The Evolution of Pizza in the United States: A Slice of History

There is no question that Americans have a love affair with pizza. The story of American pizza begins with Italian immigrants arriving at the turn of the 20th century. They brought with them their traditional recipes, including pizza, which in Italy was a simple, affordable food made with ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, and basil.

The first documented pizzeria in America was Lombardi’s in New York City, opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi. This small grocery store-turned-pizzeria started selling slices of pizza to workers for lunch and was immensely popular. Lombardi is credited with developing New York-Style pizza with a thin and crisp crust.


The Post-War Boom and Regional Diversification

After World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States skyrocketed. Soldiers returning from Italy had developed a taste for pizza while they were away, and the economic boom allowed for more dining out and experimentation with food. During this time, pizza began to Americanize, with different regions developing their own takes on the classic. The deep-dish pizza was born in Chicago — a hearty, pie-like variation with a thick crust and layers of cheese and sauce. In latter years, on the West Coast, California-style pizza emerged, characterized by its gourmet, non-traditional toppings like goat cheese, artichokes, and smoked salmon.

When Prohibition was enacted, Al Capone even made his way into the dairy industry in several Wisconsin farms. Fresh mozzarella was commonly used for pizza, but Capone pitched his Wisconsin-made cheese as a better-melting alternative. Low-moisture mozzarella became the norm in NYC pizza shops and is still the preferred cheese for slice pizza — the most iconic style of pizza in New Jersey and New York. Fuhgeddaboudit.    

Creativity as the Main Ingredient

In more recent years, with the rise of the fast-food industry, pizza has been at the forefront. Chains spread across the country, and with delivery, pizza has become more accessible than ever. Pizza lovers can satisfy their cravings in restaurants, resorts, and C-stores with unlimited variations on the traditional pizza recipe. Here are few of the newer creative options:

Altoona Pizza: Originally made at the Altoona Hotel before it burnt down in 2013, this is usually square-cut, sheet pan baked, with a thick Sicilian style crust. Originally topped with Velveeta over deli salami and green peppers, the salami and pepper are usually placed under American cheese now.

Quad-City Pizza: This pizza is made in Davenport and Bettendorf Iowa, Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline Illinois. It is made with malt and hand-stretched to a thin crust, and the tomato sauce is spicy thanks to chili flakes and ground cayenne. It is topped with Fennel sausage and then cut into strips as opposed to slices or squares.

Colorado Pizza: Looking for a sweet pizza? These 8-inch round pizzas have a braided crust with added honey in the dough. It is made with a generous amount of whole milk mozzarella, and the braided crust ensures that your toppings don’t fall off. Colorado style is similar to Chicago deep dish but sweeter with a cooking time that is shorter. This pizza is sold by the pound and is accompanied by more honey!

Innovation and the Future of Pizza

A perfect example of innovation and automation in pizza-making is L2F’s PizzaBot. The PizzaBot accurately dispenses your most expensive and labor-intensive toppings to maintain recipe consistency, reduce waste, and free up your employees to keep operations moving forward.

Marsal ovens

Marsal Pizza Ovens feature an exclusive, left-to-right burner design and a two-inch thick brick cooking surface to create the most even bake and dependable product for any pizza maker. With a special innovative air chamber below the cooking surface to eliminate hot spots, there is no downtime and no need to rotate pies.

Beech Ovens’ Stone Hearth Oven Range from Middleby is popular for its design features and unique accessories. Beech Ovens was the first company in the world to offer windows, spotlights, and char grills in stone hearth ovens, and are still the only company to design any shape oven — square, round, corner, diamond, or even horseshoe!

Beech ovens

The future of pizza in the United States looks as varied and exciting as its past. Join us for our 4th Annual Pizza Forum on March 28th at the Pecinka Ferri Culinary Center, where we plan to talk about automated equipment for all pizza processes, laying out a modern pizza kitchen/production facility, and more in our culinary and equipment workshops from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Enjoy networking and our open Cafe Bar from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.

We can’t wait to share a slice with you! Register now.