Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles [MUSIC PLAYING] The first pizzeria in New York is also the first pizzeria in the United States. Lombardi's opened in 1905 just down the street at its original location when Italian immigrant Gennaro Lombardi decided to convert his grocery into a pizza shop. based on the popularity of one of his employees' handmade pies. Now it's a bit of a family problem. But one estimate for the number of pizza shops in the five boroughs is at around 2000, many of them serving and some of them focused on the slice, which incidentally you can't get at Lombardi's, only whole pies here. So we're going to have to go somewhere else. In New York City, this really is something of a staple. I mean, I have heard people describe the New York slice as nothing short of a way of life. Distilled down into this single piece of pizza is the stereotypical New York rush. I want to be served quickly and cheaply. I want to walk and eat and be satisfied and not late for my Idea Channel shoot. Today we're going to talk about many different kinds of pizza, both literal and figurative, back on the Idea Channel set with pizza, literal pizza, because if we're making an episode about it it's a business expense. There's evidence going as far back as ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt that, as Carol Helstosky says in "Pizza A Global History", people used, quote, "bread as a plate", which is pizza's essential characteristic besides its main toppings,cheese, tomato sauce, and as John Green says, possibly other. Bread as plate, Helstosky says, puts pizza in the same lineage as pita, lavash, and tortilla. But what we would point at and go, mmm, pizza, didn't come together until 18th century Naples, Italy. Considered low class food, Neapolitan pizza, which we may call flat bread or thin crust pizza now, was the first widely recognized marriage of bread, tomato, cheese, and possibly other put into an oven and baked, though the possibly other wouldn't become a craze until the mid 20th century. The tomatoes that are so often the base of a slice or a pie didn't make it to Italy from Central and South America until the mid 16th century. Let's just think about that briefly, a time in Italy without tomatoes. When they arrived, it was thanks to the Colombian Exchange. At first, most Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous being in the deadly nightshade family of plants. So they were sold as ornaments and decoration until some brave soul somewhere ate one. Mmm. Golden Apple. This puts pizza at a crossroads. Adventurousness and complex economic and cultural trade resulting from colonialism eventually produced a simple, satisfying food with humble origins. Since its start, pizza has depended upon globalization. Trade got the ingredients to Italy. Immigration brought it to America, whose cultural dominance brought it to the world. And at the end of that complex process, its kind of funny to think that we're likely to call something that looks like this fancy pizza. While Neapolitan pizza was rounding out on the Western coast, further south in Palermo, Sicily there was a different square shaped pie in the works. Sicilian pizza is based on focaccia, a thick bread that's often topped with salt, garlic, and herbs. So while it doesn't resemble the iconic pizza emoji, this is still pizza, which is important, because though there are first pizzarias, Lombardi's, L'antica Pizzeria, Port'alba in Naples, it's tough if not impossible to point to a platonic pizza ideal. There's no single original model that all pizza references. The economic climate and poverty stricken population combined with available materials at pizza's genesis to help feed whole families cheaply in a way that was satisfying and nutritional. More so than many other foods beyond its central ingredients, pizza is historically a culinary solution to a particular set of economic, cultural, and dietary conundrums which differ between the communities experiencing them. Pizza may have gone global. But it is, in some sense, always local. Related to the Sicilian slice but distinct is what is often called the grandma slice, which admits something great about pizza that I think we rarely confront explicitly. It involves family, maybe not literally, but gathering around people and sharing a meal with them. I think about this whenever I get a slice from the corner pizza shop. What strangers are eating a slice pulled from the same pie as mine? Who am I, in some distributed and emergent sense, sharing a meal with? Who are my pizza pals, my pie ties, my cheese chums? This is not to say that everything is rosy in the plaza del pizza. There are preferences, allegiances, and animosities, perhaps none more pronounced than that between Chicago and New York. At the heart of the geographically reinforced pie dispute is thickness. New York's pizza is thin like Neapolitan. And Chicago's is deep like Sicilian. Like most things pizza, it's hard to say who did it first. But Pizzeria Uno is confidently implicated somehow in serving the first Chicago style deep dish pizza in the 1940s. Chicago deep dish is often thicker than even Sicilian pizza but still round like a Neapolitan and more pie like with a thick, hard crust. Jon Stewart famously called it tomato soup in a bread bowl, which explains why we haven't removed a slice, because there would be an avalanche of tomatoes to clean up. And we still have a lot to shoot. Deep dish devotees, anyway, counter that it's more flavorful. You get more for your money. Or simply and inarguably, I just like it more. Back off. While the deep versus thin dispute may be notable, it is not pizza's sole conflict by any means. Rivalry is practically baked in to pizza consumption. For one thing, pizza is both customizable and meant to be shared. Everyone who's ever ordered one has argued about toppings. Anchovies over my dead body. Who likes mushrooms? Monsters. For the record, my personal favorite toppings are pineapple and jalapeno. That is not a joke. Then of course, there's the question of where you even get the pizza. Even within geographic allies, there's disagreement. Do you order from Giordano's or Lou Malnati's in Chicago or probably some other place that I've never heard