Pizza was invented in America NOT Italy, says Italian professor

Pizza as we know it was invented in America NOT Italy, declares Italian professor of food history

  • Professor Alberto Grandi said pizza was made in the USA by Italian immigrants
  • He said its prototype was a ‘poorly cooked’ focaccia bread eaten as a dessert

Pizza as we know it was invented not in Italy – but in America, according to an Italian professor of food history.

Professor Alberto Grandi, of Parma University, Italy, said it was the USA who the world has to thank for making pizza what it is today, as Italian immigrants took advantage of new-found ingredients to improve it.

While a form of it did come from Italy, it was nothing like the pizza we are familiar with today, according to Professor Grandi.

Rather than being a tomato and mozzarella cheese on a savoury dough base, it was instead ‘poorly cooked’ sweet focaccia bread without any toppings which was eaten as a dessert.

He said many Italian immigrants then returned to their home country, bringing the newly developed pizza with them.

Professor Alberto Grandi, of Parma University, Italy, said it was the USA who the world has to thank for making pizza what it is today

As part of the famous ‘Italian diaspora’, 13million Italians emigrated to America between 1880 and 1920. However, many then returned over the following years.

Professor Grandi said: ‘Migration allows Italians to get to know new ingredients. I’m just saying that pizza is delicious, but that the history is a bit different from the one often told.’

He also said Pellegrino Artusi’s book about food – written in 1891 – was ‘the first sort of Bible of Italian food’.

The book, La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), has sold millions of copies and is still revered in Italian cuisine today.

Professor Grandi said it became a ‘major reference for Italians in America’, helped them ‘preserve their language’, and made them ‘adopt a style of cooking that doesn’t really exist in Italy’ with new ingredients and methods.

He added: ‘And then they take the whole thing back to Italy. This is what happens with pizza.

‘In Artusi’s book, Neapolitan pizza is a dessert which is nothing like what we recognise as Neapolitan pizza. It’s a sweet focaccia, basically.

‘Neapolitan pizza was a very poor product and free of condiments, it was very basic and then also poorly cooked because the ovens are bad.

‘And yet, somehow it becomes this rich speciality with tomato sauce and all the other toppings. It becomes this in America then comes back.’

Professor Grandi said there is a ‘recognised theory’ called the ‘Pizza Effect’ which explains the phenomenon.

He said: ‘It explains how a product can be born in one place then is transformed as a result of migration and then returns to its place of origin completely transformed.

‘The most flagrant example is pasta in my opinion. Pasta had been famous in Naples since the 1600s.

‘The Neapolitans had been referred to as ‘mangiamaccheroni’ (macaroni eaters) ever since the 1600s, but the rest of Italy doesn’t know pasta.

‘A lot of Italians first ate pasta in the USA. They discovered it in America and then a lot of them come back.’

Professor Grandi said the same thing also happened when Indian migrants took samosas to America then came back to their homeland with samosas that looked and tasted ‘completely different’.

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