The history of pizza begins in antiquity, as various ancient cultures produced basic flatbreads with several toppings.
A precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flatbread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were then added. Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century.
The word pizza was first documented in 997 AD in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy. Pizza was mainly eaten in Italy and by emigrants from there. This changed after World War II when Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods.
In Sardinia, French and Italian archaeologists have found bread baked over 7,000 years ago. According to Philippe Marinval, the local islanders leavened this bread. Foods similar to pizza have been made since antiquity. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavorful can be found throughout ancient history.
In the 6th century BC, Persian soldiers serving under Darius the Great baked flatbreads with cheese and dates on top of their battle shields.
In Ancient Greece, citizens made a flatbread called plakous (πλακοῦς, gen. πλακοῦντος – plakountos) which was flavored with toppings like herbs, onion, cheese and garlic.
An early reference to a pizza-like food occurs in the Aeneid (c. 19 BC), when Celaeno, the Harpy queen, foretells that the Trojans would not find peace until they were forced by hunger to eat their tables (Book III). In Book VII, Aeneas and his men are served a meal that includes round cakes (like pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. When they eat the bread, they realize that these are the "tables" prophesied by Celaeno.
Some commentators have suggested that the origins of modern pizza can be traced to pizzarelle, which were kosher for Passover cookies eaten by Roman Jews after returning from the synagogue on that holiday, though some also trace its origins to other Italian paschal bread. Other examples of flatbreads that survive to this day from the ancient Mediterranean world are focaccia (which may date back as far as the ancient Etruscans); Manakish in the Levant, coca (which has sweet and savory varieties) from Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands; the Greek Pita; Lepinja in the Balkans; or Piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagna in Italy.
The innovation that led to flatbread pizza was the use of tomato as a topping. For some time after the tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, it was believed by many Europeans to be poisonous, as are some other fruits of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. By the late 18th century, it was common for the poor of the area around Naples to add tomato to their yeast-based flatbread, thus the pizza began.According to documents discovered by historian Antonio Mattozzi in the State Archive of Naples, in 1807, 54 pizzerias existed; listed were owners and addresses. In the second half of the nineteenth century the number of pizzerias increased to 120.
In Naples, two other figures connected to the trade existed – the pizza hawker (pizzaiuolo ambulante), who sold pizza but did not make it, and the seller of pizza "a oggi a otto", who made pizzas and sold them in return for a payment for seven days.
The pizza marinara method has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It is named "marinara" because it was traditionally prepared by the seaman's wife 'la marinara" for her seafaring husband upon returning from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.
The margherita is topped with modest amounts of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil. It is widely attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked at the restaurant "Pietro... e basta così" ("Pietro... and that's enough"), established in 1880 and remaining in business as "Pizzeria Brandi". Though recent research casts doubt on this legend, the tale holds that, in 1889, he baked three different pizzas for the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen's favorite was a pizza evoking the colors of the Italian flag – green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). According to the tale, this combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor. Although those were the most preferred, there are many variations of pizzas today.
"Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana" ("True Neapolitan Pizza Association"), which was founded in 1984, has set the very specific rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. These include that the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven; the base must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means (i pizzaioli – the pizza makers – make the pizza by rolling it with their fingers) and that the pizza must not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter or be more than one-third of a centimetre thick at the centre. The association also selects pizzerias globally to produce and spread the verace pizza napoletana philosophy and method.
first pizzeria opened in 1948, Pizzeria Napoletana in Montreal. The first pizza ovens started entering the country in the late 1950s; it gained popularity throughout the 1960s, with many pizzerias and restaurants opening across the country. Pizza was mostly served in restaurants and small pizzerias. Most pizza restaurants across Canada also serve popular Italian cuisine in addition to pizza, such as pasta, salad, soups and sandwiches. Fast-food pizza chains also provide other side options for customers to choose from, in addition to ordering pizza, including chicken wings, fries and poutine, salad, and calzones. Pizza Pops are a Canadian calzone-type snack introduced in the 1960s. Pizza chains across Canada can be found in shopping centres, schools, and neighbourhood plazas, with the majority of these chains offering a sit-and-dine facility for customers.
The most distinct pizza in Canada is the "Canadian" pizza. A "Canadian" pizza is usually prepared with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, and bacon. Many variations of this pizza exist, but the two standout ingredients that make this pizza distinctly Canadian are bacon and mushrooms. Pizzas in Canada are almost never served with "Canadian bacon", or "back bacon", as it is referred to in Canada. Rather, side bacon is the standard pork topping on pizza.
In the province of Quebec Pizza-ghetti is a combination meal commonly found in fast food or family restaurants. It consists of a pizza, sliced in half, accompanied by a small portion of spaghetti with a tomato-based sauce. Although both pizza and spaghetti are considered staples of Italian cuisine, combining them in one dish is completely unknown in Italy. A popular variant involves using spaghetti as a pizza topping under the pizza's mozzarella cheese.