PUBLISHED: 3:04 PM on Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Celebrating 100 years of making mouths water

Courtesy Photo
Pizza. Nothing makes most people smile or gets their mouth watering like that word.

It's cold outside, order a pizza. It's almost half-time of the football game. You better order that pizza. Nothing makes friends and family come together like a good pizza.

This year, pizza is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in the United States.

So let's take a look at its history what makes this diverse food so great.

No one is exactly sure of the true origins of the pizza. There are theories that it came out of the Middle East, or that it was introduced by the Greeks, Egyptians or of course, the Romans. But their pizza was a little different than what we think of today.

The pizza of earlier civilizations was flat bread covered only with olive oil and spices.

Everyone seems to agree that Raffaele Esposito in Naples, Italy, in 1889, invented what we now know as pizza.

He created his version to celebrate a visit from King Umberto I and Queen Margherita to Naples. His pie was topped with basil, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. The green of the basil, the white of the mozzarella and the red of the tomatoes symbolized the Italian flag, and he named the pizza Margherita, after the queen.

Italian immigrants brought this new pizza recipe with them to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In 1905, in New York City, Gennaro Lombardi, a grocery store owner, opened the first pizzeria in America.

Pizza didn't really leave the Italian neighborhoods of the country until after World War II.

As American veterans came back from the war, they began looking for the food they had eaten in Italy. From there, word of mouth spread, and the pizza has been a popular food in America and around the world ever since.

The dish has become so popular in the United States that it even has its own listing in the yellow pages of most phone books.

So what makes it so great? Why does the mere mention of the word get most small children cheering?

"The blend of dough, sauce and cheese, it's a good mixture and creates a good flavor," said Rick Dolney, manager of a Papa John's pizza. "It doesn't get boring. You can mix it up and put a ton of different stuff on it and always give it a new flavor. Anything you can keep original like that, it's going to have staying power."

The diversity of pizzas is so great almost anyone can find something about them to like.

The traditional Italian pizza is a thin, crispy crust with mozzarella, tomato sauce and spices. But really, almost anything goes as a topping.

Different cheeses, fruits and vegetables, any kind of meat and so on.

You can create a breakfast pizza with eggs and potatoes or make what is called a Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple. There are seafood, Mexican, barbecue and even dessert pizzas.

Ike Sewell, in Chicago, created the first real American pizza in the early 1940s. This "Chicago-style" pizza has a much thicker crust than what is considered traditional, and it is loaded with toppings.

"It's such a tradition," said Jared Brooks, manager at a Papa Murphy's pizza. "A lot of Italian food stays around. It's just got the tradition of being a pretty fast, easy, good meal that everybody likes."

In 1958, Frank and Dean Carney, from Wichita, Kan., started Pizza Hut with the idea of offering quick service and taking the dish to cities and towns all over the world.

Innovations have made ordering a pizza something you don't usually have to wait hours to get. Delivery gave people a chance to stay at home and have their food come to them.

According to, Americans eat an average of 46 slices or 23 pounds of pizza each year.

One hundred years is a long time for anything to remain in the public consciousness and the pizza seems only to become more popular year after year.

So what should you do to celebrate this centennial anniversary? Hey, order a pizza!