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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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pizza a simple Italian dish associated especially but not exclusively with Naples, has become almost ubiquitous. After it had been taken to America by Italian emigrants it developed into an international food, and pizzerias have sprung up all over the world.

The name has a common origin with, and an obvious connection with, pitta. A pizza consists mainly of a flat disc of bread. This is normally the base for various toppings, and it is safe to assume that since early classical times people in the general region of the Mediterranean were at least sometimes putting a topping on their flat breads (see focaccia). Burton Anderson (1994), pointing to these precursors of pizza, goes on to say that the word pizza itself ‘was used as early as the year 997 AD at Gaeta, a port between Naples and Rome’. He continues:

Abruzzi had something called pizza in the twelfth century. Calabria made pitta or petta, Apulia pizzella or pizzetta, Sicily sfincione. Tuscany’s schiacciata (for squashed) was first roasted on stones by the ancestral Etruscans. Romagna’s antique piadina is slim and crunchy like the crust of pizza romana, which also seems to have preceded the napoletana.