent: Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda.
Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered?
Agent: We’re over at the psychiatric hospital.
Pizza Man: The psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That’s right. I’m an FBI agent.
Pizza Man: You’re an FBI agent?
Agent: That’s correct. Just about everybody here is.
Pizza Man: And you’re at the psychiatric hospital?
Agent: That’s correct. And make sure you don’t go through the front doors. We have them locked. You will have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.
Pizza Man: And you say you’re all FBI agents?
Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?
Pizza Man: And everyone at the psychiatric hospital is an FBI agent?
Agent: That’s right. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving.
Pizza Man: How are you going to pay for all of this?
Agent: I have my checkbook right here.
Pizza Man: And you’re all FBI agents?
Agent: That’s right. Everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.
Pizza Man: I don’t think so.
Tip the pizza delivery boy
A college pizza delivery boy arrived at the house of Larry Johnson. He delivered the pizza to his trailer. After giving it to him, Larry asked: “What is the usual tip?”
“Well,” replied the youth, “this is my first trip here, but the other guys say if I get a quarter out of you, I’ll be doing great.” “Is that so?” snorted Larry. “Well, just to show them how wrong they are, here’s five dollars.”
“Thanks,” replied the youth, “I’ll put this in my school fund.”
“What are you studying in school?” asked Larry.
The lad smiled and said: “Applied psychology.”
A Mushroom goes to a dance and walks up to a girl and asks her to dance.
“I’m not dancing with you” she replies.
“Aw, come on…” the mushroom says.
“Why not? I’m a fungi!” (fun guy)
Images are taken from Freaking News site.