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Why is Pizza is Called Pizza?

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From bustling streets in New York City to quaint alleys in Napoli, from upscale restaurants in Tokyo to local eateries in Buenos Aires, there’s one word that’s recognized and relished almost universally: pizza. Yet, as we take that delightful bite into a slice, have we ever paused to wonder why is pizza called pizza?

The story behind the name ‘pizza’ is as layered and rich as the dish itself. It’s not just a name; it’s a testament to a rich history, a linguistic journey, and the power of cultural diffusion. As we embark on this exploration, we’re diving deep into centuries of traditions, migrations, and the sheer love for food. The name ‘pizza’ has stood the test of time, crossing borders and echoing in multiple languages. But why? Why is pizza called ‘pizza’?

In this article, we’ll unravel this delicious mystery, piece by piece, much like how one would savor each slice of a pizza pie. So, whether you’re a margherita enthusiast, a pepperoni lover, or simply a curious soul, come along as we delve into the fascinating world of why pizza is, indeed, called ‘pizza’.


Why is Pizza Called Pizza: The History of the Word

At the heart of our exploration is a question that has piqued the curiosity of many: Why is this globally cherished dish known as ‘pizza’? Is it a mere coincidence, a twist of fate, or is there a story behind this nomenclature? To understand this, we must peel back layers of history, linguistics, and culture, much like the layers of toppings on a pizza.

The Linguistic Perspective

The language, with its rich tapestry of words, etymology, and phonetics, often hides the most intriguing stories. And so it is with the word ‘pizza’. Its origin is thought to be from the Old Italian word “pizzicare,” which means “to pinch” or “pluck.” This action of pinching or plucking might remind us of the way the dough is traditionally prepared, stretched, and plucked to form the perfect base.

While the exact lineage of the term remains somewhat debated, there’s consensus that it evolved over centuries. Some historians believe that the word ‘pizza’ was used as early as AD 997 in Medieval Latin within the regions of Central Italy. Over time, as dialects morphed and languages intermingled, the term solidified its place, representing a dish that was becoming a staple in Italian households.

Cultural Resonance

While linguistics provides one side of the coin, the cultural implications of the term offer another rich layer of insight. Pizza, as a dish, wasn’t just food; it was an embodiment of Italian warmth, tradition, and communal spirit. The word ‘pizza’ began to resonate deeply within the Italian culture because it echoed simplicity, authenticity, and a sense of home.

In Italy, particularly in regions like Napoli, pizza was the food of the people. From bustling markets to family gatherings, its presence was ubiquitous. It was a dish that could be shared, divided evenly among loved ones, and enjoyed by both the rich and the poor. As the pizza gained popularity and started making its way beyond Italian borders, its name became synonymous with Italian culinary pride. Retaining the name ‘pizza’ was not just about preserving a dish; it was about holding onto a piece of cultural identity, ensuring that wherever pizza went, a slice of Italy went with it.

Through both linguistic roots and cultural significance, the term ‘pizza’ has more to it than meets the eye. As we continue to savor each slice, we’re not just indulging in flavors but also partaking in a rich historical and cultural narrative that has spanned continents and generations.

The Globalization of Pizza

Pizza’s global conquest is as deliciously complex as its myriad of toppings. Its rise from the bylanes of Italy to becoming a universal culinary superstar is a testimony to both its adaptability and the undying love people have for it. But how did a dish, so quintessentially Italian, become a household name across continents? The globalization of pizza can be attributed to a blend of migration patterns and the undeniable power of media and marketing.

Influence of Italian Migrants

The Italian diaspora, spanning from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, saw millions of Italians leaving their homeland in search of better opportunities. As they settled in various parts of the world – the Americas, Northern Europe, Australia, and beyond – they brought with them their culinary treasures, with pizza being one of the crown jewels.

In places like New York and Buenos Aires, Italian migrants set up pizzerias, initially to cater to their own communities. These establishments, with their tantalizing aromas and mouth-watering slices, soon attracted a diverse clientele. The pizza, initially a slice of home for the migrants, became a sensation among locals. It was in these new lands that variations like the New York-style or the Chicago deep-dish were born, further popularizing the dish. The term ‘pizza’, thus, became an emblem not just of deliciousness but also of the amalgamation of cultures.

