The History of Different Italian Dishes
Italian cuisine has an interesting history. It strings back thousands of years, goes through the Middle Ages, and even has a stop in World War II.
There’s a long history behind Italian cuisine pizza and its origins, especially pizza. How did this Italian dish become so popular in America? Well, let’s go back a bit…
Pizza’s precursor is the flatbread, which we still see commonly on various menus. Pizza evolved from flatbread when the combination of bread and cheese (and eventually tomatoes) became popular. In the 16th century, it wasn’t a part of Italian cuisine you would find in an upper-class household; it was sold in the street as a dish for the poor.
Pizza started gaining popularity in 1889, when Rafaelle Esposito made the now-famous dish in Italian Cuisine called that Pizza Margherita for the queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. (Side note: queen consort means that Margherita of Savoy was queen because she married a king—a queen-in-law in modern terms.) The pizza was made to resemble the Italian flag: red from tomatoes, white from mozzarella cheese, and green from basil.
Pizza didn’t actually become popular in the United State until after World War II when Allied troops in Italy—low on rations and struggling to find food in foreign countries—consumed the dish, a popular food in Italian cuisine. Before this, pizza was only popular with citizens of Italy and communities of immigrated Italians. When the Allied troops returned to their home countries, pizza became more than just a piece of Italian cuisine; it gained international renown.
Now, let’s move onto pasta. Although it’s been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries, its origin is muddled due to its long history. However, it is believed to have been a part of the diet in Asia thousands of years ago. For Italy, though, this ancient dish traces back to Sicily. It is believed to have been introduced by Arabs early in the Middle Ages, when they ruled over the island.
Italians actually aren’t responsible for introducing pasta to America. In fact, when the United States became a country, pasta had already made an international migration. When the English founded America, pasta came with them.
Today, tomato sauce (especially marinara) is a given in Italian cuisine, but that’s a relatively recent development. For a long time, people were suspicious of tomatoes because the tomato plant is a member of the nightshade species. Some nightshade plants produce deadly berries, and tomatoes are botanically a berry. Because of this, tomatoes sauces weren’t typically used until the late 1700s. From then, it took a little less than a hundred years to gain any popularity and join the foods in Italian cuisine. Before tomato sauce was widely used, Americans and Italians are pasta with cheeses and creams (hence, macaroni and cheese).
An Italian menu is the surface of a long, fascinating history. Now, you can discuss the history of the food you eat. And after reading how these foods became part of Italian cuisine, you’re probably craving pasta or pizza right now. So, take a look at our menu and stop by or order in. Regardless, you’re guaranteed a delicious meal.