Then And Now: A Quick Peek At How Pizza Evolved
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One of the world’s most popular foods, pizza is now available in nearly every country, with everyone from fast food restaurants to local bakeries offering their take on a pizza. But how did it become what it is today?

Conventional wisdom holds that pizza has its origins in Italy. But some people content that the claim is debatable. There are two theories that have been proposed over the years. One theory claims that the pizza was first invented in ancient Egypt, where a flat bread made out of a fermented dough was topped with herbs, cheese, and honey. While it might not seem like much of a stretch to connect that Egyptian delicacy to the modern pizza, the theory never gained much traction. The other theory has pizza originating from the southern regions of Italy during the 18th century. There are many anecdotal suggestions that this is when pizza was first created. A French diplomat who visited Naples in 1799 described the locals eating a “very leavened bread” that was “cooked in the oven.” One of the most commonly cited suggestions is that pizza was created by a restaurant owner named Raffaele Esposito, who created a pizza to feed Umberto I, the King of Italy, and his family when they visited Naples in 1889.

While some variations do differ, the most common version of the pizza has a round base that may be either thin or thick crust, with some sauce, cheese, and toppings like onions, herbs, or different meats.

Pizza has become a beloved dish across the world, but it has a special place in the hearts of Italian immigrants. The arrival of Italian migrants in the United States coincides with the spread of pizza throughout the country. New York City was the site of the first American pizzeria, which opened in 1905. Lombardi's, that first pizza place, is open and serving customers even today. Not surprisingly, pizza became a hit and it wasn't long before New York City and beyond were flooded with pizzerias. 

It became so popular so quickly that by the 1940s it was being sold as a frozen product. As America evolved and grew, so did the pizza. New styles of pizza were introduced and became swiftly popular, such as the Hawaiian pizza (topped with pineapple) and Pizza Margherita (topped with tomatoes and basil). These innovations helped the dish go far beyond the confines of its Italian roots. By the time Hitler was defeated, pizza had become a staple in the U.S.

Since the 1950s, when the United States' economy and technology began to develop at a breakneck pace, pizza has seen a series of dramatic changes. There have been two noteworthy improvements. One of the earliest was the so-called "domestication" of pizza. Frozen pizza was created because of the rising use of refrigerators and freezers, as well as the rising desire for "convenience" goods as people gained more discretionary cash. It is widely believed that the Totino family of Minnesota created the first frozen pizzas in the 1950s.

Adaptations were made to the original recipe so that it could be easily carried home and cooked whenever the mood struck. Because fresh tomato slices would dry out the dough in the oven, a smooth tomato paste was used instead. New cheeses had to be invented so they could be frozen without spoiling. 

The 'commercialization' of pizza was the second shift. As more people gained access to automobiles and motorbikes, restaurant delivery became a possibility. Pizzas were among the first dishes to be sent directly to people's homes. Tom and James Monaghan started "Dominik's" in 1960. They quickly became known for their prompt service, and, in the following decade, rebranded as "Domino's" to expand across the country. They, along with their rivals, grew internationally to the point where there is hardly a major city in the world where their products are not available.

Similarly, Frank and Dan Carney started their pizza shop in Wichita, Kansas in 1958 with $600 they borrowed from their parents. Since there wasn't room for further words on the original sign, the restaurant was given the name Pizza Hut. As a result of Pizza Hut's success, the brothers quickly expanded the business, launching the first pizza franchise.

Soon, with American pop culture taking over the world in the next few decades, pizza, the favorite fast food of the U.S., also became a worldwide phenomenon.

While there is a lot of debate between cultures over which kind of pizza is better, or who makes it better, there is no doubt that pizza is an easy dish that can be enjoyed by all. Bon Appétit!