The Origin of Pizza
Yasunari Ramon Suarez Taguchi (The Freeman) - March 3, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines – While dishes made from flatbreads used as an "edible plate" for certain types of toppings are ascribed by food historians to have been in existence in different cultures since ancient times, experts of the field generally agree that the Italians played an integral role in the rise of the pizza as one of the world's most well-loved foods. Defined as an oven-baked flatbread that's topped with tomato sauce, cheese and a wide variety of toppings, Italy's pizza is generally thought to have evolved from two cultures - from the Greeks in the south and from the Etruscans in the North.

The Greeks, who occupied the southern areas of Italy sometime between 730 to 130 BC, are noted for being the greatest bakers of the ancient times - coming up with different types of round and flat breads that were topped with all sorts of "relishes." A number of historians believe that the Greeks' influence in baking lent a hand in the evolution of the modern pizza in Italy.

The origin of the pizza's name, though, has been shrouded with some ambiguity. One etymologic origin theory links the term with an Old Italian word that translates to "point," which, in turn, led to the coinage of the Italian term "pizzicare" - which translates to "pluck" or "pinch." Historians note that the term "piza" or "picea" from the Neapolitan dialect in Italy was popularly used sometime in 1000 AD - believed to refer to a type of food that was picked or plucked from a hot oven.

Other etymologic origin theories link the term "pizza" with the Ancient Greek word "pikte" (which loosely translates to "fermented pastry") and the Ancient Greek word "p?tít?s"(which loosely translates to "bran bread").

Though experts of the field are convinced that the pizza is technically not an Italian "invention," the Italians did master the special - leading to popular pizza variations like the "Neapolitan Pizza," the "New York Style" and "Chicago Style" Pizza.

The Neapolitan Pizza

- Known to originate from Naples, Italy, the "Neapolitan Pizza" is widely recognized as the earliest "modern pizza" variation - the type of pizza most people are familiar with today.

Based on the classifications of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (The True Neapolitan Pizza Association), a non-profit organization founded in 1984 in Naples, there are three formally recognized Neapolitan pizza variations; the "Pizza Margherita," made with sliced mozzarella, tomato, basil and extra-virgin olive oil; the "Pizza Margherita Extra," made with mozzarella from Campania in fillets, tomato, basil and extra-virgin olive oil; and the "Pizza Marinara," made with garlic, oregano, tomato and extra-virgin olive oil.

The New York Style Pizza

- A number of food historians credit the introduction and popularity of the "New York Style Pizza" in the U.S. to one Gennaro Lombardi, an immigrant from Naples who, in 1897, opened a grocery store and later operated a pizzeria in 1905.

This pizza is characterized by a large hand-tossed thin-crust pie complemented with light use of tomato sauce - resulting to a crust that is crisp along its edge, but pliable enough that it could be folded in half. Mozzarella cheese is also considered to be one of its primary ingredients.

Typical condiments for this pizza variation include red chili pepper flakes, grated parmesan cheese and oregano.

The Chicago Style Pizza

- This pizza variation is often argued to refer to different pizza preparation styles that were developed in Chicago - not just one specific type.

Generally though, the term "Chicago Style Pizza" refers to the "deep-dish pizza" - a type of pizza whose crust is made using a tray 1 ½ inches deep, characteristically giving it a high-edged crust and a deep surface where chunky tomato sauce and large amounts of cheese is "topped" onto.

Like the term "pizza" itself, the "deep-dish pizza" has different origin stories. One popular origin story credits the pizza's invention to a Chicago-based pizzeria named "Pizzeria Uno," which served this type of pizza in 1943.

Compared to the thin-crust pizza, deep-dish pizzas tend to look more like pies - as opposed to the flatbread look that's been associated with pizza today.

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