Where Pizza Originated? Where Pizza Come From?

Pizza has a long history. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks ate flatbreads with toppings. The latter had a similar version of focaccia with oil and herbs. The modern birthplace for pizza is in southwestern Italy's Campania, where the city of Naples is located.

Around 600 B.C., Naples was founded. Naples was founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement. It was a vibrant waterfront city in the 1700s and 1800s. Although technically a kingdom, it was known for its large number of lazzaroni, the working poor. Carol Helstosky is the author of Pizza: A Global History, associate professor of history at The University of Denver. She says that the closer you were to the bay the denser their population was.

These Neapolitans needed cheap food that could be eaten quickly. This need was met by pizza--a flatbread with many toppings that can be eaten at any meal. These pizzas are sold in street stalls or informal restaurants and can be purchased for as little as $5. Helstosky points out that judges often labeled the eating habits of Italians 'disgusting'. The tasty toppings that are so popular today include tomatoes, cheeses, olive oil and garlic.


Italy was unified in 1861 and Queen Margherita and King Umberto I visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the couple became tired of their constant diet of French haute cuisine, and requested a variety of pizzas from Pizzeria Brandi in Naples, which was established in 1760. Pizza mozzarella was the favorite variety enjoyed by the queen. It is a pie with soft white cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil. It is possible that it was not an accident that her favorite pizza featured the colors of Italy's flag. The story goes that pizza Margherita was named after the particular topping combination.

As any pizza lover knows, heated debates can ensue over which slice is the best. Mariani gave three East Coast pizzerias credit for continuing to make pies in the century old tradition: Totonno's (Brooklyn, Coney Island), Mario's, Arthur Avenue, Bronx; and Pepe's, New Haven, opened 1925.

Pizza's popularity soared in America after World War II when Italian-Americans and their food moved from one city to the next. It was no longer considered an ethnic food, but became a popular fast food. There were many regional, non-Neapolitan versions that emerged. These included California-gourmet pizzas with everything from barbecued chicken and smoked salmon.

Pizza from the postwar era finally made it to Italy and other countries. Mariani explains that pizza was adopted by the rest of the world just because it was American, much like blue jeans or rock and roll.

International outposts of American chain restaurants like Domino's or Pizza Hut are flourishing in around 60 countries today. Global pizza toppings reflect local tastes. They can include Gouda cheese from Curacao or hardboiled eggs from Brazil.