Pizza is my favorite food! The passion for pizza goes way back to my early childhood when my Sicilian Grandmother, Anna Intelisano, made her own pizza for us. At our house, for a variety of reasons, we would often have pizza on Friday nights with cannoli for dessert.
Pizza was invented in Naples, Italy in the early to mid-1800s. The classic Margherita-style pizza was named after the Italian “Queen Margherita!” In celebration of the queen’s visit to Naples in 1889, a popular pizzeria made a pizza to match the white, green, and red of the Italian flag.
Pizza became popular in the United States in late 1945, when returning soldiers who fought in Italy in WWII spread the word. The first pizzeria in the USA was Lombardi’s, which opened in 1905.
I led a pizza crawl in October 2019 (see the picture) which started at Famous Ben’s, then onto Prince Street pizza (my #1 pepperoni Sicilian slice,) followed by a fabulous sit-down meal in the Lombardi’s basement dining room.
Lombardi’s was founded by Gennaro Lombardi. His employees included Anthony “Totonno” Pero, John Sasso, and Pasquale “Patsy” Lanceri. The 3 pizza makers left and launched their own pizza establishments called Totonno, John’s, and Patsy’s respectively. Thus, the Lombardi pizza family tree was created! Subsequently, two pizza generations branched out to places like Patsy Grimaldi’s (his nephew) and Lucali.
There are now numerous pizza styles such as Detroit-Style (Emmy’s and Emmy Squared,) a new wave of Neopolitan artisanal personal pizza styles such as Roberta’s, Keste, Best and Motorino. With these hybrid styles have come large price increases.
Food and Wine recently came out with a report ranking New York pizza #3 behind New Jersey and Connecticut. Their reasoning is that New York pizzerias are in a hurry and rush the process to make more profit. I am not buying this; however, I do have a few places in N.J. and Ct. on my radar to do my own comparison.
I have found excellent pizza all over the world. From Naples (we went to Pizzeria da Michele, featured in the Eat, Pray, Love Julia Roberts movie) to Sydney, Australia to Bogota, Colombia.
Since the early 1960s, the price of a regular New York slice has almost matched the price of a subway token. This was called the “Pizza Principle” or the “Pizza-Subway Connection.” This held true until about 6-8 years ago when pizza prices started to ramp up and become a huge money-making business. Now, in many places, a gourmet slice with toppings can run between $4-$5 per slice.
Courtesy of factretriever.com, my top 10 pizza factoids are:
1. In America, annual pizza sales exceed $28 billion per year.
2. Over 5 billion pizzas are sold every year in the world.
3. Over 3 billion pizzas are sold every year in the United States.
4. Americans eat approximately 350 slices per second.
5. Recently, Halloween unseated Super Bowl Sunday as the biggest pizza day.
6. Thanksgiving is the day Americans eat the least amount of pizza.
7. October is national pizza month.
8. The average American eats about 46 slices or 23 pounds per year.
9. The most popular pizza topping in the USA is pepperoni.
10.Lady Gaga once bought $1,000 worth of pizza for fans waiting in line for her autograph!