PIZZA! How It Became a Slice of Everyday Life

Naples, New York, Rome, Boston. The list of places where the origins of the miraculous godsend to even the most picky or Gluten-free are speculated to be is long and well-traveled. Another object of debate that many people wonder is:

What Defines Pizza?

     

In this case, we’ll focus on pizza in the modern style, and leave the Flatbread style (including Tandoori, Naan, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian styles), Deep Dish or Chicago style, Greek Plakountos, Sicilian Thick-crust, and other, lesser known styles.

Pizza in the modern style, most commonly known as Thin-crust or Neapolitan style (though Neapolitan technically refers to a pizza with a specific set of ingredients), is thought to have originated in the 18th to early 19th century in Naples, Italy, where it was a much needed inexpensive staple for the lazzaroni, or Italian working class. With the visit of Queen Margherita to Naples in 1889, she coined the Margherita pizza at Pizzeria Brandi, officially bring more fame and promise to a cuisine that was often designated in the past as food for the poor. However, this fame did not reach far beyond the boundaries of the Mediterranean state until the early-to-mid 20th century.

So if pizza didn’t originate in New York, how did it get there?

  

In 1905, Lombardi’s in Manhattan became the first documented Pizzeria in the US, and in 1940, with the arrival of Neapolitans looking for jobs in US factories, pizza began to spread. Pizza’s popularity flourished, and pretty sound it was in every state in America, with each pizza having a different twist to reflect the place of its birth. Pizza began change form once again, and soon, with the founding of Pizza Hut and Domino’s, it had become a mass-produced good that established a huge international presence.

But pizza is still pizza, it couldn’t have changed too much, could it?

  

In any given day, around 13% of the US population aged 2 and over consumes pizza, according to a three year survey conducted by the USDA. With pizza-by-the-slice, delivery, and bargains for larger proportions, not only is the style and scale of pizza changing dramatically, but the entire pizza culture. Pizza has become more get-up-and-go, and less about the experience of actually sitting, eating, and experiencing a pizza place.

Recently though, Pizza has changed for the better. With a general push in the restaurant industry for gourmet food, many more expensive and “higher quality” restaurants have begun adopting pizza into their menus. From high profile seafood venues to Gordon Ramsay, the trend for high-quality pizza is back on the map, and it looks like both forms have found a way to coexist peacefully. Even more expansively, pizza has been adapted to support  the Green movement, with types of pizzas to promote healthy and environmentally-conscious eating choices, using special types of flour and often substitutes for the marinara/tomato sauce or the cheese. No matter which pizza you choose however, the legacy will continue.

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5 thoughts on “PIZZA! How It Became a Slice of Everyday Life

  1. I really enjoyed reading this blog. Pizza is such an interesting thing to look at because it is so popular and common. I liked having a history of pizza because a lot of the time it is claimed that pizza is “special” to each state or country even, despite the fact that it was originally made in Italy. Because pizza is so popular, I wonder what supply and demand for pizza and pizza inputs would look like. Would pizza be considered an inelastic good because it is so widespread and common? What other factors might influence the supply and demand of pizza?

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  2. I appreciate that pizza is very versatile, and can switch between fast food and gourmet food in a snap. It’s a relatively simple concept, which people have played with over the decades so that it has the ability to fit almost anyone’s tastes. Vegetarian? No problem. Not a fan of marinara sauce? They can change it up for you.
    I think that, despite pizza’s reputation as an unhealthy, fatty, and carb-ridden food, the ingenuity of people today will allow them to turn the image around, and open up the market to a whole new demographic. My concern, however, is that they will try to make pizzas so “gourmet” that they become expensive, and I’m not sure many people will be willing to pay top dollar for a glamorous pizza. I do think, however, that healthier and creative pizzas would be a great idea, so long as they are still affordable.

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  3. I find it interesting that pizza used to be known or considered “food of the poor” in its original place of origin. In some ways pizza is still not a food of the wealthy, but as you mentioned it has evolved quite a bit. However, I do feel as though pizza has become a food that symbolizes laziness more than anything, for the consumer. When pizza is consumed in my household, it is mostly because neither of my parents want to cook. Pizza is a quick and easy substitute to cooking, and takes very little time and effort to prepare (if its frozen) and even less if it’s take out. I agree when you say the legacy of pizza will never die. It is loved and cherished all around the world! (I have even seen examples of the green-pizza revolution, also breakfast pizza and dessert pizzas are growing in popularity)

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  4. cotterem says:

    I’m glad you added in the part about pizza’s past as “a food of the poor”. While I was in Italy this summer I studied food culture and learned that the greater, rural population of Italy until post-World War II lived on simple foods similar to pizza. While pizza has gone mainstream around the world– as you’ve pointed out– there are other simple, quick dishes that have done the same: such as pasta. That’s another traditional Italian dish that you can now find all over the world, cooked with the same kinds of sauces, etc, and thought of as a relatively easy dish to make but can be complicated in almost infinite ways. This blog post is a great way of showing how these cultural dishes that were born out of simplicity have become gourmet.

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  5. suncg says:

    It is interesting how pizza was considered in general as food for the lower class, as the previous comment mentioned. I seem to recall that lobster used to be regarded in the same way, and was a sign of extreme poverty.

    For someone who’s been to multiple food hotspots (Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis), I find that pizza is a fantastic indicator of cuisine. I completely agree with your comment about how pizza is making a cultural “push” from couch food to more restaurant oriented cuisine! While pizza still occupies a region of “lazy food”, I believe that pizza found in more up-scale restaurants occupies another category (argument could be made for a different “cuisine” as well!) completely.

    I think it’s fantastic that pizza have evolved from its subdued meat-and-cheese form to something much different. I’ve had pizza with kimchi and Korean beef, pizza with jalapeños and potatoes, and even desert pizza with honey… which wasn’t very good…

    I think pizza in the modern age occupies a space of experimental adventure, where anyone can make a pizza with their own unique twist! The pizza is versatile, tasty, and fortunately, here to stay.

    An extra article about how pizza became a vegetable: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45306416/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/pizza-vegetable-congress-says-yes/#.VCpGtSldUkg

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