Discover an Ancient but Little-Known Spanish Wine Region: Méntrida


When I ask students in my wine classes to name the wine regions of Spain, they're likely to know La Rioja, Rueda, and Ribera del Duero — and maybe, if some have been reading my class materials ahead of time, places like Castilla La Mancha, Priorat, and possibly Bierzo. There is a huge choice of great wines well worth knowing from many other parts of Spain, too, however.

The major wine region in Spain in terms of production is La Mancha, and probably we all have tried wines from there at least once. But there are nine Denominaciones de Origen (DOs) within the region. One of the most historical yet least known of these — and a perfect example of how, with some effort and careful selection of the best vineyards, winemakers can shine brightly in a region not traditionally known for its quality — is Méntrida. The earliest vineyards found here date from the twelfth century, and for hundreds of years the wines of Méntrida were sold mainly to thirsty Madrileños. Now they are reaching a wider market.

The Méntrida wine region lies northwest of El Greco’s hometown of Toledo, near snowy Ávila and lively Madrid. The impressive Sierra de Gredos mountain range is responsible for the freshness in these wines — and for the picturesque landscapes often found on their labels — but this is a difficult area in which to cultivate grapes, with very little rainfall and temperatures reaching over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Méntrida is one of the best places in Spain for garnacha (grenache) — my favorite grape. The terroir of this region is perfect for it, and the best garnachas here are produced from very old vines, with very low yield. The grape accounts for 80 percent of Méntrida’s total production, though other varieties of red grapes have been introduced in the region, including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and tempranillo (known as cencibel here). These grapes produce beautiful, barrel-aged reds, serious and elegant, but also stainless-steel-fermented youngsters, fresh, fruity, and lively. (Whites are not as important in the region, though some surprisingly good ones have been made from albillo, viura, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.)

Méntrida is special also because it was the site of the very first VP or Vino de Pago — a Spanish wine classification given to a single wine estate of the highest quality — Dominio de Valdepusa, created here by Carlos Falcó y Fernández de Córdova, better known as the Marqués de Griñón.

The wine industry in Méntrida is still quite small, and its bottles are difficult to find and priced higher than those from other producers in Castilla La Mancha, because they are made by quality-conscious producers striving to change the image of the region. The Méntrida producer whose wines are easiest to find in the U.S. is Jiménez-Landi, which makes high-quality garnacha and syrah. Other top wineries in the region include Bodegas Canopy, with a garnacha called Congo, a syrah called Malpaso, and a garnacha–syrah blend called Tres Patas; Finca La Verdosa, making wines from merlot, syrah, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon; Tolegarva, whose garnacha is particularly good; and Bodegas y Viñedos Tavera, with an elegant, beautifully crafted syrah.

These wines are perfect for a summer barbecue. Roasted red meat and Méntrida garnacha do very well together. Also try it with grilled tuna steak or with mature sheep’s milk cheese — or even just roasted eggplant and peppers.

Or try this: Get some good country-style white bread, cover it lightly with extra virgin olive oil, add a thin slice of eggplant, cover it all with cheese, and toast it in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Add great company, a red from Méntrida, and a long summer evening, and nothing else will matter.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.


Who Invented Pizza?

Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.

Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.

These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.

WATCH: Season 1 of The Food That Built America without signing in now.

Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.

Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.

An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.

One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).

As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon. 

Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani. 

Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Cura๺o to hardboiled eggs in Brazil. 

WATCH: Full episodes of The Food That Built America online now.



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