Media and Marketing’s Role

While migration laid the foundation for pizza’s global acceptance, it was media and marketing that truly catapulted it to stardom. By the mid-20th century, with the rise of television and cinema, pizza started making frequent appearances on screens – be it in sitcoms, movies, or commercials. Who can forget the classic scenes of sharing a pizza on a New York rooftop or the innumerable pizza delivery moments in films?

Brands, recognizing the potential of this beloved dish, launched massive marketing campaigns. Global chains expanded, ensuring that whether you were in Tokyo, Mumbai, or Johannesburg, you were never too far from a pizza outlet. The term ‘pizza’ in brand names, menu items, and advertising slogans became a universal draw. These marketing efforts didn’t just sell a product but a lifestyle, an experience. Pizza was not just a dish; it was a global phenomenon.

From the warm kitchens of Italian migrants to the glitzy world of global advertising, the journey of pizza has been nothing short of spectacular. Its name, ‘pizza’, carries within it tales of traditions, aspirations, innovations, and the undying love of food enthusiasts worldwide.

The Diverse World of Pizza: Exploring Varieties and Styles

Italy, the birthplace of pizza, has an astonishingly rich pizza tradition. As with many culinary delights from this Mediterranean country, each region has its spin on this iconic dish, reflecting local tastes, traditions, and history.

Neapolitan Pizza

Originating from Naples, the Neapolitan pizza sets the gold standard for many pizza enthusiasts worldwide. It’s characterized by its thin, soft, elastic crust and airy cornicione, created using highly refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour.


A tribute to the colors of the Italian flag, the Margherita is topped with bright red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese, and fresh green basil. Legend has it that it was named in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy during her visit to Naples in 1889.


A simpler but equally delicious variant, the Marinara is adorned with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil. Contrary to what the name suggests, it doesn’t contain any seafood. Instead, its name is believed to be derived from “la marinara” – the wife of the seaman – who traditionally prepared this dish for her seafaring husband’s return.

Sicilian Pizza

Known for its thick crust and rectangular shape, Sicilian pizza reflects the hearty spirit of this island region. While there are many variants, one stands out as particularly emblematic.


Sfincione, meaning “thick sponge,” is a softer, bread-like pizza topped with tomatoes, onions, anchovies, and sometimes even breadcrumbs. It’s traditionally enjoyed during festive occasions and symbolizes the rich culinary tapestry of Sicily.

Roman Pizza

When in Rome, you’ll come across a distinctly different pizza experience. Roman pizzas are known for their crisp crust and diverse toppings.

Pizza al Taglio

Meaning “pizza by the cut,” Pizza al Taglio is often baked in large rectangular trays and sold by weight. It’s a popular street food in Rome, and its thick, airy crust can carry a myriad of toppings, from the classic margherita to more experimental combinations.


If you’ve ever wondered what a folded pizza looks like, meet the Calzone. Originating from Naples, this crescent-moon delight is essentially a folded or stuffed pizza.

Traditional Fillings

Traditional Calzones are stuffed with ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and various fillings like salami or ham, all encased in a golden-brown crust, often served with a side of marinara sauce.

Modern Takes

Today, chefs worldwide have put their spin on the classic Calzone, incorporating everything from spicy sausage to a variety of veggies, and even sweet fillings like Nutella or mascarpone for dessert versions.

From Naples to Rome and beyond, Italy’s rich and varied pizza landscape offers a flavor, crust, and tradition for every palate. As the saying goes, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!” And with Italian pizzas, it’s easy to fall in love over and over again.

American Pizza Innovations

America’s vast and diverse cultural landscape has given birth to numerous pizza styles, each with its unique flair and fervent fan base. From coast to coast, pizza has been reinvented, adapted, and celebrated in a myriad of ways. Let’s delve into the signature styles that have captured the hearts (and stomachs) of millions.

New York-Style Pizza

A descendant of the Neapolitan pizza, the New York slice has achieved legendary status. It’s ubiquitous in the Big Apple, from hole-in-the-wall pizzerias to iconic landmarks.

Characteristics and Toppings

The New York-style pizza stands out with its hand-tossed thin crust, which is crisp along its edge yet soft and pliable enough to be folded in half. Traditional pizza toppings usually stick to the basics: tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. However, myriad toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and more have found their way onto the New York slice, making it a versatile and always satisfying treat.

Chicago-Style Pizza

Chicago offers a polar opposite to the New York slice with its deep, hearty, and pie-like pizzas.

Deep Dish

The deep-dish pizza is a true behemoth. Baked in a deep round pan, its crust is thick and buttery, allowing for layers of toppings, cheese, and a chunky tomato sauce on top. Eating it feels more like having a rich pie than a traditional pizza.

