Pizza arrived in the USA, not surprisingly, with the Italian immigrants who came to the country in the late 19th Century. From that day pizza was sold throughout the Italian areas of the major cities from stands in the street. The original way pizza was sold in the street in Naples would have been in large cylindrical drums with false bottoms containing hot coals to keep it warm.
Officially The First Pizzeria?… Gennaro Lombardi was an immigrant who arrived in New York and settled in Little Italy in Manhattan. A grocer by trade, he opened a grocery store in 1897 and it is believed he opened the first pizzeria in 1905 having been granted a license. This came about when his assistant Antonio Totonnio Pero started making the pizzas for sale in the store. Being a poor area people would come in and ask how much they could have for whatever money they had, and would duly receive a slice relative to their funds. Totonnio later went his own way and set up his own pizzeria down in Coney Island.
Yet Another Claim To Being The First One Frank Pepe claims he opened up his Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven Connecticut before Lombardi started to sell his wares. Many of Frank’s staff were Italian immigrants with the knowledge of years of making pizzas back home in Italy. This led to him opening his pizzeria in 1925 and he was soon competing against his own nephew, Sal Consiglio, who opened a rival pizzeria right across the street from his uncle. Remarkably both shops are still operating in 2007!
No Longer Just An Italian Dish Whilst the origins already described show that the pizza was prevalent in the Italian neighbourhoods, it became a big hit with American soldiers who were serving in Italy during World War II. It made a tasty change to their rations and when they returned in 1945 the pizzeria became a place for all, not just Italians.
The Growth Of The Pizzeria America now had a new and exciting type of food to try, and new pizza companies were set up in the 1940’s and 1950’s that are now very much household names. Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut were two such firms founded in the 1950’s and still going strong. Today the market has changed and leans much more towards home delivery. Just about every home in the USA must at some time tried pizza, probably delivered to the door too.