Have you ever tried pizza? Of course you have! It´s now world famously many kids´ favorite food, and a meal that almost everyone enjoys, no matter how old they are. Ninety-three percent of Americans eat pizza at least once per month!
Approximately 4 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. every year – either served or picked up frozen, and pizza is a $30 billion industry just within the country.
But where did pizza really come from? And has it always been “unhealthy”? Let´s find out!
Flatbreads with toppings were consumed by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. Around 500 B.C., Persian soldiers used their shields to bake flatbread on, and then covered the bread with cheese and dates!
But we all know that that delicious thing we call pizza today came from Italy. But you have to remember that before Italy became a country in 1861, it was part of the Greek Empire. The first known pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria, was opened in Naples, Italy, in 1738. But before that, Naples was a Greek settlement. It was founded as an independent kingdom in 600 B.C., and it was home to many a poor person in need of an inexpensive meal. These humble folk allegedly ate flatbreads for every meal, topped with tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic. These were the first pizzas, as we know them now.
The Royal Approval
Things changed a little when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. They´d been eating a lot of French food, and wanted to try something different. The story goes that the Queen requested an assortment of pizzas from Pizzeria Brandi, and her favorite topping was soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil – each with one color from the Italian flag! This combination may have been dubbed pizza Margherita due to this event.
This is what a real authentic Margherita Pizza should look like
Pizza Leaves Naples
It might seem strange, but pizza was little known in Italy beyond Naples´ border until the 1940s. However, Neapolitans were immigrating to the U.S. along with millions of other Europeans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And they were making pizza at home, and selling it without a license! The first documented, licensed pizzeria opened stateside in 1905 in Manhattan. G. Lombardi´s still has its original oven!
Is Pizza Healthy?
The original pizza, and real Italian pizza is very different from the deep dish variety popularized in the 1940s and invented by a couple of entrepreneurs in Chicago.
First of all, there´s the quantities of high-calorie ingredients. The more dough and cheese you use, the worse that pizza is for your health! Then there´s the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and Italians know a lot about that. Real Italian pizza made in Naples is typically topped with San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the fertile, volcanic plains of Mount Vesuvius. The mozzarella di bufala Campana is made with the milk from water buffalo raised on the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild manner! The dough is a high-protein variety, and is rolled so it´s no more than 3 mm thick! They don´t microwave their food from frozen, so it´s always fresh, retaining the most nutrients and taste.
So is pizza a new phenomenon? Not really! In fact, it might be one of the oldest foods you´ll eat this week! And is pizza healthy? It depends on how you prepare it, where you buy it and what ingredients are used in the making of this delicious, timeless food. The moral of this story is: Pizza is very good for you when the right ingredients are used, only four: Flour (Tipo “00”), water, Mozzarella Di Bufala, and San Marzano Tomatoes. If you stick to the basics you can’t go wrong! In the next few weeks, I will post an easy recipe that will change how you think of pizza forever!!