Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Mykah from Allison, TX. Mykah Wonders, “Who invented pizza?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Mykah!

Mmmm…do you smell that? Fresh out of the oven, a steaming pie sits waiting to be eaten. Your senses are overtaken by the aroma of hot bread, melted cheese, and simmering tomato sauce. Are you ready to dig into that favorite of all foods? What are we talking about? Pizza, of course!

Some kids like meat, and others don’t. Some kids like vegetables, and others try not to eat them. Some kids love seafood, while others think fish should stay in the sea. But one thing most kids can agree on is this: Pizza is awesome!

Where did this much-loved food come from? We often associate pizza with Italian food. But do the Italians get the credit? Or did someone else make the very first pizza? There’s not an easy answer. Different historians have different ideas. A lot depends on how you define “pizza.”

Do you think of pizza as a flatbread cooked in an oven? If so, its roots go back to ancient times in the Middle East. The ancient Babylonians, Israelites, and Egyptians all ate flat bread baked in mud ovens.

Do you think a pizza has to have toppings? In that case, it dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. They both ate baked flatbreads topped with olive oil and spices. Today, we call this dish focaccia bread.

What about the pizza most are familiar with? You know, the kind with tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings? That did start in Italy. Specifically, baker Raffaele Esposito from Naples is often given credit for making the first such pizza pie. Historians note, however, that street vendors in Naples sold flatbreads with toppings for many years before then.

Legend has it that Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. There, Esposito was asked to make them a pizza. He topped the pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. That pizza is still known as Pizza Margherita today.

Italian immigrants brought pizza with them to Spain, France, England, and the United States. It didn’t gain popularity until after World War II, though. That’s when returning soldiers looked for the food they had grown to love while fighting overseas.

The first United States pizzeria — G. Lombardi’s — opened in 1905. The owner was Gennaro Lombardi. He opened his restaurant at 53 1/3 Spring Street in New York City. It is still open today using its original oven, although it has changed location.

Today, pizza is one of the most popular foods in the United States and, indeed, around the world. Do you like pizza? What are your favorite toppings? Do you think toppings like pineapple belong on pizza? Everyone has their own preferences!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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