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The story of modern pizza as we know began in Naples, Italy, in the late 1800s. Baker Raffaele Esposito is usually given credit for baking the first pizzas with tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings. According to legend, pizza was popularized when Esposito was asked to make a pizza for Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita when the royal pair visited Naples in 1889. Esposito allegedly baked three different pizzas. The Queen’s favorite was the one in which Esposito had designed in honor of Italy’s red, white, and green flag. It had basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce. Esposito named it Pizza Margherita in her honor.


Pizza, however, failed to immediately take hold in Italy. As Italian immigrants came to the United States, however, pizza came with them. In 1905, the first United States pizzeria was established in New York City. The pizzeria, called Lombardi’s, still operates today. Soon, other pizzerias in New York City and beyond appeared. By World War II, pizza was one of America’s most popular foods. In the 1950s, the Totino family, of Minnesota, was thought to have produced the first frozen pizzas.


In 1958, Frank and Dan Carney borrowed $600 from their parents and opened a pizzeria in Wichita, Kansas. They called their restaurant Pizza Hut because they didn’t have space for additional letters on their first sign. Pizza Hut became very popular and soon the brothers opened new restaurants and hence, the first pizza franchise was born.


Today, there are more than 10,000 Pizza Hut restaurants. Similarly, Dominoís was established by two brothers who borrowed $900 to purchase a pizzeria called Dominickís in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In 1984, John Schnatter founded Papa Johnís in Indiana. Today, Americans spend over 33 billion dollars each year on pizza. In 2016, there were over 77,000 restaurants in America that serve pizza.