Stuffed Crust

Evolving from the deep-dish lineage, the stuffed crust has an additional layer of dough above the cheese, resulting in a pizza that’s almost pie-like in nature. It’s then topped off with sauce and sometimes an extra sprinkle of parmesan or herbs.

Detroit-Style Pizza

Emerging from the Motor City, this pizza style has earned accolades for its unique shape and caramelized crust.

The Rectangular Revolution

Detroit-style pizza is baked in a rectangular pan, traditionally an automotive parts tray. The thick, airy crust, reminiscent of Sicilian pizza, gets crispy and caramelized on the edges due to the cheese being spread right up to the sides of the pan. It’s topped with Wisconsin brick cheese and often finished with a ladle of tomato sauce after baking.

St. Louis-Style Pizza

From the heartland comes a pizza with a unique crust and a particular kind of cheese.

Ultra-Thin Crust

The hallmark of St. Louis pizza is its super thin, almost cracker-like crust, devoid of any yeast. It’s usually cut into small squares or rectangles, known as “party” or “tavern” cut. But the real star might be the Provel cheese, a processed blend of provolone, Swiss, and white cheddar, giving it a creamy and smoky flavor.

California Pizza

Blurring the lines between traditional and gourmet, California pizza celebrates fresh, local, and often unconventional ingredients.

Gourmet Toppings and Varieties

Bursting onto the scene in the 1980s, California pizza is known for its creative and often avant-garde toppings. From smoked salmon and creme fraiche to Thai-inspired flavors with peanut sauce and chicken, the Golden State’s pizzas are a testament to culinary exploration and innovation.

American pizzas, in all their glorious forms, are a testament to the nation’s spirit of innovation and adaptability. Each style, deeply rooted in its place of origin, narrates a story of communities, cultures, and culinary adventures.

Pizza-Adjacent Creations

Beyond the traditional pizza pie, inventive culinary minds have pushed the boundaries, creating dishes that embody the essence of pizza in diverse forms. From rolled wonders to bite-sized treats, these pizza-inspired creations have captured imaginations and appetites alike.


Hailing from the United States and often confused with the calzone, the Stromboli is a flavorful twist on the pizza format.

Rolled Delight

Unlike the folded calzone, a Stromboli is typically rolled. Envision pizza dough slathered with sauce, sprinkled with cheese, layered with meats and veggies, then rolled into a log and baked to perfection. The result is a spiral of layered flavors, with each slice offering a concentric visual and taste delight. Whether served as an appetizer or a main course, the Stromboli’s appeal lies in its melty, savory interior and its crispy, golden crust.

Pizza Rolls and Pockets

For those on the go, or those seeking a quick snack without the commitment of an entire pizza, these miniature delights come to the rescue.

Convenient Pizza Snacks

Pizza rolls and pockets condense the joy of a pizza slice into bite-sized portions. Often found in the frozen food aisles, these morsels are filled with a combination of cheese, sauce, and various toppings, all encased in a golden dough. When baked or microwaved, they erupt with flavor, making them a favorite for parties, game nights, or even just a quick snack. Beyond the store-bought variety, many pizzerias and restaurants offer gourmet versions, taking the humble pizza pocket to new culinary heights.

The world of pizza and its adjacent delights is vast and varied. From the rolled wonders of Stromboli to the quick bites of pizza rolls, these creations remind us that the spirit of pizza can be captured and celebrated in countless ways, beyond the traditional slice.

Global Pizza Interpretations

Pizza, in its essence, represents a canvas of culinary expression. Its universal appeal has led cultures around the globe to infuse it with their unique flavors, ingredients, and techniques. These international adaptations underscore pizza’s adaptability and the creativity of food artisans across continents. Let’s embark on a journey through a few standout global interpretations of this beloved dish.

Brazilian Pizza

The vibrancy of Brazil’s culture extends to its unique take on pizza, making it a delightful culinary experience in South America’s largest nation.

Unique Toppings and Flavors

Brazilian pizzarias are known for their wide range of toppings that might seem unconventional to a traditionalist. From sweet options like banana with cinnamon or chocolate, to savory ones like “Frango com Catupiry” (chicken with a creamy cheese) or green peas, the choices are a testament to Brazil’s eclectic palate. Notably, many pizzas are sans tomato sauce, letting the toppings shine. Pair this with the tradition of having pizzas rodízio-style, where an array of pizza slices are served continuously, and you have an unforgettable dining experience.

