In October we celebrate National Pizza Month, but did you know that while Italy has a long and famous history with pizza, that is not where it originated? The idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread baked with an assortment of toppings. It became widely eaten due to being inexpensive and easy to eat. In the 600s B.C., at the height of the Persian Empire, soldiers accustomed to lengthy marches, baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates.
In 1889, pizza as we know it was born when Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort of Umberto I, King of Italy, visited Naples. Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned a tavern-like place called Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, was asked to prepare a special dish in honor of the Queen's visit. Esposito developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese (a never before used ingredient made from the milk of water buffalo) and basil. The colors of these ingredients mimicked the Italian flag. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the guest of honor and the modern-day tomato-and-cheese pizza was born.
While pizza has been eaten in Italy for centuries, it was not until after World War II and when pizza became popular in America, that it became really popular in Italy. Pizza was introduced to North America by Italian immigrants to the United States in late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first pizzeria in North America was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi at 53 1/3 Spring Street in New York City. Today, Americans consume an estimated 350 slices of pizza each second and there are over 70,000 pizzerias in the United States.