Is Pizza Greek?

When researching pizza, I started asking myself, is pizza Greek? How do you ask? Well, for one, Naples, Italy, was a Greek settlement. That means Naples wouldn’t have been what it is today without the Greeks. Or it might have taken a little longer to get to where they are today. 

My second observation is that Greeks were creating flatbread dishes called plakous. This flatbread would come with herbs, cheese, and garlic. It was cheap and fast to make, making it popular amongst the settlers and the city’s poor. 

Since Naples is a city by the water, the men were fishermen. According to my research, the wives would prepare a deep bread dish filled with tomato sauce. This sounds like a classing marinara pizza. 

By 1700, the city was bustling with Italians, but were there still Greeks there? In 1738 Lucianos started selling their pizza on the streets. By 1830, the family had their first pizza restaurant. Since the family was Italian, does that make the pizza Italian? 

In the states, an Italian immigrant changed the way we eat. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in Little Italy. The love of the flatbread filled with tomato sauce and cheese soon spread over the states, and our passion for pizza expanded.

Is Pizza Greek or Italian or…?

The pizza we consume today in the USA is shaped to what Americans love. Classic Neapolitan pie includes sourdough pizza, cheese, tomato sauce, garlic, and oil. The pies are cooked in a wood-burning stove built from local volcanic rock. The cheese used on classic pies is usually buffalo cheese. This was changed to cow’s mozzarella cheese instead. Woodburning stoves were turned to coal-fired stoves because it was cheaper but produced the same heat and flavor. Today, you might see electric or gas pizza stove ovens in your local pizza stores. 

What do you think? Do you think pizza is Greek or Italian? Or maybe it’s neither. Perhaps the Persians and their flatbreads with dates were making the first dessert pizza.

History of Pizza

Who amongst us knows the history of pizza? I’m not sure anyone knows who started it, but we’re all glad someone thought of it. Today, we eat enough pizza to cover a lot of acres of land. Let’s not get into the logistics. Just believe me because it’s a lot. In New York alone, we have over five thousand pizzerias. With so many choices, how do we go about tasting all of them? Like all things in life, make a checklist and get on it!

All over Europe, different cultures were creating flatbreads with toppings. Everyone from Egypt to Greece and Rome had their version of a savory flatbread dish we now call pizza. Greeks in particular, had a flatbread called plakous. This flatbread would include herbs, cheese, and garlic. I guess we can say they made the first white pie? But did they make the first pizza?

Naples, Italy, was founded in 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement. By 1700s, Naples became a thriving city with plenty of water views and a growing poor population. To feed themselves and others on the street, they sold cheap and versatile flatbread with toppings. These included tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic. 

In 1738, the Lucianos family created a street-food stand called the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba. The pizzas were cooked in ovens lined with local volcanic rocks. In 1830, the family moved from the streets and opened their restaurant. This was the first pizza restaurant in the world, as far as we know.

In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples. Legend has it that the pair had a variety of pies at Pizzeria Brandi. It is said that the Queen’s favorite was a pie called pizza mozzarella. This pie included soft white cheese, tomatoes, and basil. If the legend is correct, this pie was renamed, Margherita after the Queen.

History of Pizza in USA 

In the states, a Naples immigrant, Gennaro Lombardi, opened a small grocery store. One of his employees, Antonio Totonno Pero, created pizzas for the store. Were they his recipes or Lombardi’s? Does anyone know? Anyway, these pies were selling like hot cakes, which helped Lambardi open the first pizzeria in NYC called Lambardi’s in 1905. To accommodate his pizza lovers, Lombardi changed his wood-burning stove to charcoal burning, and his buffalo cheese to cow cheese. By 1924, Pero quit and opened his own pizza shop in Coney Island.

While the popularity of pizza might have been widespread in New York, it wasn’t until WWII that it became a popular dish everywhere else. Why, you ask? Soldiers got a taste of Italian pizza and wanted it back home. All over the world, pizza shops would open up in Italian-populated neighborhoods with modernized twists. Domino’s has dominated in the pizza franchise now, with over 17,000 stores in 90 countries.

Today, we have insane pies like pineapples and ham, dessert pizza such as Nutella and strawberry pizza, pasta pies, deep dish, and more! If you can think of it as pizza toppings, someone already tried it. You also have moms making pies with peas. Let’s avoid doing that and stick to normal toppings such as cheese, basil, and garlic. History of pizza is an extensive one but we’re glad that someone thought of it and made it one of our favorite go to meals.