Pizza: A Potted History

The Greeks were the first to use bread as a plate. They ate flat round bread or plankuntos baked with an assortment of toppings. Their colonists also probably made the first pizza in Italy between 730 and130 BC.

The name pizza probably derives from the Latin word picea, which described the burnt surface underneath a loaf which has been baked on hot ashes. Oil, herbs and cheese were added to give the bread more flavour and - hey presto - the proto pizza was born.

The pizza started to get recognisable in medieval Naples where poor housewives had to come up with something tasty to eat using the most basic of ingredients of flour, olive oil, lard, cheese and herbs. Italians generally agreed that the flavoured bread from Italy was the best.

Pizza remained part of the staple diet of Southern Italy for the next few centuries. The first pizzeria, Port'Alba, opened in Naples in 1830. Its unique selling point was that its pizzas were cooked in an oven lined with lava from Mount Vesuvius. You can still visit it today.

It was only in the last decade of the nineteenth century that the modern pizza evolved when Don Raffaele Esposito brought tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil together on top of a pizza, the colours representing the Italian tricolore flag to commemorate the visit of Umberto I, King of Italy, and Queen Margherita - hence the standard inclusion of her name on most pizza menus since.

In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first licensed American pizzeria in New York City. The popularity of pizza was soon established in New York but had to wait until after World War II for the craze to spread across the country spread by GI's returning from Italy.