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This article is about the food item. For the programming language, see Pizza programming language. For the Australian television show, see Pizza (Australian television).
An authentic Pizza Margherita made in Napoli.
An authentic Pizza Margherita made in Napoli.

In its basic form, a pizza (occasionally, pizza pie) is an oven-baked, flat, usually circular bread covered with tomato sauce and cheese with optional toppings. The cheese is usually mozzarella or sometimes a mixture of several cheeses. Various other foodstuffs may be added to this design as toppings, most typically:

The crust is traditionally plain but may also be seasoned with butter, garlic, or herbs; or stuffed, with cheese, for example. Pizza is normally eaten hot (typically at lunch or dinner), but leftovers are often eaten cold.

Pizza is eaten in restaurants sometimes called pizzerias or pizza parlors. It can also be purchased in grocery stores or supermarkets (usually but not always frozen); in many countries, pizza can also be ordered by phone (or, increasingly, via the Web) to be delivered, hot and ready to eat, to the home.

The word "pizza" is from the Italian word pizza (IPA: /pit:tsa/), which was originally used to refer to a range of dough-based dishes, and whose derivation is thought to be pizzapinzaLatin pincere "to mash up".[1] [2]. The expression Che pizza! is still used to mean "What a mess!".

The plural of the word in Italian is pizze (IPA: /pit:tse/).



The history of pizza can be traced back to the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia (southern Italy). Pizza arguably has its first written mention in Book VII of Virgil's Aeneid:

Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band
Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,
To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.
Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:
“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.”

In the 3rd century BC, the first history of Rome, written by Marcus Porcius Cato, mentions a "flat round of dough dressed with olive oil, herbs, and honey baked on stones". Further evidence is found in AD 79 from the remains of Pompeii; archeologists excavated shops that closely resemble a present day pizzeria.

Though several kinds of flat bread made with flour, often cooked with oil and spices, were familiar to ancient Romans and popular in all the Mediterranean area, they were considerably different from pizza as it is known today. The tomato was still unknown in Europe and the Indian water buffalo, whose milk is used to make the real mozzarella cheese, had not yet been imported to Campania, the area around Napoli (Naples).

The tomato was first believed to be poisonous (as some other fruits of the nightshade family are), when it came to Europe in the 16th century. However, by the late 18th century even the poor of the area around Naples added it as an ingredient to their yeast-based flat bread, and the dish gained in popularity. Pizza became a tourist attraction, and visitors to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local specialty. The first dynasties of neapolitan pizzamakers ("pizzaioli") originate in these years: modern pizza is attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito of Naples in the Italian region of Campania. In 1889, Raffaele Esposito who worked in the pizzeria "Pietro... e basta così" (literally "Peter... and that's enough", estabilished in 1780 and still in activity: is now called "Pizzeria Brandi" - Via Chiaia, Salita S. Anna di palazzo, 1-2 - Napoli - [3] ) baked a special pizza especially for the visit of the King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The pizza was very patriotic and resembled the Italian flag with its colors of green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes), and was named Pizza Margherita in honor of the Queen and set the standard by which today's pizza evolved and spread worldwide. Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air stands and street vendors out of pizza bakeries (including "Pietro... e basta così"), but then the world's first true pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba, opened in Naples and is still in business today at Via Port'Alba 18.

Pizza met the aristocratic taste (the King of Naples Ferdinando II of Borbone greatly enjoyed the pizza made by 'Ntuono Testa at Salita S. Teresa) and an even more decided popular favour, establishing itself as a daily course, dinner and supper of the Neapolitans.

An Italian immigrant to the US in 1897 named Gennaro Lombardi opened a small grocery store in New York's Little Italy. An employee of his, Antonio Totonno Pero (also an Italian immigrant) began making pizza for the store to sell. Their pizza became so popular, Lombardi opened the first US pizzeria in 1905 at 53 1/3 Spring Street, naming it simply Lombardi's (which then reopened at 32 Spring Street)). In 1924, Totonno left Lombardi's to open his own pizzeria on Coney Island called Totonno's. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana opened in New Haven in 1925. Boston was introduced to pizza in 1926 by Anthony Polcari when he opened Pizzeria Regina in Boston's North End. The D'Amore family brought pizza to Los Angeles in 1939. At this point in time in the U.S., pizza consumption was still limited mostly to Italian immigrants.

