Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a growing waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was well-known for its crowds of working poor, or lazzaroni. "The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, in some cases in houses that were little more than a room," stated Carol Helstosky, author of "Pizza: A Global History" and associate teacher of history at the University of Denver.
Unlike the wealthy minority, these Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be taken in quickly. Pizza-- flatbreads with different garnishes, eaten for any meal and offered by street vendors or casual restaurants-- satisfied this requirement. "Judgmental Italian authors typically called their eating practices 'revolting,'" Helstosky kept in mind. These early pizzas consumed by Naples' poor included the yummy garnishes precious today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
Legend has it that the taking a trip pair became bored with their consistent diet plan of French haute food and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city's Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The range the queen took pleasure in most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil.
Queen Margherita's true blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza fad. And yet, until the 1940s, pizza would remain little recognized in Italy beyond Naples' borders.
An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were duplicating their reliable, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; they weren't seeking to make a culinary statement. However fairly rapidly, the tastes and fragrances of pizza started to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.
The very first recorded United States pizzeria was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan, certified to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi's, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, "has the same oven as it did originally," kept in mind food critic John Mariani, author of "How Italian Food Conquered the World."
Disputes over the finest piece in the area can be heated up, as any pizza fan understands. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno's (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924); Mario's (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919); and Pepe's (New Haven, opened 1925).
As Italian-Americans, and their food, moved from city to residential area, east to west, specifically after World War II, pizza's appeal in the United States flourished. No longer seen as an "ethnic" treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, enjoyable food. Regional, extremely non-Neapolitan variations emerged, ultimately consisting of California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon.
"Like blue denims and rock and roll, the rest of the world, consisting of the Italians, chose up on pizza just because it was American," described Mariani. Global stations of American chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut also thrive in about 60 different countries. Helstosky thinks one of the quirkiest American pizza variations is the Rocky Mountain pie, baked with a supersized, doughy learn more crust to save for last.
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