Pizza (Italian: [ˈpittsa], Neapolitan: [ˈpittsə]) is a savory dish of Italian origin consisting of a usually round, flattened base of leavened wheat-based dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and often various other ingredients (such as anchovies, mushrooms, onions, olives, pineapple, meat, etc.), which is then baked at a high temperature, traditionally in a wood-fired oven. A small pizza is sometimes called a pizzetta. A person who makes pizza is known as a pizzaiolo.
In Italy, pizza served in formal settings, such as at a restaurant, is presented unsliced, and is eaten with the use of a knife and fork. In casual settings, however, it is cut into wedges to be eaten while held in the hand.
The term pizza was first recorded in the 10th century in a Latin manuscript from the Southern Italian town of Gaeta in Lazio, on the border with Campania. Modern pizza was invented in Naples, and the dish and its variants have since become popular in many countries. It has become one of the most popular foods in the world and a common fast food item in Europe and North America, available at pizzerias (restaurants specializing in pizza), restaurants offering Mediterranean cuisine, and via pizza delivery. Many companies sell ready-baked frozen pizzas to be reheated in an ordinary home oven.
The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (lit. True Neapolitan Pizza Association) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 with headquarters in Naples that aims to promote traditional Neapolitan pizza. In 2009, upon Italy's request, Neapolitan pizza was registered with the European Union as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed dish, and in 2017 the art of its making was included on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage.
Foods similar to pizza have been made since the Neolithic Age. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavorful can be found throughout ancient history. In the 6th century BC, the Persian soldiers of the Achaemenid Empire during the rule of Darius the Great baked flatbreads with cheese and dates on top of their battle shields and the ancient Greeks supplemented their bread with oils, herbs, and cheese. An early reference to a pizza-like food occurs in the Aeneid, when Celaeno, queen of the Harpies, foretells that the Trojans would not find peace until they are forced by hunger to eat their tables (Book III). In Book VII, Aeneas and his men are served a meal that includes round cakes (like pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. When they eat the bread, they realize that these are the "tables" prophesied by Celaeno.
Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century. Prior to that time, flatbread was often topped with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lard, and cheese. It is uncertain when tomatoes were first added and there are many conflicting claims. Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries.
A popular contemporary legend holds that the archetypal pizza, pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pizza swathed in the colors of the Italian flag — red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen, although later research cast doubt on this legend. An official letter of recognition from the Queen's "head of service" remains on display in Esposito's shop, now called the Pizzeria Brandi.
Pizza was brought to the United States with Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century and first appeared in areas where Italian immigrants concentrated. The country's first pizzeria, Lombardi's, opened in 1905. Following World War II, veterans returning from the Italian Campaign, who were introduced to Italy's native cuisine, proved a ready market for pizza in particular.
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