Pizza through Time: Facts to Explore Pizza’s Historical Legacy

Who doesn’t love a good pizza, right? You tear a slice from the pie, stabilize it with your other hand, shove it into your mouth, and sink your teeth into it. Hmm! What could be better? While it is undeniable that pizza is a popular food – many billions are sold each year – one has to wonder where this iconic food comes from and how it became the much-loved treat that it is across the globe today.

As far as history goes, pizza really does have a lot. While it is not originally an American dish, it has certainly come a long way to being a firm favorite in the country. Pizza hails all the way from Italy. As it turns out, after WWII, American soldiers returned home with a taste for pizza, which was readily available in Italy. After that, when Italian migrant workers came into the Americas in search of work and a better life, they brought the art of pizza making with them.

If you are interested in learning more about pizza and are just as much a pizza lover as I am, you’re about to learn a bunch of really interesting historical facts about it.

These are 20 historical facts about pizza.

Table of Content

1. The first mention of “pizza” comes from Southern Italy in 997AD.

According to historian Giuseppe Nocca, the word “pizza” is first found mentioned in a Latin text that was found in Southern Italy, in a small town called Gaeta. This dates back to 997AD.

2. In 1889, Margherita pizzas were named after Queen Margherita of Savoy.

There is much debate about whether or not this is true, but legend has it that in 1889, Queen Margherita of Savoy tasted 3 pizza flavors presented by Chef Raffaele Esposito. She chose a simple pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil as her favorite. And it was this pizza that became known as a Margherita.

3. In 1943, the deep dish pizza was invented in Chicago.

The owner of Pizzeria Uno, Ike Sewell, is known to be responsible for inventing the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in 1943. 

4. The very first pizza parlor opened in the U.S. in 1905 and still operates today.

The first pizzeria was opened in Little Italy in New York and was called Lombardi’s Pizza

5. Up until the 1930s, for the most part, only whole pizzas were sold. Now, pizza is also sold by the slice. 

It was considered normal to purchase an entire pizza pie when pizza first made its way to the U.S. This was until Patsy Lancieri, who owned Patsy’s Pizzeria in New York, started selling slices of pizza in 1933. 

6. Frozen pizzas became available in supermarkets in 1962.

Up until 1962, people could only buy a pizza from pizzerias and local restaurants, but in 1962, frozen pizzas ready to be popped into the oven became readily available across the U.S. at leading grocery store chains. 

7. The U.S. Military created a pizza with a 3-year “shelf life”.

This particular pizza was created in a ready to eat format and was for the enjoyment of soldiers fighting abroad. To ensure ultimate enjoyment, the long lifespan was important.

8. Domino’s, one of the world’s most popular pizza brands, was founded in 1960.

Back in 1960, Domino’s pizza was originally named DomiNick’s. After five years, the restaurant was renamed to its Domino’s.  

9. In the 1960s, fake pizza deliveries were used to spy on journalists and politicians.

It was the U.S. Army 113th Military Intelligence Unit that used pizza deliveries to spy on reporters and politicians in order to get the upper hand. 

10. In 1994, the first online pizza order took place. 

It was Pizza Hut that received the very first online pizza order in 1994 – something the pizzeria is very proud of. 

11. In 2001, the Russian Space Agency delivered a pizza to the International Space Station.

The Pizza Hut paid the agency about 1 million dollars to deliver a pizza to Yuri Usachov, who received the pizza while in orbit. 

12. In 2010, a pizza played a key role in catching a serial killer.

At the time, Los Angeles police were trying to catch a serial killer called the Grim Sleeper. A police officer went undercover and retrieved a DNA sample from a slice of pizza that the killer had been eating. 

13. In the U.S., October is known as ‘National Pizza Month’. 

Every year since 1984, during the month of October, Americans have yet another reason to eat a delicious slice of pizza. 

14. San Marzano tomatoes are the ideal tomatoes to make traditional pizza sauce. 

These authentic Italian tomatoes are grown in the small town of San Marzano using a unique and precise method

15. During the beginning of the 20th century, pizza was a popular meal for many working-class Italian immigrants.

In Italy, pizza wasn’t a gourmet meal. It was mostly eaten by the poor and the working-class citizens. After the Second World War, when migrant workers made their way from Italy to the U.S., pizza became more available. Americans absolutely loved the concept and taste of pizza, and so its popularity took off.

16. In 1962, the Hawaiian pizza was invented by a Greek native called Sam Panopoulos.

Sam Panopoulos ran a pizzeria in Canada at the time and decided to try something a little different. It became popular almost instantly. 

17. In the 20th century, several mafias used pizzerias for drug trafficking – and some got caught.

What ensued was one of the most complex and intricate criminal trials in modern American history; the mafias were known as the ‘Pizza Connection”.

18. One of the most expensive pizzas is the New York 24K pizza.

The 24K pizza, which is made by Industry Kitchen in N.Y., has a pie crust infused with black squid ink and is topped with the likes of foie gras, Osetra caviar, truffles, gold leaves, and white stilton cheese. 

19. In 2013, there was a New York art show dedicated to pizza-inspired artworks.

The art show, PIZZA TIME!, was hosted at the Marlborough Broome Street Gallery in New York. More than 25 works of pizza-inspired art were featured. 

20. In 2014, it was officially determined that Mozzarella is the best pizza cheese. 

According to the Journal of Food Science, scientists did extensive studies into the varying baking properties of different cheeses and eventually concluded that the best cheese to top a pizza with is…mozzarella!

All in all

Pizza did well in the past and has an interesting history, yes. Currently, it is one of the world’s most popular food types and is genuinely loved by both young and old. So, grab yourself a slice of pizza (or a whole pizza pie if the mood strikes) and enjoy!

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.