The history of pizza weaves its way throughout many different countries and cultures. No matter where you go in the world you will find a regional spin on pizza, from strange, exotic ingredients to classic toppings you’d know all too well.
Despite the dish’s versatility there are few classics that have become staples in pizzerias around the world. But where did these classics come from? Who invented them? Let’s take a look at 4 classic pizzas and their origins.
You know the classic pizzas – Hawaiian, Pepperoni, Margherita, Marinara. But where did they come from? Who invented them? Let’s dive into the origins of these pizza menu staples.
Few pizzas are as divisive as the classic ham and pineapple, commonly known as the ‘hawaiian’. Whether you love it or hate it, its origin story is a good one.
For many years, pizza in North America was a fairly straightforward affair: fresh dough, herbs, cheese, sauce and meat – the original Italian combo.
This all changed in 1962 when Sam Panopoulos – a Greek pizza maker living in Canada – decided to add pineapple to his ham pizza as a novelty to attract customers (this was a time when tiki culture was huge in North America).
“People only put on mushroom, bacon and pepperoni, that’s all,” said Panopoulos many years later. “I had pineapple in the restaurant and I put some on, and I shared with some customers and they liked it. And we started serving it that way. For a long time, we were the only ones serving it.”
Once people caught on, the Hawaiian took off in a way that Panopoulos would never have imagined. Today you’ll find it on just about every pizza menu in the world.
Although it is impossible to pinpoint exactly when pizza was ‘invented’ and who invented it, there is a story that most believe to be the origin of the modern dish. The tale takes place in Naples, Italy, around the end of the 19th century. Popular legend recalls that the classic marghertia pizza was invented in 1889 when Raffaele Esposito, a renowned chef, was commissioned to create a dish for Queen Marghertia.
Of the three different types of pizza he made for her, the Queen preferred one with red tomato sauce, white mozzarella and green basil – the colours of the Italian national flag. Thus the modern marghertia pizza was born.
Although today you will find it made a little differently in pizza shops around the world, the basic elements are the same: tomatoes, herbs and cheese. If you’re after the traditional Neapolitan version, it should be made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil, salt and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Sometimes the most simple is the most delicious.
Alongside the Margherita, Pizza Marinara is considered the “true” Italian pizza, although it never quite reached the level of revere that its brother has garnered. The previous two pizzas are relatively simple affairs in their own right, but the Marinara is about as basic you will get: tomato, oregano, slivers of garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
What’s that? No cheese? That’s right.
Despite it not containing what most believe to be the dish’s crucial ingredient, many are also confused by its name – the pizza also contains no seafood. So how was it bestowed its namesake?
The pizzas roots stem back to Naples in Italy. Naples is a costal town with a deep harbour. When seamen would return from sea, the “la mariana”, the seaman’s wife, would make them their favourite dish: tomato, garlic and oregano on a fresh dough base.
The dish’s lack of cheese means it is trickier to make than other pizzas. The balance needs to be just right, otherwise you’ll be left with soft dough or dry sauce. For this reason you won’t find it in as many restaurants as you would the Hawaiian or Margherita. But when you find somewhere that does it right it can be magical.
Few pizzas have achieved cult status quite like the pepperoni. A classic American variation, it has made its way pop culture in a way that no other pizza has been able to achieve. Pizza in cartoons? Pepperoni. Movies? Pepperoni. Comics, books and TV? Always pepperoni.
It is by far the most popular pizza in the USA – probably the world by numbers. Around 36% of all pizzas ordered in the States are pepperoni with around 250 million pounds of the topping being consumed on pizzas each year.
Although the origins of the pepperoni pizza aren’t quite as clear as its fellow classics, it’s not hard to give an educated guess. Pepperoni pizzas do not exist in Italy, rather, they originated in America, likely around the end of World War II when troves of soldiers returned from Europe with a taste for Italian ingredients like salami. It was around this time that pizza really began to take off and it only makes sense that pepperoni would make its way onto America’s favourite new food.