Flatbreads have been a part of the food scene for thousands of years, but the modern version of pizza has a pretty specific origin point. The southern Italian city of Naples, located along the coast in the Campania region, was home to multitudes of lazzaroni, the working poor. Living and working as handymen around the bay, Neapolitan lazzaroni needed a type of food that was cheap, fast, and could be taken on the go. By the 18th century, a simple pizza flavored with tomatoes, lard, and regional herbs and spices, was a staple among Neapolitans. By the 19th century, pizza was presented to royalty and named after Margherita, one of Italy’s last queens.
Americans discovered the allure of pizza and other tomato-y Italian foods while they were stationed abroad during World War II. They returned to the US with an appetite for pizza that has since grown into a $37 billion industry, annually, in the US alone.