Japanese Okonomiyaki

While not a pizza in the traditional sense, Okonomiyaki has often been likened to pizza due to its versatile nature.

The “Pizza Pancake” of Japan

Okonomiyaki, roughly translated to “grilled as you like it,” is a savory pancake made from a batter of flour, grated yam, eggs, shredded cabbage, and a variety of mix-ins like meat, seafood, or cheese. Cooked on a griddle, it’s often finished with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes that dance with the rising heat. Its flexible nature — where ingredients can be customized to one’s liking — and the communal joy of cooking it tableside, make Okonomiyaki a dish that embodies the spirit of pizza in a uniquely Japanese way.

Turkish Pide

From the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey offers Pide – an oval-shaped delight often dubbed as “Turkish Pizza.”

The Boat-Shaped Delicacy

Pide’s distinctive boat shape cradles a variety of fillings, from minced meat and vegetables to cheeses and spices. The crust, golden and slightly chewy, forms a perfect pocket for these toppings. Traditional varieties might include “Kiymali Pide” with ground beef and peppers or “Sucuklu Pide” with spicy Turkish sausage. Finished with a brush of butter or an egg wash, Pide is a rich, satisfying dish that showcases Turkey’s storied culinary heritage.

From the streets of São Paulo to the izakayas of Osaka and bustling markets of Istanbul, the global interpretations of pizza tell a tale of culinary convergence, where a simple idea is transformed through the lens of regional flavors and traditions. The world, it seems, speaks a universal language: the language of pizza.


In the endearing tapestry of global cuisine, few dishes have achieved the universal acclaim that pizza enjoys. The term “pizza,” rooted in antiquity and intertwined with linguistic and cultural evolutions, stands as a testament to the dish’s profound impact on societies. Its name, derived from the ancient Italian act of “pizzicare” – to pluck or pinch – beautifully encapsulates the essence of its creation: a plucked morsel from the oven, a pinched edge of crust.

This nomenclature is not just a label but a narrative, narrating stories of ancient ovens, passionate Italian craftsmen, and the world’s collective embrace of a dish that celebrates simplicity and flavor. The question of “why pizza is called pizza?” isn’t merely a linguistic inquiry, but an exploration of history, culture, and the universal love for food that connects us all.

Why is Pizza Called Pizza FAQs

What are the origins of the term “pizza”?

The term “pizza” is believed to have ancient origins, dating back to the Latin word “pinsa”, which means flatbread. In ancient Rome, a dish called “pinsa” was popular, which was an early ancestor to the modern pizza.

How did the term evolve over time?

As languages and cultures merged and interacted over the centuries, the term underwent changes. By the Middle Ages, the word had transformed into “picea”, which Italians used to describe the blackening of bread in an oven. Eventually, the term evolved into “pizza” as we know it today.

Is there a connection between the word “pizza” and the Italian verb “pizzicare”?

Yes, “pizzicare” in Italian means to pluck or pinch, which might refer to the action of pinching or pressing down the dough with one’s fingers or plucking it out of the oven. While this connection is often mentioned, it’s important to note that the exact etymology is debated among linguists.

How did “pizza” come to represent the dish we’re familiar with today?

The modern pizza, with toppings like tomatoes, cheese, and other ingredients, originated in Naples, Italy. As this specific dish gained popularity in the region, the term “pizza” became associated with this Neapolitan specialty, and as it spread around the world, so did the name.

Why has the term “pizza” remained consistent globally?

Pizza’s worldwide spread, particularly in the 20th century due to Italian immigrants and American soldiers during World War II, solidified its name globally. The dish’s unique taste, combined with effective marketing and media portrayals, has cemented “pizza” as a universally recognized term.


  1. The Pizza Book: Everything There Is To Know About the World’s Greatest Pie by Evelyne Slomon.
  2. Encyclopedia of Food and Culture by Solomon H. Katz.
  3. The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson and Tom Jaine.
  4. Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food by John Dickie.
  5. Pizza: A Global History by Carol Helstosky.
  6. Etymology Online – Entry on “Pizza”.
  7. Cambridge Dictionary – Pronunciation Guide on “Pizza”.
  8. La Cucina Italiana – Various articles on the history and regional variations of pizza in Italy.
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Jeff is a pizza enthusiast with over 15 years of experience of working in pizzerias.