Pizza (/ˈptsə/ PEET-sə, Italian: [ˈpittsa]; Neapolitan: [ˈpittsə]) is a traditional Italian dish typically consisting of a flat base of leavened wheat-based dough topped with tomato, cheese, and other ingredients, baked at a high temperature, traditionally in a wood-fired oven.[1]

A pizza divided into eight slices
CourseOne course meal
Place of originItaly
Region or stateNaples, Campania
Serving temperatureHot or warm
Main ingredientsDough, sauce (usually tomato sauce), cheese (typically mozzarella, dairy or vegan)
VariationsCalzone, panzerotto

The term pizza was first recorded in the year 997 AD, in a Latin manuscript from the southern Italian town of Gaeta, in Lazio, on the border with Campania.[2] Raffaele Esposito is often credited for creating modern pizza in Naples.[3][4][5][6] In 2009, Neapolitan pizza was registered with the European Union as a traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) dish. In 2017, the art of making Neapolitan pizza was added to UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage.[7]

Pizza and its variants are among the most popular foods in the world. Pizza is sold at a variety of restaurants, including pizzerias (pizza specialty restaurants), Mediterranean restaurants, via delivery, and as street food.[8] In Italy, pizza served in a restaurant is presented unsliced, and is eaten with the use of a knife and fork.[9][10] In casual settings, however, it is typically cut into slices to be eaten while held in the hand. Pizza is also sold in grocery stores in a variety of forms, including frozen or as kits for self-assembly. They are then cooked using a home oven.

In 2017, the world pizza market was US$128 billion, and in the US it was $44 billion spread over 76,000 pizzerias.[11] Overall, 13% of the U.S. population aged two years and over consumed pizza on any given day.[12]


The oldest recorded usage of the word pizza is from a Latin text from the town of Gaeta, then still part of the Byzantine Empire, in 997 AD; the text states that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta duodecim pizze (lit.'twelve pizzas') every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday.[2][13]

Suggested etymologies include:

  • Byzantine Greek and Late Latin pitta > pizza, cf. Modern Greek pitta bread and the Apulia and Calabrian (then Byzantine Italy) pitta,[14] a round flat bread baked in the oven at high temperature sometimes with toppings. The word pitta can in turn be traced to either Ancient Greek πικτή (pikte), 'fermented pastry', which in Latin became picta, or Ancient Greek πίσσα (pissa, Attic: πίττα, pitta), 'pitch',[15][16] or πήτεα (pḗtea), 'bran' (πητίτης, pētítēs, 'bran bread').[17]
  • The Etymological Dictionary of the Italian Language explains it as coming from dialectal pinza, 'clamp', as in modern Italian pinze, 'pliers, pincers, tongs, forceps'. Their origin is from Latin pinsere, 'to pound, stamp'.[18]
  • The Lombardic word bizzo or pizzo meaning 'mouthful' (related to the English words "bit" and "bite"), which was brought to Italy in the middle of the 6th century AD by the invading Lombards.[2][19] The shift b>p could be explained by the High German consonant shift, and it has been noted in this connection that in German the word Imbiss means 'snack'.

A small pizza is sometimes called pizzetta.[20] A person who makes pizza is known as a pizzaiolo.[21]

The word pizza was borrowed from Italian into English in the 1930s; before it became well known, pizza was called "tomato pie" by English speakers. Some regional pizza variations still use the name tomato pie.[22]


A pizzaiolo in 1830

Records of pizza-like foods can be found throughout ancient history. In the 6th century BC, the Persian soldiers of the Achaemenid Empire during the rule of Darius the Great baked flatbreads with cheese and dates on top of their battle shields[23][24] and the ancient Greeks supplemented their bread with oils, herbs, and cheese.[25][26] An early reference to a pizza-like food occurs in the Aeneid, when Celaeno, queen of the Harpies, foretells that the Trojans would not find peace until they are forced by hunger to eat their tables (Book III). In Book VII, Aeneas and his men are served a meal that includes round cakes (such as pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. When they eat the bread, they realize that these are the "tables" prophesied by Celaeno.[27] In 2023, archeologists discovered a fresco in Pompeii appearing to depict a pizza-like dish among other foodstuffs and staples on a silver platter. Italy's culture minister said it "may be a distant ancestor of the modern dish".[28][29] The first mention of the word pizza comes from a notarial document written in Latin and dating to May 997 AD from Gaeta, demanding a payment of "twelve pizzas, a pork shoulder, and a pork kidney on Christmas Day, and 12 pizzas and a couple of chickens on Easter Day".[30]

Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century.[31] Before that time, flatbread was often topped with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lard, and cheese. It is uncertain when tomatoes were first added and there are many conflicting claims,[31] though it certainly could not have been before the 16th century and the Columbian Exchange. Pizza was sold from open-air stands and out of pizza bakeries until about 1830, when pizzerias in Naples started to have stanze with tables where clients could sit and eat their pizzas on the spot.[32]

A popular contemporary legend holds that the archetypal pizza, pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pizza swathed in the colors of the Italian flag—red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen,[33] with an official letter of recognition from the Queen's "head of service" remaining to this day on display in Esposito's shop, now[when?] called the Pizzeria Brandi.[34] Later research cast doubt on this legend, undermining the authenticity of the letter of recognition, pointing that no media of the period reported about the supposed visit and that both the story and name Margherita were first promoted in the 1930s–1940s.[35][36]

Pizza was taken to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century[37] and first appeared in areas where they concentrated. The country's first pizzeria, Lombardi's, opened in New York City in 1905.[38] Following World War II, veterans returning from the Italian Campaign, who were introduced to Italy's native cuisine, proved a ready market for pizza in particular.[39]

The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (lit.'True Neapolitan Pizza Association') is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 with headquarters in Naples that aims to promote traditional Neapolitan pizza.[40] In 2009, upon Italy's request, Neapolitan pizza was registered with the European Union as a traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) dish,[41][42] and in 2017 the art of its making was included on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage.[7]


Pizza is sold fresh or frozen, and whole or in portion-size slices. Methods have been developed to overcome challenges such as preventing the sauce from combining with the dough, and producing a crust that can be frozen and reheated without becoming rigid. There are frozen pizzas with raw ingredients and self-rising crusts.

Another form of pizza is available from take and bake pizzerias. This pizza is assembled in the store, then sold unbaked to customers to bake in their own ovens. Some grocery stores sell fresh dough along with sauce and basic ingredients, to assemble at home before baking in an oven.


In restaurants, pizza can be baked in an oven with fire bricks above the heat source, an electric deck oven, a conveyor belt oven, or, in traditional style in a wood or coal-fired brick oven. The pizza is slid into the oven on a long paddle, called a peel, and baked directly on hot bricks, a screen (a round metal grate, typically aluminum), or whatever the oven surface is. Before use, a peel is typically sprinkled with cornmeal to allow the pizza to easily slide on and off it.[43] When made at home, a pizza can be baked on a pizza stone in a regular oven to reproduce some of the heating effect of a brick oven. Cooking directly on a metal surface results in too rapid heat transfer to the crust, burning it.[44] Some home chefs use a wood-fired pizza oven, usually installed outdoors. As in restaurants, these are often dome-shaped, as pizza ovens have been for centuries,[45] in order to achieve even heat distribution. Another variation is grilled pizza, in which the pizza is baked directly on a barbecue grill. Some types, such as Greek pizza, deep dish Chicago-style pizza and Sicilian pizza, are baked in a pan rather than directly on the bricks of the pizza oven.

Most restaurants use standard and purpose-built pizza preparation tables to assemble their pizzas. Mass production of pizza by chains can be completely automated.


Caramelized crust—its cornicione (the outer edge)—of slices of New York–style pizza

The bottom of the pizza, called the "crust", may vary widely according to style—thin as in a typical hand-tossed Neapolitan pizza or thick as in a deep-dish Chicago-style. It is traditionally plain, but may also be seasoned with garlic or herbs, or stuffed with cheese. The outer edge of the pizza is sometimes referred to as the cornicione.[46] Some pizza dough contains sugar, to help its yeast rise and enhance browning of the crust.[47]

Dipping sauce specifically for pizza was invented by American pizza chain Papa John's Pizza in 1984 and has since been adopted by some when eating pizza, especially the crust.[48]


