A Brief History of Pizza’s Impact in America
Here at ZaHub, we know and love pizza and consider ourselves pretty pizza-obsessed. With the short time that pizza shops have been in America, they’ve seen several different scenes, styles and branding choices. So today, we’re going to be taking a look at pizza shops through time, and see how they’ve changed to transform into the pizza shops we know and love today.
Coming to America (1890s to 1940s)
Towards the beginning of the 20th century, over 13 million immigrants from Italy came to America in hopes of starting a new life. Soon enough, there would be a change of pace within the food scenery, as Neapolitans brought their authentic Southern Italian dishes with them to change American dining and restaurants forever. Their initial goal wasn’t to impact American food & culture, but to provide familiar food for Italian immigrants, since there weren’t any familiar styles of dining for them to eat in America. With the establishment of local Italian grocery stores and shops, the first pizzerias also started to arise in the early 1900s, one of them being Lombardi’s in New York City. Through the early 20s and mid 30s, pizzerias grew tremendously in reputation within major cities such as New York, Trenton, and Boston. Yet, pizza was still only an inner-city dish, and its fame hadn’t made its way across the country (just yet).
In terms of style and taste, pizza started adapting more and more to the fast-paced, American lifestyle. It was becoming less of a personal dish, and more suited for families (feeding upwards of five to six people). Pizzas were all fairly similar, with thin-crust, a minimal number of toppings, and an authentic Neapolitan touch. Soon, different pizzerias would branch out of cities and put different twists and styles on the original recipe depending on their location, heritage, and preferred style of pizza.
Pizza Hits the Main Stage (1950s to 1960s)
In the 50s, pizza became widely recognized and popularized by everyday American people, primarily due to two reasons. With the standardization of fridges and freezers in everyday American households, pizzas were made available at grocery stores and delis, which added to their domestication. Secondly, pizza shops appeared practically everywhere and were adjusting quickly to the lifestyles and demands of their customers. Shops were marketing pizza as fast, easy, deliverable, and as convenient as possible, which was reflected in their branding. Pizza shops’ target audience had progressed well beyond Italian neighborhoods, with pizza becoming one of America’s most popular dishes.
On top of popularity, pizza became much easier to make, and shops began perfecting the efficiency and quality of the slice. Commercially made gas and electric pizza ovens, along with large mixers for the dough, were introduced in the mid-1950s, which made creating pizzas far easier and made shops far less dependent on a seasoned pizza maker. This was huge for branding, as drive-ins and fast food were taking America by storm. Soon, pizza shops would find success in franchising, as many of the big names we all know today entered the market. These names included Little Caeser’s, Dominos, and Pizza Hut – who would all get their start within the late 50s and early 60s. It was during this time that a lot of shops focused their efforts targeting the younger generations, and creating shops located within large college towns.
From Then to Now
With around 67,797 pizza shops open across the U.S. in 2021, the pizza industry is still growing and is projected to continue to grow over the next several years. Shops are still sticking to their roots for branding, but there are always new trends influencing marketing and branding decisions. These trends include creating healthy options, ensuring environmental consciousness, and making technological advancements to keep up with competitors and larger chains. While pizza shops are still focusing their brands around being fast and efficient, today’s biggest trend is restaurants that are not only fast – but casual and sit-down, too.
Notable Pizza Shops That Have Stood the Test of Time
We wanted to take a chance and shout out some of our favorite shops that have been here since the beginning. Take a minute to check them out:
Lombardi’s Pizza, NYC, established in 1905.
Papa’s Tomato Pie, Robbinsville, NJ, established in 1912.
Totonno’s Pizza, Brooklyn, NYC, established in 1924 in.