of, because I don't live there. Where in New York is the best slice? Di Fara, Anna Maria, famous Ray's, not famous Ray's? And if it's not a pizza place, is it delivery, and if not delivery, DiGiorno? Even if you can agree on toppings, you still have to acknowledge that pizza is today and has been for a long time heavily branded and aggressively commercialized. This is always my favorite part of eating a DiGiorno pizza. Where preferences can be articulated, they will be commercialized. You want pizza bagels, bites, French bread pizza, pizza burgers, chips, pretzels, Combos, or gum? We gotcha. How about pizza on things, tattoos and nail art, sure. But what about pizza shirts, hats, hoodies, sunglasses, socks, shoes, shorts, or a pizza wrap for your car? We've gotcha. Come on, down to pizza town, where everything has pizza on it for some reason. Pizza may be an old world, rustic Italian food. But it's an American phenomenon. Up through the early 20th century, pizza didn't make it far outside of Italy except to the immigrant communities that brought it with them. But at the end of World War II, GIs stationed in Italy return home to the United States with a taste for pizza. And what's more, as Helstosky writes, during and after the war, pizza constituted a kind of edible goodwill ambassador, repairing fractured relationships between the United States and Italy. Suddenly there was a diplomatic and economic imperative to saving a service member's cheese lust. Pizza was sold as cheap, fun, family friendly, marketed as an easy dinner for the busy housewife. And biggened by the arguably superficial multiculturalism of the '60s and '70s, pizza went from ethnic food item to product, a process greatly aided by the freezer. Pizza, now frozen, inert, turns from an edible item to a sellable thing. In addition to the freezer, there was also one other piece of technology that helped pizzas rise to ubiquity. And that was the combustion engine. So there's a joke that's in all of the food history books and pizza websites that I read. And it goes something like this. Did you know that the first pizza delivery occurred in 1889? And so you're imagining like some pimply kid in a Domino wire wheel pulling up to an Italian villa. What actually happened was that King Umberto and Queen Margherita, after whom the Margherita pizza is named, had the first ever pizza delivery from Raffaele Esposito's Pizzeria di Pietro e Cosi, the man and pizzeria considered the birthplace of modern pizza. I couldn't find in any of the records, though, how much they tipped. But it wasn't until 1961 in the American Midwest at Dominic's, later Domino's, that pizza forged its interminable relationship with automobiles. Tom Monaghan bought the struggling Ypsilanti, Michigan pizzeria Dominic's in 1960 for $500 down. Monaghan sold his stake in the company in 1999 for $1 billion. Monaghan attributes much of his and the company's success to delivery. In a 2003 interview, Monaghan explained that pizzerias offered delivery until they were solvent after which they stopped. Where other pizzerias saw hassle, Monaghan saw dollar signs. And he was right but only to a degree. The Domino's story is a long and a super interesting one even if you don't like their pizza, longer than we have time to cover here. But I'll put some links in the doobly doo. Suffice it to say that the delivery racket kind of turned into a death race. As local shops and other chains added engines to their roster, Domino's got edged off the course. It was Domino's, though, that popularized the idea that pizza comes to you. Sure you can make it at home. But 99% of people don't. I own a pizza stone. And I still order pizza from the corner shop on Fridays because delivery pizza is, in some way, more real pizza. And all the pageantry around it, discussing, ordering, waiting, the arrival, opening the box, which was another hugely important technological development in the commercialization of pizza, all of that, is also pizza, which brings us just momentarily to leftover pizza, what remains on the countertop, in the fridge, in the box, on a plate, in a stack, covered in tin foil, or left to the elements on Saturday morning, delicious, delicious, left over breakfast pizza. Don't fool yourself. Though it was made by the same people as that delivery pizza, left over pizza is a different kind of pizza. It has undergone a transformation. Left over pizza is somehow more indulgent and maybe a little shameful but no less awesome and maybe even more awesome. Leftover pizza is also sometimes surprise pizza. Leftover pizza is an artifact that remains, commemorating DnD games or Netflix marathons, all nighters, hackathons, and various get togethers. Pizza is so delicious and so powerfully persuasive in its ability to convince you to just have one more slice because of the presence of naturally occurring glutamates in tomato and cheese. You've maybe heard glutamates referred to as umami. And that is what makes slices so neurophysiologically irresistible. But I might argue there's also a romance to pizza that makes it so enjoyable, leftover pizza doubly so. It's not only laden with that savory flavor magic but with memories of whatever pizza fueled shenanigans you got up to the night before and perhaps need a nice cold slice of pizza to help you recover from. Carol Helstosky writes, quote, "today, advertisements for Pizza Hut Poland promote Indian style pizza. Meanwhile, in India, Pizza Hut's website uses an Australian cartoon to promote their specialty pizzas. It would seem that the globalization of pizza has led to a greater localization of the food as consumers make pizza their own concoction. Yet, somehow pizza still retains its Italian identity and, to some extent, its American identity." End quote. In Costa Rica, you may find coconut and shrimp on pizza and in France, egg. German and Japanese pizza is often topped with seafood, tuna and octopus, specifically and respectively. This is what I mean when I say beyond its central ingredients, pizza is historically a culinary solution to a particular set of economic, cultural, and dietary conundrums. It may be fair to say that every culture has its pizza. But it's also increasingly fair to say that many cultures also just have pizza.