- Pizza Origins
- For more than 10,000 years, civilizations have been preparing foods that could be considered precursors to modern pizza. Ancient Greeks baked a flatbread called “plakous” that was flavored with herbs, onions, and garlic. Archeologists in Sardinia have found evidence of a pizza-like bread baked 3,000 years ago. Soldiers of Persian king Darius the Great, around 500 BC, baked a flatbread on their shields and topped it with cheese and dates.
- The word “pizza” is derived from “pita,” a type of bread that has existed in the cuisines of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries for centuries. The word “pizza” appears in the Latin language around 1000 AD, and by the 16th century the term referred to a Galette flatbread. However, the story of how pizza evolved from its early beginnings to the 21st century dish we now enjoy is not fully known.
- Pizza’s BeginningsHistorically, pizza has not been considered a kitchen recipe but rather a baker’s tool, since it was used to verify the temperature of the oven. It was sold in the street and regarded as a dish of poor people. Originally covered with a white sauce, eventually oil, cheese, tomatoes or fish were also used as toppings The Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito, to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, created the “Pizza Margherita” in 1899. It included tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Esposito thus became the first to add cheese to a pizza dish.
Pizza evolved from flatbreads, which originated in many countries. In Mediterranean cuisine, other types of flatbreads are focaccia, which may have roots as far back as the Etruscans, coca from Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, the Turkish pide and the Greek pita, and piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagan in Italy.
Flatbreads in other parts of the world include rieska from Finland, paratha from India, the south Asian naan, the Alsatian flammkuchen, and Sardinian varieties spianata, pistoccu, guttiau, and carasau.
- Word OriginsOrigins of the word “pizza” are disputed. One of the first uses of the the word dates from 997 AD, from a Latin text in the town of Gaeta, in southern Italy. Below are other possible origins of the word “pizza:”
- An Aramaic word, “pita,” is in the Babylonian Talmud and refers to bread in general. The word can be traced to a cognate for pine pitch, which as flat layers resembles pita bread.
- “Bizzo,” or “pizzo” is an Old High German word that means “mouthful.” Invading Lombards brought the term to Italy in the middle of the 6th century.
- “Picea” is a Latin word that describes the black ash that accumulates at the bottom of an oven or the blackening of bread while in the oven. Another Latin term, “pinsa,” means to pound and probably refers to flattening of dough.
- “Pizzicare,” in Italian, means “to pluck,” and is a reference to quickly “plucking” pizza from the oven.
- “Pikte,” in Ancient Greek, is the name for “fermented pastry.” The word later became “picta” and then “pitta” in Latin. Other Ancient Greek words that may have been tied to “pizza” were “pissa,” and “ptea.”