Historians often disagree on exactly when and where pizza was first consumed, largely to the loose definitions of what pizza really is. For example, the Egyptians made a flatbread, the Indians baked naan, but neither of these had toppings. As for a flatbread with toppings, similar to what we now call ‘Pizza’, the majority opinion seems to agree that it was founded in the Greek settlement of Naples somewhere around 1600 B.C. At the time, Naples was a waterfront city known for its hordes of poor, working class citizens. These workers needed to eat quickly and inexpensively so they used what they had at their disposal – flatbreads with simple toppings consisting of tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
Soon after the unification of Italy in 1861, King Umberto and Queen Margherita visited the city of Naples and requested some local cuisine from Pizzeria Brandi. The Queen was most fond of a pizza consisting of soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. From that point on that pizza combination has been dubbed ‘Pizza Margherita.’
Perhaps it was the Queen herself that helped spread the popularity throughout Italy of this flatbread cuisine. Italian immigrants from Naples to the United States began replicating their pizzas in American cities and it wasn’t long before the pizzas began enticing Americans.
The first documented pizzeria in the US was Lombardi’s in Manhattan, in 1905. The appeal quickly spread as more Italian-Americans spread from city to city across the country. Pizza soon lost its status as an ethnic food and quickly became a staple of the American diet. Regional styles began to emerge, as they remain today…from Chicago’s famous deep dish pizzas, to New York style pizza to California pizza.