Who doesn’t love pizza? We all do. But before you take a bite out of your favorite slice, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you know the rich history of this divine dish. While the Italians coined the term “pizza,” the history of putting food on a bread base goes back to the days when man lived in caves. The food as we know it today was actually born in Greece. They baked flatbreads that were decorated with toppings, such as oils, seasonings, and spices.
In about 1000 A.D., people first started using the word pizza, which translates to “pie” in English. It became even more popular in the Naples area in the 1700s as people started realizing that tomatoes, which had been brought into the country from the New World, were not dangerous. The world’s first pizza restaurant is believed to have been opened in Naples in 1830.
Italy’s King Umberto I and Queen Margherita toured the country in the late 1800s and observed how much of this dish was being eaten. The queen enjoyed it, so she ordered her chef to start cooking different varieties in the palace. He came up with a dish that she particularly liked, which had colors of the Italian flag, white, red and green, and that eventually became the Margherita pizza, which people still eat today. What was formerly viewed as only peasant food was all of a sudden becoming wildly popular across the country.
It was about that time that the food made a fairly subtle appearance in the US. As Italian immigrants poured into cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, they brought their love of the dish with them. Soon, it was available in several areas of these cities, although it chiefly remained limited to the Italian areas. That’s the way it remained, surprisingly, until after the end of World War II.
U.S. soldiers stationed in Italy started eating the dish and loved it. Once they returned home, they wanted more. As a result, several restaurants throughout the United States started serving the dish. National chains such as Pizza Hut and Shakey’s soon started sprouting up. The food continues to be one of, if not the, most popular dishes in the US.
The largest pie ever made, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was made in South Africa in 1990. It was nearly 123 feet wide and had more than 1,100 pounds of flour, nearly 2,000 of tomato sauce, and nearly 1,800 pounds of cheese. The largest one ever eaten, according to Guinness, was made in Florida in 1987. It weighed nearly 45,000 pounds, was cut into more than 94,000 slices, and eaten by more than 30,000 people.
The most expensive one ever made, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), was made in honor of the James Bond series of books and movies. It cost more than $4,400 and included ingredients such as venison, smoked salmon, caviar soaked in champagne, cognac-marinated lobster, and even edible gold.