Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world. It is eaten in just about every country, and in many of them it's consumed by the score every year. It is considered one of the basic Italian dishes.
Is pizza Italian food?
Is pizza really Italian? It depends...
It is beyond reasonable doubt that pizza did spread to the world from Naples, Italy. There, someone had the idea to take a traditional flat bread and top it with a tomato sauce and cheese, the basic ingredients of pizza. There it was enjoyed by people of modest means, sailors (from which the word 'marinara' comes), and many others who sought a filling, inexpensive meal.
But the origins of many aspects reach much further back. The flat bread itself is probably the product of Greece. It was not a far journey for the sailors of that ancient land to cross the Mediterranean to southern Italy. Pizza traveled well on the voyage and they brought their recipes with them to their neighbor to the north.
Tomatoes were brought to Italy by 16h century Spanish explorers, returning from the New World. During that century this red fruit ('vegetable' is a culinary term, not a scientific one) was looked on with amazement, but not thought of as edible. Eventually, some unknown clever chef had the idea of mashing and cooking it.
The first known pizzeria, still in operation today, opened its doors in 1830 in Naples. Before long, visitors ran the gamut of poor sailors and royalty. At the time, it was common for young male aristocrats to enter the Navy as officers. That brought them into contact with the 'marinara'.
During the 19th century, pizza spread with the large immigration of Italians to America, England, and elsewhere. Naturally, the innovation literally and figuratively piled on to this dish took off rapidly. As far back as 1870 it was common to add oregano, basil, olives, and other toppings to the new country's favorite Italian food.
Near the end of the 19th century the Italians themselves kept changing the dish. In Bologna, the city in the north from which we get the name for that meat, they added their namesake topping. It soon became a favorite of the Queen.
But crown or commoner, pizza remains a favorite around the globe. Neapolitan piza is just one sample of why.