Pizza is one of America’s favorite foods, so much so that many people consider it a staple dish across the country. Whether you are a New Yorker or a Californian, people all over the United States love their pizza, and it is not hard to see why. Pizza has become an iconic American food that reflects the country’s diversity and cultural heritage. However, the story of America’s love affair with pizza has a profound and unique history that is often overlooked. Through this article, we will dive into the untold story of America’s love affair with pizza.
History of Pizza
Pizza originated in Naples, Italy, in the 18th century. The very first pizza was a simple flatbread with toppings of cheese, tomatoes, and garlic. It was street food for the working-class in Naples, Italy’s largest port city. The dish’s popularity spread to nearby cities, and the recipe evolved over time.
Pizza came to the United States through Italian immigrants in New York City during the late 1800s. At this time, pizza was still considered a dish for the working-class, and it was not widely recognized outside of the Italian-American community. However, pizza’s popularity grew after World War II, when American soldiers returned home from Italy with a taste for the dish.
The 1950s – The Decade that Changed Pizza
During the 1950s, pizza became a mainstream food in the United States, thanks in part to the opening of the first-ever pizza franchise: Pizza Hut. The restaurant was founded in Wichita, Kansas, by two brothers, Dan and Frank Carney.
After borrowing $600 from their mother, the Carney brothers rented a small building and bought second-hand equipment to create the first Pizza Hut. Despite initial discouragement from banks and critics, Pizza Hut’s popularity soared, and it quickly expanded into a national franchise.
By 1958, the company had over 100 restaurants across 24 states. Pizza had finally become a food staple in the United States, and other pizza chains soon followed, such as Domino’s and Papa John’s.
Pizza Hut and other franchises played a major role in transforming pizza into a popular, socially acceptable, and accessible food in the United States. It also helped that pizza was inexpensive, easy to transport, and perfect for sharing with friends and family.
The 1960s – Pizza Goes Mainstream
As pizza continued to grow in popularity throughout the United States, pizza chains began to expand their menus to cater to American tastes. This meant adding toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms.
During the 1960s, pizza chains continued to open new locations and expand their menus. The introduction of frozen pizza was also a game-changer for pizza’s accessibility, as it allowed people to make pizza at home, making it a popular party food.
In the late 1960s, pizza also became a cultural phenomenon thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The popular cartoon featured four pizza-loving turtles who lived in New York City’s sewers. The turtles’ love of pizza helped to solidify pizza’s place in American popular culture.
The 1980s – Gourmet Pizza and Diversity
During the 1980s, pizza evolved to include gourmet toppings, such as goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and arugula. This change was due in part to the rise of the foodie culture and the desire for more culinary options.
By the 1990s, pizza had become so ubiquitous that it was often referred to as a food group. With thousands of pizza chains and local pizzerias across the country, the pizza industry had become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Today, pizza continues to evolve and reflect the diverse cultural heritage of the United States. It has become a symbol of American pride and unity, bringing people of all backgrounds together to enjoy a slice of cheesy goodness.
The untold story of America’s love affair with pizza is a fascinating tale that reflects the country’s cultural heritage and diversity. From its humble beginnings as street food in Naples, Italy, to becoming a staple in American households, pizza’s rise to popularity is a testament to the country’s melting-pot culture.
Through pizza, we can see the influence of Italian-American culture in the United States, the impact of pop culture on the food scene, and the rise of fast-food franchises. It is a story of innovation, determination, and a love of good food.
As the pizza industry continues to grow and evolve, one thing is certain: pizza will always have a special place in the hearts of Americans everywhere. Whether it is a crispy thin-crust, deep-dish Chicago-style, or a classic New York slice, pizza will forever be a symbol of America’s love for good food and good company.