As I walked past the boss man’s desk this morning, I noticed some fancy looking pizza slices shoved in a Ziploc bag. Even at ten O’clock in the morning, the sight of the left over slices inside the plastic bag got me craving a large thin crust pizza layered with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. The great thing about pizza is it’s one of those meals that tastes great hot, cold, fresh or eaten the next day (after a long night of taste testing Belgium beers at the Hopleaf).
While the origins of the unique flat bread can be traced back to 16th century Italy, pizza made its first appearance in the United States with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. In cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia, peddlers in Italian neighborhoods would sell pizza on the streets. It’s disputed where the first official pizzeria in America originated from, but many New Yorkers will argue it came from Manhattan’s Little Italy. Prior to the 1940’s, pizza consumption was limited to mostly Italian immigrants and their descendants.
The popularity of pizza in the U.S. only started after WWII, when an abundance of pizzerias were being opened by former soldiers who had tasted the flavorful flatbreads for the first time while serving in Italy. According to an article in American Heritage Magazine, the modern pizza industry was born in the Midwest. Ric Riccardo pioneered the Chicago-style deep dish pizza when he and Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943. And in 1958 the first Pizza Hut was opened in Wichita, Kansas.
From its humble beginnings in Naples, Italy, to the mom-and-pop pizzerias across the U.S. that have found new ways to bling-out their pies, today the American pizza business continues to flourish and evolve; keeping one of the most brilliant food inventions in history alive and well — and keeping my belly pleasantly happy.
Here are some popular pizza joints you can checkout:
Top Speed Pizza, 6 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA
Pete’s Pizza, 3737 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL
Marina Pizza & Caffe, 2139 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA
Park Slope Chip Shop, 383 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Pete’s Famous Pizza Restaurant, 116 N. 21st St., Philadelphia, PA