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In 2009, upon Italy's request, Neapolitan pizza was safeguarded in the European Union as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed dish. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (the True Neapolitan Pizza Association) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 with legal and operational headquarters in Naples. Its mission is to promote and protect the "true Neapolitan pizza" defined as the product made in accordance with the International Regulations for the brand.
Pizza is sold fresh, frozen or in portions. Various types of ovens are used to cook them and many varieties exist. Several similar dishes are prepared from ingredients commonly used in pizza preparation, such as calzone and stromboli.
The origin of the word pizza is uncertain. The term "pizza" first appeared "in a Latin text from the southern Italian town of Gaeta in 997 AD, which states that a tenant of certain property is to give the bishop of Gaeta duodecim pizze ("twelve pizzas") every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday".
Suggested etymologies include:
The ancient Greeks covered their bread with oils, herbs and cheese. The Romans developed placenta cake, a sheet of dough topped with cheese and honey and flavoured with bay leaves.
Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy in the 18th or early 19th century. Prior to that time, flatbread was often topped with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lard, cheese, and basil. It is uncertain when tomatoes were first added and there are many conflicting claims.
A popular contemporary legend holds that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honour of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen as "Pizza Margherita", although recent research casts doubt on this legend.
Pizza was brought to the United States with Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century; and first appeared in areas where Italian immigrants concentrated. The country's first pizzeria, Lombardi's, opened in 1905. Following World War II, veterans returning from the Italian Campaign after being introduced to Italy's native cuisine proved a ready market for pizza in particular. Since then pizza consumption has exploded in the U.S. pizza chains such as Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's, pies from take and bake pizzerias and chilled and frozen from supermarkets, make pizza readily available nationwide. It is so ubiquitous, thirteen percent of the U.S. population consumes pizza on any given day.
Pizza is prepared fresh, frozen, and as portion-size slices or pieces. Methods have been developed to overcome challenges such as preventing the sauce from combining with the dough and producing a crust that can be frozen and reheated without becoming rigid. There are frozen pizzas with raw ingredients and self-rising crusts.
Another form of uncooked pizza is available from take and bake pizzerias. This pizza is assembled in the store, then sold to customers to bake in their own ovens. Some grocery stores sell fresh dough along with sauce and basic ingredients, to complete at home before baking in an oven.
The bottom of the pizza, called the "crust", may vary widely according to style—thin as in a typical hand-tossed New York-style, or thick as in a deep dish Chicago-style. It is traditionally plain, but may also be seasoned with garlic or herbs, or stuffed with cheese. The outer edge of the pizza is sometimes referred to as the cornicione. Often pizza dough contains sugar, both to help its yeast rise and enhance browning of the crust.
Less expensive processed cheeses have been developed for mass-market pizzas to produce desirable qualities like browning, melting, stretchiness, consistent fat and moisture content, and stable shelflife. This quest to create the ideal and economical pizza cheese has involved many studies and experiments analyzing the impact of vegetable oil, manufacturing and culture processes, denatured whey proteins and other changes in manufacture. In 1997 it was estimated that annual production of pizza cheese was 2 billion pounds (910 million kilograms) in the U.S. and 200 million pounds (91 million kilograms) in Europe.
Another popular Italian style is Sicilian, a thick-crust or deep-dish pizza originating in the 17th century in Sicily. Derived from the sicilian Sfincione, is essentially focaccia with toppings. Until the 1860s, Sfincione was the type of pizza usually consumed in Sicily, especially on the western portion of the island.
Additional Italian styles include pizza capricciosa, which is prepared with mozzarella cheese, baked ham, mushroom, artichoke and tomato, as well as pizza pugliese, prepared with tomato, mozzarella, and onion.
The world's largest pizza was at the Norwood Pick 'n Pay hypermarket in Johannesburg, South Africa. According to the Guinness Book of Records the pizza was 37.4 meters (122 feet 8 inches) in diameter and was made using 500 kg (1,100 lb) of flour, 800 kg (1,800 lb) of cheese and 900 kg (2,000 lb) of tomato puree. This was accomplished on December 8, 1990.
The world's most expensive pizza listed by Guinness World Records is a commercially available thin-crust pizza at Maze restaurant in London, United Kingdom, which costs £100. The pizza is wood fire-baked, and is topped with onion puree, white truffle paste, fontina cheese, baby mozzarella, pancetta, cep mushrooms, freshly picked wild mizuna lettuce, and fresh shavings of a rare Italian white truffle.
There are several instances of more expensive pizzas, such as the £4,200 "Pizza Royale 007" at Haggis restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland, which has caviar, lobster and is topped with 24-carat gold dust, and the US$1,000 caviar pizza made by Nino's Bellissima pizzeria in New York City, New York. However, these are not officially recognized by Guinness World Records. Additionally, a pizza was made by the restaurateur Domenico Crolla that included toppings such as sunblush-tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, medallions of venison, edible gold, lobster marinated in the finest cognac, and champagne-soaked caviar. The pizza was auctioned for charity in 2007, raising £2,150.
Some mass-produced pizzas by fast food chains have been criticized as having an unhealthy balance of ingredients. Pizza can be high in salt, fat and food energy. The USDA reports an average sodium content of 5,101 mg per 14 in (36 cm) pizza in fast food chains. There are concerns about negative health effects. Food chains have come under criticism at various times for the high salt content of some of their meals.
Frequent pizza eaters in Italy have been found to have a relatively low incidence of cardiovascular disease and digestive tract cancers relative to infrequent pizza eaters, although the nature of the correlation between pizza and such perceived benefits is unclear. Pizza consumption in Italy might only indicate adherence to traditional Mediterranean dietary patterns, which have been shown to have various health benefits.
Some attribute the apparent health benefits of pizza to the lycopene content in pizza sauce, which research indicates likely plays a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease and various cancers.
NATIONAL PIZZA MONTH
National Pizza Month is an observance that occurs for the month of October every year in the United States and some areas of Canada. This observance began in October 1984, and was created by Gerry Durnell, the publisher of Pizza Today magazine. During this time, some people observe National Pizza Month by consuming various types of pizzas or pizza slices, or going to various pizzerias.
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