Pizza Now Deeply Rooted as an American Favorite

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 1991.

Baby pepperoni pizza

Baby pepperoni pizza at Tony's, Calabash, North Carolina (see related article).

While in Rome a few years ago my family and I made a point of eating pizza at the restaurants which were most famous for that food. There the pizzas were baked in cavernous, brick-lined ovens. One could order specific types of pizza (such as with cheese and anchovies, to name a combination of which I am fond) or, of course, get pizza with “the works.”

This always proved to be interesting. One such masterpiece included, among many ingredients, green peas. A cheery-looking poached egg decorated the center of that particular pizza.

Historically, the Greeks who occupied southern Italy between 730 and 130 B.C. get credit for developing a flat round bread topped with vegetables, herbs, onion, garlic, oil and cheese. This was the ancient forerunner of the Italian treat.

It is said that the modern pizza, originally consisting of red tomatoes, green fresh basil, and white mozzarella cheese on a crust was created in Naples in 1889. The colors represented the colors in the flag of Italy.

During World War II many U. S. soldiers cultivated an appreciation for pizza while stationed in Italy. Upon returning home they had to search out restaurants in Italian neighborhoods to satisfy their longing for more “pizza pie.” Smart businessmen and restaurateurs noticed this trend and pizzerias began to open in non-Italian communities.

In one of my written questionaires I asked people at what age they first ate pizza. Burlington, North Carolina resident Anne Miller answered age 50. (No one I polled said that they had never eaten pizza.) Most of my age forty-ish respondents replied that they first sampled pizza as teenagers. John Calabrisi, retired Pittsylvania County Public Schools Planetarium Director, remarked that he had been eating pizza “all of my life.” Obviously, John is Italian.

Shrimp pizza

Shrimp pizza and Cabernet Sauvignon at Ultimate California Pizza, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (see related article).

Now pizza is America's second favorite fast food (hamburgers are number one). The average American eats 22.5 pounds of pizza per year. At first, some people viewed pizza as a snack food, but with the advent of deep dish pizza, multiple toppings, and family-oriented pizza parlors, pizza became a “full-meal deal.”

Pizza Hut and Domino's are the leading sellers of pizza nationwide, and the number of fast food pizza purveyors grew by 57% between 1985 and 1989. Since the first pizzeria in this country opened in a New York City neighborhood in 1905 the meteoric rise in popularity and sales of this fun food has spawned the existence of over 32,000 pizza parlors nationwide.

— Please pass the crushed red pepper and the Parmesan cheese!


Books on Related Topics

By Patricia B. Mitchell

Available directly from the publisher, and at museums throughout the United States.

The following books contain pizza and pizza-related recipes:

Well Bless Your Heart, Vol. I

Well, Bless Your Heart, Vol. I

True Grist

True Grist