Mozzarella cheese is commonly used on pizza, with the buffalo mozzarella produced in the surroundings of Naples.[49] Other cheeses are also used, particularly Italian cheeses including provolone, pecorino romano, ricotta, and scamorza. Less expensive processed cheeses or cheese analogues have been developed for mass-market pizzas to produce desirable qualities such as browning, melting, stretchiness, consistent fat and moisture content, and stable shelf life. This quest to create the ideal and economical pizza cheese has involved many studies and experiments analyzing the impact of vegetable oil, manufacturing and culture processes, denatured whey proteins, and other changes in manufacture. In 1997, it was estimated that annual production of pizza cheese was 1 million metric tons (1,100,000 short tons) in the U.S. and 100,000 metric tons (110,000 short tons) in Europe.[50]

Varieties and styles

A great number of pizza varieties exist, defined by the choice of toppings and sometimes also crust. There are also several styles of pizza, defined by their preparation method. The following lists feature only the notable ones.


Pizza varieties
Image Name Characteristic ingredients Origin First attested Notes
  Pizza Margherita Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. Naples, Italy June 1889 The archetypical Neapolitan pizza.
  Pizza marinara Tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano, garlic. No cheese. Naples, Italy 1734 One of the oldest Neapolitan pizza.
  Pizza capricciosa Ham, mushrooms, artichokes, egg. Rome, Lazio, Italy 1937 Similar to pizza quattro stagioni, but with toppings mixed rather than separated.
  Pizza quattro formaggi Prepared using four kinds of cheese (Italian: [ˈkwattro forˈmaddʒi], "four cheeses"): mozzarella, Gorgonzola and two others depending on the region. Lazio, Italy Its origins are not clearly documented, but it is believed to originate from the Lazio region at the beginning of the 18th century.[51]
  Pizza quattro stagioni Artichokes, mushroom, ham, tomatoes. Campania, Italy The toppings are separated by quarter, representing the cycle of the seasons.
  Pizza pugliese Tomatoes, onion, mozzarella. Apulia, Italy
  Seafood pizza Seafood, such as fish, shellfish or squid. Italy Subvarieties include pizza ai frutti di mare (no cheese) and pizza pescatore (with mussels or squid).
  White pizza (pizza bianca) No tomatoes. Italy[52] The Roman variant does not use cheese and has minimal toppings, while the US variant typically consists of a cheese topping.[53]


Pizza styles
Image Name Characteristics Origin First attested
  Calzone Pizza folded in half turnover-style. Naples, Italy 1700s
  Deep-fried pizza (pizza fritta) The pizza is deep-fried (cooked in oil) instead of baked. Italy
  Pizzetta Small pizza served as an hors d'oeuvre or snack. Italy
  California-style pizza Distinguished by the use of non-traditional ingredients, especially varieties of fresh produce. California, U.S. 1980
  Chicago-style pizza Baked in a pan with a high edge that holds in a thick layer of toppings. The crust is sometimes stuffed with cheese or other ingredients. Chicago, U.S. c. 1940s
  Colorado-style pizza Made with a characteristically thick, braided crust topped with heavy amounts of sauce and cheese. It is traditionally served by the pound, with a side of honey as a condiment. Colorado, U.S. 1973
  Detroit-style pizza The cheese is spread to the edges and caramelizes against the high-sided heavyweight rectangular pan, giving the crust a lacy, crispy edge. Detroit, U.S. 1946
  Grandma pizza Thin, square, baked in a sheet pan, "reminiscent of pizzas cooked at home by Italian housewives without a pizza oven".[54] Long Island, U.S. Early 1900s
  Greek pizza Proofed and baked in a shallow pan; the crust is light and similar to focaccia. Connecticut, U.S. 1955
  Italian tomato pie Made from thick dough covered by tomato paste; a variation on Sicilian pizza. Also called pizza strips (when cut as in the image), gravy pie, church pie, red bread, party pizza, etc. U.S. Early 1900s
  Jumbo slice Very large slice of pizza sold as street food. New York and Washington, D.C., U.S. 1981
  New York–style pizza Neapolitan-derived pizza with a characteristic thin foldable crust. New York metropolitan area (and beyond) Early 1900s
  St. Louis–style pizza The style has a thin cracker-like crust made without yeast, generally uses Provel cheese, and is cut into squares or rectangles instead of wedges. St. Louis, U.S. 1945

