The History of Pizza – Origins to Why It Just Tastes So Good | Who Smarted?

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Speaker 1 (02:25):

Ah, lunchtime. It was my favorite part of school growing up and my favorite part of the day. Now what about you? You like lunch kid? Let me see if I can guess your favorite lunch food. Think I can do it. Let’s give it a shot. Hmm. I’m thinking of a, A soft Dewey crust covered in a nice, rich, tangy tomato sauce that’s just a hair sweet and topped with some beautiful bubbling hot white cheese. So do you know what food I’m talking about? That’s right. It’s pizza. Pizza. Yum. So did I get it right? Did I just guess your favorite food? Okay. Okay. Maybe not for all of you. I’m sure we’ve got some hamburger hot dogs, chicken nugget, French fries, mac and cheese are salad people in the audience.

Speaker 2 (03:13):

Whoa. Salad.

Speaker 1 (03:14):

Okay. Probably not salad, but hey, if it is salad, congratulations on being a lot healthier than me because I love pizza and I know I’m not alone. Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world. People in the United States alone eat 3 billion pizzas a year. The average American eats 40 pizzas a year. Wow. And 83% of all Americans, that’s eight out of every 10 people eat pizza every month. Whoa.

Speaker 2 (03:46):


Speaker 1 (03:48):

I don’t care if it’s hot pizza, cold pizza, triangle pizza, square pizza, pizzeria pizza, frozen pizza, pizza pies, pizza slices, pizza bites, pizza bagels, or even pizza flavored goldfish. Just give me a piece of pizza and I’m a happy guy. Now, some of you might like pizza, but not every part of it. For example, you might like the cheese and the sauce, but not the crust. Others might not like or be able to eat the cheese. And then there’s some people who eat just the cheese. But any way you slice it, pizza is a lot of people’s favorite food and can be enjoyed in a lot of different ways. But who invented pizza? Why is it so popular? And what’s the deal? All those toppings get ready for another whiff of science on

Speaker 2 (04:35):

How smart I Who smarted, who smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science or history? Listen up everyone we make. Morning. Lots of fun on Who Smarted?

Speaker 1 (04:55):

Quick question, who invented pizza? Was it a long, long time ago by the ancient Greeks? Or was it even longer ago by the ancient Egyptians in the Middle East? Or do you think it was in the late 18 hundred in Italy? Tricky. Right? Well, the answer depends a lot on how you define pizza. If you think of pizza as just flatbread cooked in an oven, then that goes all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Israelites in the Middle East who ate flatbread, baked in mud ovens. Ooh,

Speaker 2 (05:32):


Speaker 1 (05:32):

And if you think pizza needs to have toppings, then we’re talking the ancient Greeks and Romans who baked flatbreads topped with olive oil spices. Yum. Today we call this focaccia bread, and while it’s delicious, it’s not quite the pizza most of us know and love. You know the kind topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings that did start in Italy. But how and when for that? We have to go back to 1889 to the Italian city of Naples.

Speaker 3 (06:06):

I am looking for a famous baker. Where can I find him? Oh, the shop is right over there. He makes the best bread and pastries in all of Naples. Yes, I have heard, but I have a special order from King Bert Deforest and Queen Margarita. They are visiting Naples tomorrow and they want to have a pizza. A pizza? Yes, A pizza. They want Mr. Esposito, the famous baker to make them a pizza.

Speaker 1 (06:43):

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. If this is the story of how pizza was invented, how could the king and queen order one if it wasn’t invented yet? Hmm. Good question. Smarty pants. But remember how I said earlier that the ancient Egyptian Greeks and Romans all baked flatbreads? Yes. Well, so did Italians in 1889. In fact, lots of street vendors sold these flatbreads and called them pizza.

Speaker 3 (07:06):


Speaker 1 (07:07):

Now why did they call it pizza? Well, it comes from the Latin word which means to pound or stamp, and the Italian word bitso, which means mouthful. Delicious. What do you get when you take a mouthful of bread and pound it flat? Why you get pizza?

Speaker 3 (07:26):

Hello? Whatever. A kind, sir, I need you to make a pizza. Pizza. What is this? A pizza. Pizza is a street food. You can get a pizza from any vendor under the street. You don’t need the great Rafa Esposito to make a pizza. Ah, but this is for King Bert and Queen Margarita, what you didn’t say. So I must make them pizza, but not just any pizza. I will make a special one with tomatoes I grow in my garden and the best mozzarella cheese in town, and a few snips of a fresher basil. Now this magnify, it’s a work of art, a thing of a beauty, and you just look at those colors. The red sauce, the white cheese, the greener basil. It looks just like

Speaker 1 (08:18):

What? What else is red, white, and green? That would have Rafa feeling so proud. Hmm. No. Not Santa with spinach in his teeth.

Speaker 3 (08:26):

Oh. Oh no.

Speaker 1 (08:29):

What is the colors of the Italian flag?

Speaker 3 (08:33):

Yes. This is a pizza feat for a king and queen the other.

Speaker 1 (08:38):

And from that day forward, that exact combination became what we know is pizza today. And do you know the name of this kind of pizza? It has a name. Let’s see how well you were paying attention to our story. They named this type of pizza after the Queen. It was made for. Do you remember what her name was? That’s right.

