The common pizza can be ordered with uncommon crusts, a multitude of toppings, and all sorts of sauces. You can sink your teeth into classic cheese and pepperoni, or odd novelty pizzas like mac ‘n cheese. Hot, cold, fresh, leftover… it doesn’t matter. Pizza reigns supreme as the favored food of the masses.
Pizza first became popular as a dish in Italy around the turn of the 20th century. Pizza can be traced back to 997 AD, but prior to modern times, pizza was considered the dish of peasants, often consisting of only flatbread and sauce. It wasn’t until much later that pizza became “fancy” and cheese and anchovies were added.
Italian immigrants brought modern pizza to the United States in the early 1900s. One of those immigrants, Gennaro Lombardi, began selling pizza out of his New York grocery store. The dish was a success and became popular locally, but it was still not well known outside of his New York neighborhood.
After World War II, soldiers returning from Europe brought back an enthusiasm for the dish, and pizzerias started popping up everywhere. It was in 1943 that a new twist on the classic pizza came into being. In Chicago, Ric Riccardo and Ike Sewell began serving a new deep-dish pizza, which was more like a pizza pie. Today, deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza remains the regional favorite.
The humble pizza caught the fancy of the public and before long rivaled hamburgers and hot dogs as the great “American” food. In 1957, the first frozen pizza was put on the market and then in 1958, with the opening of the first Pizza Hut delivery store, pizza became a convenience item. The success of Pizza Hut did not go unnoticed, and shortly afterwards, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s opened chains of pizza delivery stores across the nation.
During the 1980s, pizza underwent another great metamorphosis. Gourmet pizzas became popular, and ingredients of every type were combined to form “specialty pizzas.” Every pizza place had a gimmick, whether it was a whole-wheat crust, dessert pizzas, or even cheese-stuffed pizzas. Despite all that, the very basic cheese and pepperoni pizza remains the choice of most Americans.
Today, there is a pizza joint on every corner, and Americans consume almost three billion pizzas a year. During his Presidency, President Clinton was known for ordering pizza and having it delivered to the White House. Pizza has come a long way since its humble origins. It is now one of America’s most popular food choices.