By region of origin


Pizza Margherita

Authentic Neapolitan pizza (Italian: pizza napoletana) is made with San Marzano tomatoes, grown on the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius, and either mozzarella di bufala campana, made with milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio[55] or fior di latte. Buffalo mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin (PDO).[55] Other traditional pizzas include pizza marinara, which is topped with marinara sauce and is supposedly the most ancient tomato-topped pizza,[56] pizza capricciosa, which is prepared with mozzarella cheese, baked ham, mushroom, artichoke, and tomato,[57] and pizza pugliese, prepared with tomato, mozzarella, and onions.[58]

A popular variant of pizza in Italy is Sicilian pizza (locally called sfincione or sfinciuni),[59][60] a thick-crust or deep-dish pizza originating during the 17th century in Sicily: it is essentially a focaccia that is typically topped with tomato sauce and other ingredients. Until the 1860s, sfincione was the type of pizza usually consumed in Sicily, especially in the Western portion of the island.[61] Other variations of pizzas are also found in other regions of Italy, for example pizza al padellino or pizza al tegamino, a small-sized, thick-crust, deep-dish pizza typically served in Turin, Piedmont.[62][63][64]

United States

Pizza banquet in the White House serving Chicago-style pizza (2009)

The first pizzeria in the U.S. was opened in New York City's Little Italy in 1905.[65] Common toppings for pizza in the United States include anchovies, ground beef, chicken, ham, mushrooms, olives, onions, peppers, pepperoni, salami, sausage, spinach, steak, and tomatoes. Distinct regional types developed in the 20th century, including Buffalo,[66] California, Chicago, Detroit, Greek, New Haven, New York, and St. Louis styles.[67] These regional variations include deep-dish, stuffed, pockets, turnovers, rolled, and pizza-on-a-stick, each with seemingly limitless combinations of sauce and toppings.

Thirteen percent of the United States population consumes pizza on any given day.[68] Pizza chains such as Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's, pizzas from take and bake pizzerias, and chilled or frozen pizzas from supermarkets make pizza readily available nationwide.


Traditional Argentine-style pizzas de molde being prepared at a pizzeria in Buenos Aires

Argentine pizza is a mainstay of the country's cuisine,[69] especially of its capital Buenos Aires, where it is regarded as a cultural heritage and icon of the city.[70][71][72] Argentina is the country with the most pizzerias per inhabitant in the world and, although they are consumed throughout the country, the highest concentration of pizzerias and customers is Buenos Aires, the city with the highest consumption of pizzas in the world (estimated in 2015 to be 14 million per year).[73] As such, the city has been considered as one of the world capitals of pizza.[71][73] The dish was introduced to Buenos Aires in the late 19th century with the massive Italian immigration, as part of a broader great European immigration wave to the country.[71] Thus, around the same time that the iconic pizza Margherita was being invented in Italy, pizza were already being cooked in the Argentine capital.[74] The impoverished Italian immigrants that arrived to the city transformed the originally modest dish into a much more hefty meal, motivated by the abundance of food in Argentina.[73][75] In the 1930s, pizza was cemented as a cultural icon in Buenos Aires, with the new pizzerias becoming a central space for sociability for the working class people who flocked to the city.[75][74]

Fugazzeta is one of the typical pizza styles of Buenos Aires.

The most characteristic style of Argentine pizza—which almost all the classic pizzerias in Buenos Aires specialize in—is the so-called pizza de molde (Spanish for 'pizza in the pan'), characterized by having a "thick, spongy base and elevated bready crust".[71] This style, which today[when?] is identified as the typical style of Argentine pizza—characterized by a thick crust and a large amount of cheese—arose when impoverished Italian immigrants found a greater abundance of food in then-prosperous Argentina, which motivated them to transform the originally modest dish into a much more hefty meal suitable for a main course.[73][75] The name pizza de molde emerged because there were no pizza ovens in the city, so bakers resorted to baking them in pans.[76] Since they used bakery plates, Argentine pizzas were initially square or rectangular, a format associated with the 1920s that is still maintained in some classic pizzerias, especially for vegetable pizzas, fugazzetas or fugazzas.[76]

