The Evolution of Pizza

Pizza has reached new heights in redefining the history of a dish. From its availability, to creative mix of ingredients, pizza has gone through phases of being a staple of the American diet. Statistics show that an estimated 350 slices of pizzas are eaten by Americans and more than 40 percent eats pizza at least once a week. Here is a walk to the momentous events that made pizza a part of the American platter.

1889: The Birth of Pizza

Naples is considered the birthplace of the modern pizza. As history books have it, pizza maker Raffeaele Esposito created the Pizza Margherita which bears the colors of the flag of Italy with the tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, in honor of Queen Margherita. The plain pizza is regarded as a poor man’s food in Italy along with flat breads and focaccia which has been served long before pizzas.

1905: America’s First Taste of Pizza

The late 19th century saw New York being a haven for Italian immigrants and their popular dish was even mentioned in 1903 in newspapers in Boston. But it was not until 1905 that a pizzeria was established in the U.S. with the issuance of mercantile licenses in New York. Gennaro Lombardi, who has a grocery store in Manhattan, opened Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in United States. His pizzas are cooked in a coal oven, wrapped in paper and tied with a string. Lombardi’s cook Antonio Totonno Pero got his influences from Gennaro Lombardi and opened his own pizzeria in Coney Island named Totonno’s and became widely popular as well.

The World War Period is The Advent of Regional Specialties

With cities in the U.S. flocked by Italian immigrants, pizza makers distinguished themselves with the kind of pizza they offer with the community. In 1925, Frank Pepe and his wife Filomena opened their pizzeria in New Haven CT and offered two varieties of their famous thin-crust pizza. The original version was without mozzarella and was offered with or without anchovies. While the 2nd world war was in progress in 1943, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo wanted to have a revolutionary pizza nobody has ever tasted before. They invented a buttery crust with a tall edge just like a fruit pie topped with a lot of tomato sauce and cheese. The Chicago deep-dish was born and was first sold at their store the Pizzeria Uno.

1958: The Pizza Chain of all Pizza Chains

It all started as a $600 loan. Dan and Frank Carney with business partner John Bender opened their first Pizza Hut on June 15, 1958 at Wichita Kansas. Starting out with secondhand equipment and a small area which could sit 25 guests, Pizza Hut grew so fast it became incorporated the following year and also has its first franchised store opened in Topeka Kansas. Pizza Hut took over the pizza market by storm with over a thousand stores located in the U.S., Canada, England and Japan. Pizza Hut is touted the most successful pizza chain in the world with more than 11,000 stores located at almost 100 countries.

1960: Deliver it fast

Pizza delivery is an integral part of serving customers. Innovations such as the hot bag which is water proof and insulated keeps pizzas as fresh as possible when delivered and the corrugated pizza box which keeps moisture from weakening the box are just some of the advancements that Domino’s Pizza takes credit for. Domino’s started out as a purchased pizza store called DomiNick’s by brothers Tom and James Monoghan. Tom bought his brother’s share with a Volkswagen Beetle and renamed it to Domino’s five years after. Domino’s is famous for it’s “30 minutes or less” delivery service that spanned for two decades until a lawsuit was filed against the company for encouraging unsafe driving. Domino’’s shifted its ads to sell quality and backed it up by being the 2nd largest pizza company in the United States.

1962: Frozen Pizzas

Pizza owners from St. Paul, Minnesota Rose and Jim Totino had a concept that became so famous Pillsbury bought it for $20 million in 1975 and made Rose Totino its first female corporate executive serving as vice president of the company. Their frozen pizzas are an expansion product to their thriving pizza restaurant in St. Paul. Rose helped with Pillsbury in developing a process to make their frozen pizzas crisp to the crust and edges when baked. In 1963, a frozen pizza was introduced by Ellio’s that has a distinct shape of its own. The frozen pizzas are a perfect fit for oven toasters which in those times, could be found to almost every kitchen in the U.S.

1962: Novelty Added to Pizzas

Believe it or not, Hawaiian pizzas were created by a Greek running a pizza store in Canada. Sam Panopoulos came up with the concept of mixing pineapple, ham and tomato sauce in 1962 and served it to his customers. Several restaurants also tried to infuse ethnic flavors to the pizzas and also try to make pizzas as desserts.

1985: The Pizza Saver

Ever tried to eat pizzas that have cheese sticking to the upside of the box? Inventor Carmela Vitale surely did. With her invention called “the pizza saver” pizzas, cakes and pies need not to sag and damage the disposable containers when delivered or taken home. The tripod design of the plastic is patented and is widely considered as an elegant solution to make cheese stick to the pizza and not on the box.

1995: Take N’ Bake

Serving a new brand of pizza replacing traditional home-prepared meals positioned Papa Murphy’s to be on top of this revolutionary marvel in the pizza industry. Papa Murphy’s profit from the “take-and-bake” operations by not needing ovens and licenses to cook as well as having less staff than traditional pizzerias. Papa Murphy’s started when Papa Aldo’s and Murphy’s Pizza merged in 1995 and focused on selling uncooked pizzas that could be baked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Papa Murphy’s is available in 38 states with around 1350 stores. Similar products are also available at retailers like Walmart and Costco.

2010: Healthy Pizzas

Dietary restrictions to Americans who have celiac disease paved the way for pizza companies such as Godfather’s and Domino’s to experiment on serving pizzas on gluten-free dough.  Both companies offer gluten-free products in their restaurants with an additional $3 at Domino’s. Shifts in a healthier lifestyle among consumers also led to developing a more nutritious variety of pizzas among them is the Naked Pizza franchise.

2012: Speedy Dining at a Pizzeria

Americans are always pressed for time but can pizzas be served “fast casual” style? Burgers and burritos can be served in this concept but with the emergence of PizzaRev, 800 Degrees, MOD Pizza and Blaze Pizza; diners could eat their favorite dish in a couple of minutes. It could probably be Blaze Pizza that would lead in the fast-casual approach of pizza restaurants with an assembly line where customers choose from several toppings and cooked in only 120 seconds.  Already with 2 locations in California, Blaze Pizza plans to set up more locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Prices for these pizzas are quite reasonable at around $8 for a personal pizza.

2013: Creativity Never Ends

The blend on ingredients, as well as innovative ways of ordering pizzas, continue to improve the way people enjoy pizzas. Pizza Hut recently introduced its mouth-watering hotdog-stuffed crust pizza, Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza and the Double Sensation pizza that has a sausage and cheese two separate crusts. Pizza Hut also offers its dough-scented perfume. They also accept orders made using Xbox. There would be several other pizza creations and innovations waiting to happen. Pizza lovers are very eager to wait.

Posted by Diane Araga, on September 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM