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Debunking the Myths: Unraveling the True History of Pizza

What everyone gets wrong about the history of pizza

Pizza is undoubtedly one of the most beloved and popular foods in the world. It has become a staple in many cultures, with countless variations and toppings to suit different tastes. However, there are several misconceptions and myths about the history of pizza that have persisted for decades. In this article, we will debunk some of these common misconceptions and shed light on the true origins and evolution of pizza.

Pizza wasn’t technically invented by Italians.

Contrary to popular belief, the origins of pizza are not exclusively Italian. The dish has its roots in the flatbreads that have been consumed in North Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years. Various versions of flatbreads topped with cheese, herbs, and other toppings similar to today’s pizza existed in ancient Persia, Greece, and Egypt. These proto-pizzas were already widespread because they were convenient, affordable, and satisfying.
The introduction of tomato-based sauce, now a staple of pizza, occurred in Naples when tomatoes arrived from Peru in the 1500s. The combination of tomatoes and cheesy flatbread in Naples gave Italy the credit for bringing pizza to the world. However, it is important to recognize that pizza is truly a fusion of culinary influences from several continents.

The popularity of pepperoni pizza isn’t rooted in Italy.

Pepperoni, a popular pizza topping in the United States, is not originally from Italy. Despite its Italian-sounding name, “pepperoni” is not an Italian word. In fact, “peperoni” in Italian refers to peppers. The type of dry sausage known as pepperoni was created in the United States around World War I and did not appear as a pizza topping until after World War II. In Italy, it is rare to find a pepperoni pizza unless you visit a restaurant that specifically offers American-style pies.

Queen Margherita probably never had a Margherita pizza.

The story of Queen Margherita’s endorsement of Margherita Pizza is a popular legend. According to the story, Queen Margherita of Italy visited a pizzeria in Naples in 1889 and was so pleased with the pizza that she declared it her favorite. The pizza was said to be made with tomatoes, cheese and basil, the colors of the Italian flag. However, historians now question the authenticity of this story. There is no concrete evidence that the queen actually wrote a letter endorsing the pizza, and it is unlikely that royals of the time would have consumed common street food.

Pizza didn’t really become popular until it left Italy.

In its early days, pizza was primarily a food for the common people of Italy. It was a quick, affordable and convenient meal for the working class Neapolitans. However, the pizza of that time was very different from the modern pizza we know today. Instead of the soft, foldable slices of melted cheese and seasoned tomato sauce, the pizza of working-class Naples was a hard disk of dough topped with raw garlic, tomatoes, and herbs. It wasn’t until Italians immigrated to the United States around the turn of the century that pizza began to gain popularity as a desirable dish. Italian immigrants brought their pizza recipes and adapted them to American tastes, resulting in the evolution of pizza into a beloved delicacy in Italy and around the world.

World War II veterans aren’t responsible for bringing pizza to the U.S.

Contrary to popular myth, American soldiers in World War II did not introduce pizza to the United States. Italian immigrants had already been making pizza in the country, especially in places with large Italian populations such as New York and Chicago. While still considered an ethnic cuisine, pizza began to gain recognition. The real reason pizza exploded in popularity in the post-war era was the affordability and ease of cooking with gas ovens. Gas ovens were cheaper and more accessible, allowing pizzerias to produce pizza at a lower cost and expand their reach beyond Italian neighborhoods.

Hawaiian pizza isn’t from Hawaii.

Despite its name, Hawaiian pizza is not from Hawaii. It was actually invented by a Greek-Canadian man named Sam Panopoulos in London, Canada in 1962. When pizza began to gain popularity in Canada, there were limited topping options, such as pepperoni, bacon, or mushrooms. Panopoulos decided to experiment and introduced canned pineapple chunks as a topping, inspired by the sweet and savory combination found in Chinese cuisine. He named the pizza “Hawaiian” after the brand of canned pineapple he used.

Hawaiian pizza isn’t even the most divisive pizza ever invented.

If you thought Hawaiian pizza with pineapple was polarizing, you should know that it’s not even the most divisive pizza ever invented. A contender for that title is the controversial anchovy topping. Anchovy pizza has long been a subject of debate among pizza lovers. Anchovies are small, oily fish with a strong and distinct flavor. Some people love the salty and umami flavor they bring to pizza, while others find it overpowering and unpleasant. The inclusion of anchovies on a pizza is a matter of personal preference, and it often sparks lively discussions and disagreements among pizza enthusiasts.

The evolution of pizza continues

Today, pizza has become a global phenomenon. It has crossed cultural boundaries and is enjoyed by people all over the world. From classic Neapolitan-style pizzas to New York thin crust, Chicago deep dish and gourmet artisan creations, there is a pizza for every palate. Toppings have also expanded beyond the traditional cheese, tomato and pepperoni, with endless possibilities ranging from vegetables and seafood to exotic cheeses and innovative flavor combinations.
Plus, the rise of technology and food delivery services has made pizza even more accessible. With just a few taps on a smartphone, you can have a hot pizza delivered to your doorstep in no time. Pizza has become an integral part of popular culture, appearing in movies, TV shows and even memes.

Bottom line

The history of pizza is a fascinating tale of cultural exchange and culinary adaptation. It is a dish that has traveled across continents, evolving and adapting to different tastes and preferences. While there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the history of pizza, understanding its true origins and the contributions of different cultures helps us appreciate this beloved food even more. So the next time you enjoy a slice of pizza, remember the rich and diverse history behind it.


Where was pizza invented?

While pizza is often associated with Italy, its origins can be traced back to the flatbreads of North Africa and the Middle East. It was in Naples, Italy, that the combination of tomatoes and cheesy flatbread gave birth to the pizza we know today.

Is pepperoni an Italian invention?

No, pepperoni is not Italian. The word “pepperoni” itself is not Italian, but rather an American term for a type of dried sausage. In Italy, “pepperoni” refers to peppers, not the spicy sausage topping found on pizzas in the United States.

Did Queen Margherita really approve of Margherita pizza?

The story of Queen Margherita endorsing Margherita pizza is a popular legend, but there is no concrete evidence to support it. While the story adds charm to the history of pizza, it is more likely an invention than a fact.

Did American soldiers bring pizza to the United States after World War II?

Contrary to popular belief, American soldiers did not introduce pizza to the United States after World War II. Italian immigrants had already been making pizza in the country, especially in cities with large Italian populations. After the war, the popularity of pizza increased due to the affordability and accessibility of gas ovens.

Is Hawaiian pizza really from Hawaii?

Despite its name, Hawaiian pizza is not from Hawaii. It was actually invented in Canada by a Greek-Canadian named Sam Panopoulos. The combination of pineapple and ham toppings was inspired by the sweet and savory flavors found in Chinese cuisine.

How has pizza changed over time?

From its humble origins as a simple street food in Naples, pizza has evolved into a global phenomenon. It has adapted to different cultural tastes, resulting in different styles such as Neapolitan, New York thin crust and Chicago deep dish. Toppings have also expanded beyond traditional options, with creative combinations and gourmet variations becoming popular.

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