Other styles of Argentine pizza include the iconic fugazza and its derivative fugazzeta or fugazza con queso (a terminology that varies depending on the pizzeria),[71] or the pizza de cancha or canchera (a cheese-less variant).[77] Most pizza menus include standard flavor combinations, including the traditional plain mozzarella, nicknamed "muza" or "musa"; the napolitana or "napo", with "cheese, sliced tomatoes, garlic, dried oregano and a few green olives", not to be confused with Neapolitan pizza;[71] calabresa, with slices of longaniza;[78] jamon y morrones, with sliced ham and roasted bell peppers;[71] as well as versions with provolone, with anchovies,[78] with hearts of palm, or with chopped hard boiled egg.[71] A typical custom that is unique to Buenos Aires is to accompany pizza with fainá, a pancake made from chickpea flour.[79]

Dessert pizza

The terms dessert pizza and sweet pizza are used for a variety of dishes resembling a pizza, including chocolate pizza and fruit pizza.[80][81] Some are based on a traditional yeast dough pizza base,[82] while others have a cookie-like base[83] and resemble a traditional pizza solely in having a flat round shape with a distinct base and topping. Some pizza restaurants offer dessert pizzas: as of May 2024 PizzaExpress offers a "White Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pizza Dolce",[84] and Franco Pepe at his Pepe In Grani offers desserts including "Gelsomina: Fried pizza slice with custard, mulberry syrup, butter, violet crystals, citrus zest and icing sugar".[85]


Some pizzas mass-produced by pizza chains have been criticized as having an unhealthy balance of ingredients. Pizza can be high in salt and fat, and is high in calories. The USDA reports an average sodium content of 5,100 mg per 14 in (36 cm) pizza in fast food chains.[86][87][88]

Similar dishes

Focaccia al rosmarino
  • Calzone and stromboli are similar dishes that are often made of pizza dough folded (calzone) or rolled (stromboli) around a filling.
  • Coca is a similar dish consumed mainly in Catalonia and neighboring regions, but that has extended to other areas in Spain, and to Algeria. There are sweet and savory versions.
  • Farinata or cecina.[89] A Ligurian (farinata) and Tuscan (cecina) regional dish made from chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil. Also called socca in the Provence region of France. Often baked in a brick oven, and typically weighed and sold by the slice.
  • Flammekueche, food speciality of the Alsace region
  • Focaccia is a flat leavened oven-baked Italian bread, similar in style and texture to pizza; in some places, it is called pizza bianca (lit.'white pizza').[90]
  • Garlic fingers is an Atlantic Canadian dish, similar to a pizza in shape and size, and made with similar dough. It is garnished with melted butter, garlic, cheese, and sometimes bacon.
  • Khachapuri, Georgian cheese-filled bread
  • Lahmacun, Middle Eastern flatbread topped with minced meat; the base is very thin, and the layer of meat often includes chopped vegetables.[91]
  • Manakish, Levantine flatbread dish
  • Matzah pizza, Jewish pizza dish
  • Panzerotti are similar to calzoni, but fried rather than baked.
  • Pastrmalija is a bread pie made from dough and meat. It is usually oval-shaped with chopped meat on top of it.
  • Piadina is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Romagna historical region.
  • Pissaladière is similar to an Italian pizza, with a slightly thicker crust and a topping of cooked onions, anchovies, and olives.
  • Pizza bagel is a bagel with toppings similar to that of traditional pizzas.
  • Okonomiyaki, a Japanese dish cooked on a hotplate, is often referred to as "Japanese pizza".[92]
  • Pizza cake, multiple-layer pizza
  • Pizza snack rolls are a trade-marked commercial product.
  • Pizza strips, a tomato pie of Italian-American origin
  • Wähe, Swiss type of tart
  • Zanzibar pizza is a street food served in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. It uses a dough much thinner than pizza dough, almost like filo dough, filled with minced beef, onions, and an egg, similar to Moroccan basṭīla.[93]
  • Zwiebelkuchen, a German onion tart, often baked with diced bacon and caraway seeds

See also

  Media related to Pizzas at Wikimedia Commons


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Further reading