Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 21:05:03 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
"Pizza" etymologies have been very greasy and all should be deeply
panned. While my "pizza papers" are not yet up to "hot dog" standards, here
are some antedates.
There is no doubt that pizza became popular after WWII, and that Dean
Martin and other crooners hit your eye with it way back in the '50s. But if
you look in various pizza books, the first pizzeria in the west was opened at
53 1/2 Spring Street in New York City by Gennaro Lombardi in 1905. OED has
the first "pizza" in 1935, and the first "pizzeria" in 1943--from a John
Steinbeck novel! Way off! Yikes!!
It's hard to believe I can break new ground on pizza--perhaps the
world's favorite dish nowadays--but here goes.
The 1911-12 Manhattan Directory lists a Verra Pizzeria grocer at 146
Mulberry Street, although this is Vera Pizzeria baker in the 1913-14
Directory. Gennaro Lombardi's restaurant at 53 1/2 Spring is not in the
1915-16 Directory, but Antonio Lombardo baker at 55 Spring is there. Only in
the 1920-21 Manhattan Directory did I find a Gennaro Lombardi restr at 53
1/2 Spring. In the 1922-23 Directory, Grande Pizzeria Napoletano is listed
under G. Lombardi at 53 1/2 Spring.
So, our first western "pizzeria" is probably 1911 at 146 Mulberry
Street. Gennaro Lombardi's claim cannot be verified. And out with
Steinbeck! Out! Out!
This is from the Kansas City (MO) Journal, 18 June 1905, pg. 2, col. 7.
As usual, I found it strictly by accident:
EVER EATEN PIZZE CAVULE OR TRIED TARALLUCCI?
Pizze Are Neapolitan Pancakes Highly Flavored and Cooked With Cheese
and Tomato--Tarallucci Go With Coffee.
(New York Correspondence for The Journal.)
"Let us go and get pizze cavule," said the Dago.
The Dago is a graduate of a technical school and has a place with a big
electrical firm. He says he does not mind being called a "dago," but that he
will not be called a ginney. ...
"What's pizze--pizze--what did you call them?"
"Come and see," said the Dago. "There are only two places in New York
where you can get real, genuine Neapolitan pizze. One is on Spring street
and one on Grand. All the rest are Americanized substitutes."
They took a surface car downtown, transferred to a horsecar and jogged
placidly eastward to the Spring street pizze shop. On the window were the
cabalistic words, "Pizze Cavule," and the window itself was piled high with
Italian cheeses. ...
"It's something to eat," said the woman, "but what is it?"
"If you had ever been in Naples," said the Dago, "you would know pizze
cavule. Every tourist is bound to taste them as one of the features of the
He took one of the fat rolls and with a few slaps on the shelf
flattened it until it was a little thicker than a pancake and a little larger
than ordinary pie. After it was flattened he dabbed bits of lard all over
the surface. Then he sprinkled it all over with grated Roman cheese, from a
dishful which stood beside him. Then he poured on cooked tomato, and on top
threw a handful of aregata, the spicy, aromatic herb, which is a favorite
The whole operation had not taken him more than a minute. Then he
slapped it on a broad, flat, long-handled paddle, and thrust it into an oven
beside him. In two minutes he pulled it out, and sent it to the table on a
big, round pewter plate. Also he sent individual plates--this in deference
to American patronage.
The pastry seemed to be a cross between bread dough and pie crust, and
was not lacking in suggestions that when cold it might lie, with some
heaviness in an unaccustomed interior. Nevertheless, it was enticing by
reason of its hotness and crispness, and the cunning blend of spicy flavors.
"Pizze cavule," said her escort, "means simply 'hot cakes.' You won't
find the words in the dictionary, because they aren't Italian, but Neapolitan
dialect. In Naples they sell the little fellows on the street for 1 cent
apiece. A favorite cry for them at the doors of the bakeries in Naples is
'Ca' pummarola e alice,' which is dialect for 'with tomatoes and anchovy.'
They make some of them with anchovy over there, but I never saw any in New
That's the story and etymology of "pizza."
The annual San Gennaro Festival takes place in New York City in late
September, but last year's was cancelled because of an investigation of mob