Today pizza is everywhere from the bustling cities of Asia to the Safari lodges of Africa, to the Fjords of Norway. But it wasn't always this way, in fact, this has happened only recently. Until recently pizzas remained eaten mostly in Italy and by various Italian emigrants around the world.
Today for better or for worse Domino's, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Papa John's are everywhere. Still, NYers know they have the best pizza in the country, so if visiting have a guide to the best pizzas in NYC.
The Concept Of Pizza Is Not Unique
Pizza has been around for a long time, although in essence, it is a flatbread with toppings. So it can be a little hard to define exactly what is pizza in history. Various ancient cultures have produced many kinds of flatbreads with different kinds of toppings.
In the country of Georgia (whose cuisine was considered one of the best in the USSR), they have "Adjarian Khachapuri" which is a flatbread served with generous proportions of piping hot cheese and butter. A raw egg is placed in the middle and the heat of the bread and cheese is enough to cook it.
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In Turkey, what is often called the "Turkish Pizza" the Lahmacun is a round thin bread topped with minced meat, minced vegetables, and herbs like onions, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, and parsley. It is generally prepared without the cheese.
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Pizza In Italy and WW2
The precursor of what we think of as the Italian pizza was probably the focaccia. It is a flatbread known to the Romans as panis focacius to which they would add toppings.
Modern pizzas are not all that old having evolved from a similar flatbread in the city of Naples in Italy in the 18th or early 19thh century.
Pizzas remained unpopular with non-Italians until World War 2. It would take the cataclysm of global war to spread the pizza. Even though Italians had lived in NYC for generations, their dish hadn't caught on.
But during WW2, thousands of American soldiers battled long and hard in the Italian Campaign. The Allied troops stationed in Italy soon developed a love of the local Italian foods and brought their newfound taste of pizzas back with them to the United States.
The Growth Of Pizzas In The United States
It may come as a surprise to many but the first pizzeria in Canada opened only after WW2 in 1948. It was the Pizzeria Napoletana in Montreal and starting in the 1950s the first pizza ovens started entering the northern country.
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While it would seem that Canada scarcely has a history with the cheesy flatbread at all, the United States does have something of a history with it. Pizza first appearance in the USA in the late 19th century. It was popular among the large Italian populations in NYC, Philadelphia, Trenton, St. Louis, and Chicago.
New Yorkers will be happy to know their city was one of the first to have Italian pizza outside of Italy and the Mediterranean.
The first printed reference to "pizza" in the USA is from a 1904 article in The Boston Journal.
- First American Pizzaria: 1905 or 1897
It's a little difficult to say when the first US pizzeria opened. Some have it in 1905 when Gennaro Lombardi applied for a license to make and sell pizzas in New York. Others say the first business to sell pizzas was Lombardi's that opened in 1897 as a grocery store.
After the War, the growth of the popularity of pizzas was explosive. Pizza chains began to spring up all around the nation and expand across the globe. One of the earliest pizza chains was Shakey's Pizza from 1954.
Papa's Tomato Pies
Over in Trenton, pizza was brought to New Jersey with the opening of Joe's Tomato Pies in 1910 and then Papa's Tomato Pies in 1912. Today Joe's Tomato Pies have closed but Papa's Tomato Pies remains open and is one of the most popular pizzerias in the area.
Papa's Tomato Pies boasts on their website "Oldest continuously family-owned pizza restaurant in USA!"
Their Menu is:
- Small 14" Plain: $16 - The ultimate classic tomato pie in 6 slices
- Large 16" Plain: $17 - The ultimate classic tomato pie in 8 slices
- Small Mustard Pie: $18 - 14" Our classic tomato pie with a thin layer of spicy brown mustard under the cheese and sauce.
- Large Mustard Pie: $19 - 16" Our classic tomato pie with a thin layer of spicy brown mustard under the cheese and sauce.
Note: They Say Mustard Pie Is a Local Trenton Delicacy