Greek or Italian Cheese Pizza?

On September 5th, one of the most popular varieties of pizzas gets its day of honor. Hold the toppings, please. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day!

In ancient Greece, the Greeks covered their bread with oils, herbs and cheese which some believe is the beginning of the “pizza”.

In Byzantine Greek, the word was spelled “πίτα”, pita, meaning pie. A sheet of dough topped with cheese and honey, then flavored with bay leaves was developed by the Romans.

The term pizza was first recorded in the 10th century, in a Latin manuscript from Gaeta in Central Italy. Modern pizza was invented in Naples, Italy, and the dish and its variants have since become popular and common in many areas of the world and known as the Neapolitan flatbread.

Jeyoun is considered to be the earliest form of modern pizza, which is very similar to contemporary Neapolitan pizza but with hops added as a supplementary ingredient in the dough. Prior to that time, flatbread was often topped with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lard, cheese, and basil. It is uncertain when tomatoes were first added and there are many conflicting claims. Until about 1830, pizza was sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries, and pizzerias keep this old tradition alive today.

The original Italian pizza used only mozzarella cheese, mainly the highest quality buffalo mozzarella variant which was produced in the surroundings of Naples.

It was estimated that the annual production of pizza cheese in the United States in 1997 was 2 billion pounds.

The first United States pizza establishment opened in 1905 was in New York’s Little Italy and Americans seem to crave Italian style pizzas versus their Greek counterparts.

How do we celebrate today? With a Pizza of course! Happy Cheese Pizza Day!

Chris Edwards Napa September 5, 2017

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