Monday, October 4, 2010

When the moon hits you eye like a big pizza pie ...

that's ... National Pizza Month!

Yep. October is National Pizza Month. The history of pizza is steeped in controversy. The Italians claim pizza as their creation; however, the idea for pizza is in fact older than Italy.

Pizza's origins go back to ancient times. It is believed the Babylonians, Israelites, Egyptians and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures ate flat, unleaven bread cooked in mud ovens. The bread was similar to pita, which is still common in Greece and the Middle East today. It is also believed cultures such as the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians ate the bread, seasoned with olive oil and native spices.

As for the creation of pizza in Italy, credit goes to the lower class of Naples. In the late 1800's an Italian baker named Raffaele Esposito created a dish for visiting royalty. According to the story, the Italian monarch King Umberto and his consort, Queen Margherita were touring the area. In order to impress them and to show his patriotic fervor Raffaele chose to top flat bread with food that would best represent the colors of Italy: red tomato, white mozzarella cheese and green basil. The king and queen were so impressed that word quickly reached the masses.

By the beginning of the 1900's pizza made it's way to the inner cities of the United States, thanks to Italian immigrants, most notably in New York and Chicago. Having been introduced to pizza while serving on the Italian front, American soldiers further prompted it to become very popular in the U.S. at the end of World War II.

I prefer thin crust pizza over the doughy deep dish style and some of my favorite pizza restaurants in New Orleans include: Reginelli's, Domenica, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, Crescent Pie & Sausage Co., and newly opened, Huey P's Pizzeria in Gretna.

For a good article on pizza fun facts plus a recipe, check out this article by Mary Ann Esposito, creator and host of Ciao Italy on PBS.

To whomever invented pizza: "Thank You," that's amore!

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