Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterside city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its crowds of working poor, or lazzaroni. "The closer you got to the bay, the more thick their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, in some cases in homes that were little more than a space," said Carol Helstosky, author of "Pizza: A Global History" and associate professor of history at the University of Denver.
Unlike the wealthy minority, these Neapolitans needed inexpensive food that could be taken in rapidly. Pizza-- flatbreads with numerous toppings, eaten for any meal and offered by street vendors or casual dining establishments-- met this need. "Judgmental Italian authors frequently called their consuming habits 'disgusting,'" Helstosky noted. These early pizzas taken in by Naples' bad included the tasty garnishes cherished today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their consistent diet plan of French haute food and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city's Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen took pleasure in most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil.
Queen Margherita's true blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. After all, flatbreads with toppings weren't unique to the lazzaroni or their time-- they were consumed, for example, by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter consumed a variation with herbs and oil, comparable to today's focaccia.) And yet, up until the 1940s, pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples' borders.
An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their reliable, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory tasks, as did countless Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; they weren't looking for to make a culinary statement. But fairly quickly, the flavors and scents of pizza began to fascinate non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.
The first documented United States pizzeria was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan, accredited to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the meal was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed suppliers.) Lombardi's, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 place, "has the very same oven as it did originally," kept in mind food critic John Mariani, author of "How Italian Food Conquered the World."
Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan understands. However Mariani credited 3 East Coast pizzerias with continuing to produce pies in the century-old custom: Totonno's (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924); Mario's (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919); and Pepe's (New Haven, opened 1925).
As Italian-Americans, and their food, moved from city to residential area, east to west, particularly after World War II, pizza's popularity in the United States flourished. No longer viewed as an "ethnic" reward, it was significantly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually consisting of California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from grilled chicken to smoked salmon.
Postwar pizza lastly reached Italy and beyond. "Like blue jeans and rock-and-roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, detected pizza just because it was American," click here for more explained Mariani. Reflecting local tastes, garnishes can run the range from Gouda cheese in Curaçao to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. Worldwide stations of American chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut likewise flourish in about 60 different nations. Helstosky thinks one of the quirkiest American pizza variations is the Rocky Mountain pie, baked with a supersized, doughy crust to save for last. "Then you dip it in honey and have it for dessert," she said.
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