With the history of pizza, you discover that it is a mystery with no clear starting point. We cannot begin with its etymology. The word “pizza” is derived from the Latin word picea, which means “the burning of bread using an oven.” Pizzicare is Italian for pizza and means ‘to pinch or pluck’. The origin of pizza begins when man invented fire.

The history of pizza may begin more than 20,000 years ago. Archaeologists discovered that cavemen combined crushed wheat germ with water and cooked this mixture over burning stones. The first pizza stone! Cavemen did not invent pizza as we know it. Who invented it? It’s still a mystery, but here are some facts.

The history of pizza evolved in the Stone Age when flatbread began to take on a pizza-like shape. Early settlers in modern Italy covered flatbread with various ingredients. Pizza flatbread was the substitute for a plate or utensil for the poor. Some hold that this substitution originated with the Greeks, as they used a flat, round bread known as plankuntos that was baked with a variety of ingredients and then used as a dish.

The ancient Egyptians contributed to the history of pizza making by developing both the “rising dough” technique and the first cone-shaped oven – the first pizza oven. They used this invention of the oven to prepare flatbread that was garnished with herbs to celebrate their pharaoh’s birthday. The ancient Egyptians invented the first pizza party!

The Persian Empire has a place in the history of pizza. Legend has it that Darius the Great’s army baked flatbread on metal shields and used cheese and dates as toppings. This pizza-like food fed armies as they conquered the world at the time.

The Roman Empire was involved in recording the history of pizza. A Roman historian, Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Elder, described the Roman form of pizza as a “round flat dough dressed with olive oil, herbs and honey baked on stones”. Virgil referred to this food in “The Aeneid” as “flour cakes or bread cakes which the Romans happily devoured”.

“Under the shade of a tree, the hero spread
His table on the lawn, with cakes of bread;
And, with their bosses, they ate the fruits of the forest.
They affirm; and, (not without the command of God,)
Your home cooking dispatched, the band hungry
Invade their trenches below, and soon devour,
To mend the scarce food, their flour cakes.
Ascanio observed this, and smiling said:
“Look, we devour the dishes we feed on.”

(Book VII, lines 141 – 49)

The cookbook “De Re Coquinaria” by Roman Marcus Gavius ‚Äč‚ÄčApicius advanced the history of pizza making. Apicius described a pizzaesque meal as a bread base covered with ingredients such as chicken, cheese, garlic, pepper, oil, and mint, among others. Excavations at the Pompeii site uncovered locations with equipment used to create this pizza-like street food. Are these signs of the first pizzeria? What we do know is that this pizzesque meal had been a staple in Pompeii over 1,900 years ago.

A close look at the history of pizza cannot conclusively answer who invented pizza. Even today, many Chinese believe that the origin of pizza begins with the Chinese green onion pancake, or cong you bing. Those who study the history of pizza say that pizza could have evolved from China. In 1295, Marco Polo returned from China persuading a chef from Naples to recreate this stuffed pancake. Although it is difficult to recreate, Marco Polo advanced the history of pizza when he suggested that the filling be placed on top and not inside. This technique was very successful and added to the history of pizza. Although the creation of the topping flatbread resembles a green onion pancake, it remains a mystery if the history of pizza begins in China.


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