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The History of Pizza in the USA – 12 Surprising Facts

History of Pizza in USA Outdoor covered patio Inspiration kitchens Belforno for outdoor cooking

While traditionalists see the Neapolitan wood-fired oven pizza as the only “real” pizza, this food has undergone a substantial transformation since its introduction to American culture. Here are some surprising facts about the history of pizza in the United States.


1.The first pizzeria opened in Spring Street, New York in 1905.

This was the first license granted to make and sell pizza in the United States. Until then pizza was made casalinga (home-style) by southern Italian women in their kitchens for their families.

2. You were more likely to find pizza in New York City than in Rome or Milan by 1910.

Immigrants to the US were from the South of Italy and brought pizza with them before the tradition made its way north.

3. Initially pizzerias only produced pizza “for southern Italians, by southern Italians”.
4. Veterans were responsible for creating demand for pizza outside of the Italian community.

They developed a taste for it during WW2 after being based in Naples as intelligence agents and demanded it when they returned home, much to the confusion of American restaurateurs

5. There was a pizza boom after the end of Prohibition in 1933.

Because bars were looking for a food chaser for their alcohol.

6. The first gas pizza oven was built in 1945

It was built by a returning soldier with experience repairing ovens in his father’s business. These new pizza ovens allowed retailers to bake their pizzas more quickly, cleanly, efficiently, and cheaply than in traditional wood-fired ovens.

7. Pizza was embraced wholeheartedly by the rest of the USA in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

With the rise of fast food in America and this was the start of the popular pizza chains we know today.

8. Pizza franchises were never modeled on Italian Restaurants.

They followed the fast food delivery and takeout model and their emphasis on efficiency and uniformity allowed them to adopt a national footprint

9. Fast food chains initially opened near military bases and colleges.

As much as pizza evolved over 200 years, the appeal as a quick, cheap snack prevailed and chains provide the same convenient meal Neapolitan workers had enjoyed years ago.

10. The Chicago deep-dish pizza is not really a pizza at all.

It bears a greater resemblance to the Sicilian dish Sfincione which is described as “a deep-dish pie with tomatoes and cheese and other toppings layered into it.” This, as is much of the history of pizza, is hotly debated!

11. The contradiction of “Artisanal Pizza”.

In the 1980s the farm-to-table movement began in California and this ethos now dominates the food industry. Organic, vegan and gluten-free wood-fired pizzas selling for over 20 dollars a pie are a far cry from its humble beginnings as peasant food.

12. The quirkiest American version of a pizza is the Rocky Mountain Pie.

It’s a pizza baked with an extra thick crust which is left until last and then dipped in honey and eaten for dessert.

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Belforno Wood-Fired Ovens

We are a manufacturer of authentic wood-fired ovens that we deliver to your home in a ready-to-assemble kit. Belforno ovens are designed in the Italian tradition using only the finest refractory ceramic materials to hold heat for long periods of time and provide superior cooking results. Contact us for more information.

Other Useful links:
A great article on the colorful history of Pizza: http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2015/11/illustrated-history-of-pizza-in-america

Did you know? Personal ovens were outlawed in medieval France to reduce the risk of fire where thatched houses were built close together. An entire village would used the four banal (common oven) that was owned by the feudal lord. The common oven was a masonry oven built on the Roman plan – the precursor of today’s wood-fired pizza oven.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_oven