The international breakthrough came after World War II. Although the birthplace of modern day pizza is Naples, local bakers were at a loss to satisfy the demand from American soldiers. The American troops involved in the Italian campaign took their appreciation for the dish back home. The opening line "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore" from Dean Martin's famous song in 1953 further boosted pizza's popularity.

With its rising popularity in the 1950s, especially in the US, pizza became a component of the growing chain-restaurant industry. Some leading early pizza chains were Shakey's Pizza (inventor of the term pizza parlor; formerly, the term pizzeria was preferred) and Pizza Hut, both founded in 1954, in Sacramento and Wichita, respectively. Some later entrants to the dine-in pizza market were Happy Joe's, California Pizza Kitchen, and Round Table Pizza. Today, the pizza business is dominated by companies that specialize in home delivery, including Domino's, Little Caesar's, and Papa John's. Even Pizza Hut has shifted its emphasis away from pizza parlors and toward home delivery. These national pizza chains often coexist with locally owned pizza restaurants.

Pizza is also found in supermarkets as a frozen food. Considerable amounts of food technology has gone into the creation of palatable frozen pizzas. The main challenges include preventing the sauce from combining with the dough and producing a crust that can be frozen and reheated without becoming rigid. Modified corn starch is commonly used as a moisture barrier between the sauce and crust. Traditionally the dough is somewhat pre-baked and other ingredients are also sometimes pre-cooked. Lately, frozen pizzas with completely raw ingredients have also begun to appear.

Types of pizza

Authentic Neapolitan pizza (pizza Napoletana)

According to the Associazione vera pizza napoletana, genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of Italian wheat flour (type 0 and/or 00), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with an approved mixer that moves in a clockwise direction. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by the right hand and the first two fingers of the left without the help of a rolling pin or other mechanical device, and may be no more than 3 mm (1/8 in) thick. The pizza must be baked in a oak-wood-fired, stone oven at 485°C (905°F) for 60-90 seconds. When cooked, it should be soft and fragrant.

Regional specialties

A "supreme" pizza such as this one includes many different toppings, such as pepperoni (one of the most popular pizza toppings), green peppers, olives, and mushrooms.
A "supreme" pizza such as this one includes many different toppings, such as pepperoni (one of the most popular pizza toppings), green peppers, olives, and mushrooms.

Pizza has become an international food since the toppings can be extensively varied to meet local variations in taste. These pizzas consist of the same basic design but include an exceptionally diverse choice of ingredients, such as anchovies, egg, pineapple, eggplant, lamb, couscous, chicken, fish, and shellfish, meats done in ethnic styles such as Moroccan lamb, kebab or even chicken tikka masala, and non-traditional spices such as curry and Thai sweet chili. A "white pizza" (pizza bianca) uses no tomato sauce, often substituting pesto or dairy products such as sour cream. Pizzas with non-traditional ingredients are known in the United States as "gourmet pizza" or California-style pizza. Pizzas can also be made without meat for vegetarians, and without cheese for vegans. Breakfast pizzas are topped with ingredients such as scrambled eggs.

