News // 04.07.2023

History of pizza (and 5 delicious facts)


Pizza is universally adored, globally appreciated and unapologetically Italian. It’s no secret that one of the world’s most popular dishes originated in the boot-shaped land that also gave us pianos, Pavarotti and painful penalty shootouts, but what exactly is the humble history of pizza?

The history of pizza is really old. The word itself was first documented over 1,000 years ago in Southern Italy, but they were almost certainly being enjoyed way before that. The ancient Romans were fond of their focaccia and probably started adding toppings (no-one took a picture, so that’s our best guess), inadvertently creating one of the most popular foods on earth.

Pizza fact #1 October is officially ‘National Pizza Month’

which is probably why Libra is the happiest star sign.

Almost every culture has had a part to play in the history of pizza with its own version of flatbread, and some are even older than pizza: Indian ‘paratha’, South Asian ‘naan’, Greek ‘pita’ and German ‘flammkuchen’ are but four examples of humanity’s obsession with flattening dough into vaguely circular shapes. Persian soldiers are even known to have cooked flatbreads on their shields in the 6th Century BC – that’s approximately 7,904 years older than David Attenborough.

Pizza fact #2 Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada, just like French Fries were invented in Belgium and Guinea Pigs don’t come from Guinea

they're also not pigs.

So when did the modern-day pizza that we know and love first happen? You may be surprised to hear that Italy didn’t have any tomatoes until the 16th Century, when they were brought over from the Americas.

These delectable little red fruits (not vegetables!) turned out to be the gift that kept on giving and have since become synonymous with the history of pizza, as well as Italian cuisine in general.

Valentine's date couple at whistle punks

Pizza fact #3 Tomato sauce is high in Lycopene, an antioxidant which helps lower cholesterol, as well as ‘flavonoids’ which are beneficial in fighting inflammation, cardiovascular disease and depression

It’s also great fun to say ‘flavonoids’.

It did take a while for tomatoes to become popular, though – 200 years to be exact, as most people initially thought they were poisonous. However, by the 18th Century, poorer areas in Naples started adding them to their flatbreads, which eventually led to the old favourite ‘margherita’ style.

This classic combo of tomato sauce, cheese and basil was initially created in Naples in 1889 to resemble the colours of the Italian flag – presumably if that flag had been covered in cheese and chucked in an oven. Since then, the majority of pizzas you can order in restaurants or buy from the supermarket include this tasty trinity as a base.

Pizza and beer

Pizza fact #4 Philadelphia is home to ‘Pizza Brain’, a museum devoted entirely to pizza (not brains). They hold the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of pizza-themed items

which makes us assume that they’ve never visited student accommodation.

Pizza really gained worldwide appeal in the 20th Century, when the Italian delicacy was raved about over all corners of the earth. Today, we’d hazard a guess that you’re never more than 5 minutes away from a pizza, whether it’s made fresh in a pizzeria, bought frozen from a supermarket, or served laneside in axe-throwing establishments.

Endlessly customisable, easy to eat, accessible and always delicious (even with pineapple), pizza has evolved from a humble street food to one of the most popular foods on the planet. The question is, with the literal millions of topping combinations out there, where do you stand? Are you simply mad for margherita, have a penchant for pepperoni, or solidarity with spinach?

Pizza fact #5 A single 18” pizza gives you more pizza than ordering two 12” pizzas.

Let’s hear it for maths!

The history of pizza is as broad and colourful as their toppings, so wherever you choose to enjoy yours, raise a slice to the past and salute the future of everyone’s favourite comfort food.

Words: Staff Writer