Today, February 9th, is one of the best days to grace this earth. It is National Pizza Day.
To commemorate such a special day, I figured I’d write a little about the history of such a wonderful staple in our society. Flatbreads and oven-baked breads have been around since the Neolithic age, and all around the world. But the first real concept of a pizza came about in the 1600s in the city of Naples. Pizza was an inexpensive street food the citizens of Naples, of whom the majority were poor, could eat quickly as they walked through town. Tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic were among the main toppings for these early pizzas. It is believed that Queen Margherita of Italy gave her royal blessing to pizza in 1889 when she and King Umberto I were traveling through Naples. The pizza she ate then – one with red tomato sauce, white mozzarella, and green basil – is what we now call a margherita pizza.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that pizza became popular outside of Naples. Many Italians were migrating to the Americas, and they brought with them the recipe for pizza. The first documented pizzeria in the United States was called G. Lombardi’s in Manhattan in 1905. Since its migration to the United States, pizza’s popularity continued to grow, expanding throughout the states, and evolving from an ethnic treat to a fast food. As the years went by, pizza moved away from its Neapolitan roots and other variations became just as popular.
Pizza chains were an even new ballpark for the pizza industry. Pizza Hut opened in 1958, with Little Caesar’s shortly after in 1959. Domino’s opened in 1960 and Papa John’s opened in 1989. These chains were built on the concept of distributing pizza to the masses. Today the United States pizza industry alone brings in about $32 billion dollars in revenue, selling over 3 billion pizzas each year.
How are you going to celebrate National Pizza Day? Maybe you bake a pizza with friends! Maybe you try a new pizza place! Whatever you do, just enjoy the day, and don’t get too crazy!
P.S. If you’re looking to try a new pizza place in the Atlanta area, MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company is having a grand opening next week in Atlanta.