  • In New York City, pizza is sold in oversized, thin and flexible slices. It is traditionally hand-tossed and light on sauce. The slices are sometimes eaten folded in half, as its size and flexibility may otherwise make it unwieldy to eat by hand. This style of pizza tends to dominate the Northeastern states, many shops advertising New York-style pizza.
  • In Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago-style pizza, or deep dish pizza, contains a crust which is formed up the sides of a deep dish pan and reverses the order of ingredients, using crust, cheese, filling, then sauce on top. Some versions (usually referred to as "stuffed") have two layers of crust with the sauce on top. Deep dish pizza was purportedly invented and first served in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno, which is still operating along with its twin restaurant, Pizzeria Due, in the River North neighborhood.
  • Another variation popular in New England is Greek pizza which has a thicker, chewier crust and is baked in a pan in the pizza oven, instead of directly on the bricks. Plain olive oil is the predominant sauce.
  • A variation known as Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple toppings is especially popular in the Western United States. A style referred to as "The Perfect Pizza" consists of Hawaiian-style on one half and pepperoni on the other. Canadian bacon and pineapple is also a popular topping combination in Australia although, noteably, not in Hawaii.
  • In San Francisco, California, the Indian Pizza has become a source of pride, wooing residents with traditional South Asian flavors as toppings such as curries, prawns, tandoori chicken, etc.
  • In Baltimore, Maryland, pizza is traditionally served with a thick, doughy crust and a heavy amount of sauce.
  • In Buffalo, New York, pizza is made with a thicker, doughier crust than traditional New York style pizza, with a slightly thicker and sweeter sauce, mozzarella cheese and (usually) pepperoni cooked until it is burned and crispy on the edges.
  • In Dayton, Ohio, the local preference is for pizza with thin crust and a light sauce cut into small squares.
  • Youngstown, Ohio's "Brier Hill Pizza" features a thick sauce topped with a mixture of Parmesan and Romano cheese and green peppers. Brier Hill is the city's historically Italian area.
  • Rhode Island's strip pizza, commonly sold in bakeries, consists of thick, chewy dough and is topped with a very thick tomato sauce. It has a minimal amount of cheese and is served cold. It is usually (but not always) wrapped in individual strips (hence the name). A similar product is made in bakeries in Italy.
  • In Australia, a commonly sold style is the Aussie pizza, which is topped with ham, bacon, cheese and egg. "Hawaiian pizza" (see above) is the most popular topping combination in Australia, accounting for 20 percent of all sales.
  • In Japan, pizza toppings may include corn, diced potatoes, scrambled eggs, mayonnaise, Camembert cheese, curry sauce, and various kinds of seafood. Salad pizza, a pizza topped with tossed salad, is occasionally seen. [5] Another variation is rice pizza, substituting baked rice for the crust. [6] Pizza in Japan is commonly served with Tabasco sauce, to be added as a condiment. The Japanese dish okonomiyaki is occasionally referred to in English as "Japanese pizza", although its ingredients, preparation method, and taste are substantially different from traditional pizza.
  • In South Korea, kimchi and bulgogi are used as toppings, as well as many of the toppings used in Japan. In addition, sweet potato puree (often in a circular ring near the edge of the crust) is very popular.

Crusts and baking methods

Pizza may be baked with a thin bread bottom (Italian or "hand-tossed" style) or with thicker bread (pan pizza).

Crust can be very large (up to 1 or 2 cm, 0.4-0.8 in) in the Neapolitan pizza or almost non-existent in the Roman pizza. Some pizzas are now made with a cheese filled crust.

In restaurants, pizza can be baked in a gas oven, a conveyor belt oven or, in the case of more expensive restaurants, a wood- or coal-fired brick oven. In the latter case, the pizza is slid into the oven on a long paddle called a peel and baked directly on the hot bricks. When making pizza at home, it can be baked on a "pizza stone" in a regular oven to imitate the effect of a brick oven. Another option is grilled pizza, in which the crust is baked directly on a barbecue grill. Greek pizza, like Chicago-style pizza, is baked in a pan rather than directly on the bricks of the pizza oven.

In home-made pizza, there are many variations on the bread used for crust. In some countries, creations such as pita pizza, bagel pizza, and tortilla pizza are popular, especially with children. In Japan, where full-size ovens are a rarity in the home, pizza toast is a popular version.

Frozen pizzas are generally considered inferior in quality to pizzeria-made pizzas, though there are some exemplary frozen pizzas. Recently, frozen pizzas with a rising-crust have appeared on the market.

Pizza in culture

In the film Splendor in the Grass, set in 1929, the character Bud Stamper visits a New Haven pizzeria (see also apizza) as a freshman at Yale University, and has to ask the waitress, "What is pizza?" In the 1920's, pizza would have been unknown to a non-Italian Midwesterner.

Pizza plays a prominent role in other films, such as Mystic Pizza and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.

Pizza was the food of choice of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Pizza has also been used in teaching fractions and in computer games, such as Pizza Tycoon.

Until recently, pizza delivery was relatively unavailable in England. This deficiency was the focus of an extended passage in the Douglas Adams novel The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.


External links

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