Speaker 4 (08:58):

Queen Margarita.

Speaker 1 (09:00):

Today, the typical plain slice of cheese pizza you get at the pizzeria is called the margarita slice. But how did a slice of pizza made for a queen in Italy travel the world and wind up in the us? Any ideas?

Speaker 5 (Johanna Wagstaff) (09:15):

Hey, I’m Johanna Wagstaff.

Speaker 6 (Rohit Joseph) (09:17):

And hi there. I’m Rohit Joseph,

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Speaker 1 (09:26):

Don’t leave. No. And also, the things aren’t

Speaker 6 (Rohit Joseph) (09:29):


Speaker 5 (Johanna Wagstaff) (09:30):

We are just wired to not do them.

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Speaker 5 (Johanna Wagstaff) (09:40):

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Speaker 4 (09:47):

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Speaker 1 (10:21):

You hear that? That’s the horn from a steamship. Leaving Italy with hundreds of immigrants and his Italian immigrants made their way to other countries like Spain, France, and England behind me. They didn’t just bring their clothes and belongings with them. They brought pizza. So where did this new version of pizza become popular first? Um, was it Italy, Spain, France, England, or somewhere else? Hmm. If you said Spain, France, or England, good guess, but that’s not it. And if you’re like most people, you probably said Italy, but guess what? Despite being invented in Italy and looking like the Italian flag, the Margarita pizza was not a big hit in Italy. What? Nope. Pizza first became popular right here in the good old US of a. Wow. That’s right. Told you Americans love pizza. And guess which city had the first pizza store? Here, I’ll give you a hint. Times Square Broadway, the um, empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty Taxi. That’s right. It’s New York. Genaro Lombardi opened Lombardi’s Pizza way back in 1905. And guess what? Lombardi’s is still open today using the same oven to bake pizzas. Woo. Now there are more than 2000 pizza restaurants in New York City alone. Joe, gimme a square.

Speaker 6 (Rohit Joseph) (11:46):

South. Let me

Speaker 5 (Johanna Wagstaff) (11:46):

Get two pies

Speaker 1 (11:47):

With the works.

Speaker 4 (11:48):

Want Pepperoni to go? Huh?

Speaker 1 (11:49):

Hey, I need a plain slice. Not threw out on a paper plate. But here’s the thing. The first pizzerias may have opened up in New York in the early 19 hundred, but believe it or not, pizza just wasn’t that popular. It’s true. Instead, Americans were more excited about canned fruit. No. Nathan’s hot dogs.

Speaker 7 (12:07):


Speaker 1 (12:08):

Oreo cookies. What? And chilled Lee Soup. No, it wasn’t until the 1940s that pizza got super popular when soldiers coming home from the war started looking for that delicious street food they had discovered and fell in love with overseas in places like Spain, France, England, and Italy. From that point on, America’s love of pizza just grew and grew until it became one of kids and adults’. Favorite foods. Of course, pizza is great plain, but a lot of people like to add a little extra something on top. That’s right. I’m talking about toppings. Go ahead. Think of your favorite pizza toppings. Shout ’em out. Go ahead. I’m listening. Interesting. I heard sausage meatballs. Tuna fish. Really? Pineapple. Not a fan, but okay. Barbecued chicken. Olives, mushrooms. What’s that salad? Yu? Hey, if you’re putting salad on pizza, you’re definitely healthier than meat. Okay. So I heard a lot of great topping choices, but what do you think is the absolute most popular of all the pizza toppings? Hmm. Let’s see if I can help you put it together with a few clues. First clue, not salt, but did you say pepper? Great. Next clue besides pizza, another favorite lunch for kids is Maca blank and cheese. Um, maca Blank and Cheese. Hmm. Macaro, did you say roi? Great. Now put them together

Speaker 1 (13:41):

Pepperoni. Pepperoni is by far the most popular topping on pizza. And unlike the pizza which started as flatbread baked in Middle Eastern ovens, then reinvented by the Greeks and Romans, and perfected by the Italians, the idea of adding pepperoni to pizza is completely American.

Speaker 1 (14:05):

That’s right. Starting around 1950, Americans began enjoying the salty meatiness of pepperoni on top of their pizza, but they didn’t order it that way. The idea of a slice with pepperoni came much later. In the beginning, people would go to restaurants and order their pizza plain or with veggies. However, most restaurants also served cured meat platters, which were very popular at the time, and they included thinly sliced meats like salami, ham, and pepperoni. Americans love experimenting with their food, began putting pepperoni on top of their pizza, and the combination was a love at first bite. Whoa. Did you hear that? All this talk about pizza is making me hungry. Excuse me. Uh, one salad please. Owen, could you put a pepperoni pizza on top of it, please. To go. Thanks for listening to Who Smarted. Today’s episode Pizza was written by Adam Tex Davis and voiced by Brandon Bayless, Kim Davis and Adam Tex Davis, technical direction and sound design by Josh Hanh, who Smarted was recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studio theme song by Brian Suarez. Lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex Davis, who Smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex Davis and Jerry Colbert. New episodes of Who Smarted Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and free curriculum and activities available on us This has been an atomic entertainment production.