The Upper Crust
Any Way You Slice It, There’s No Denying Our Passion For Pizza. Here, A Saucy Round-Up Of The Best Pies In Hampton Roads.
The Best Pizza in Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, Coastal Virginia, and beyond...
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Pizza, as we generally know it—a thin, hand-tossed crust topped with tomato sauce, melting cheese and often other ingredients—didn’t exist until the mid- to late-19th century, although it had been around in some form or the other, mostly as a focaccia-type bread with added toppings, for hundreds of years prior.
In 1889, Raffaele Esposito crafted one of today’s most recognizable pies when he tossed stretched dough in the air, ladled on a thin layer of tomato sauce, added fresh slices of mozzarella cheese, and baked it in oven of his Campania, Italy restaurant. At the end, he added a flourish of fresh basil, and with the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag represented, he honored a visit by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita Di Savoia. The pizza today is still known as Pizza Margherita.
About 15 years later, pizza made it to America, offered in cities with larger Italian populations, mostly in the Northeast. In 1905, immigrant Gennaro Lombardi opened a pizzeria in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood and served up pies fresh from a coal-fired oven. It still does today.
But pizza didn’t make it to Hampton Roads, by-and-large, or many other parts of the country, until sometime in the mid-1940s when World War II veterans from the European theater brought home a taste for some of the foods they had tried abroad.
By the 1950s, mom-and-pop pizzerias were serving up simply adorned pies (it would be a while before gourmet toppings or meat-lovers specials) on scalding hot aluminum pans. They were placed atop red-checkered tabletops that included a jar of grated cheese, crushed red pepper, and an empty chianti bottle with a flickering candle stuffed in the opening while Dean Martin crooned in the background.
Fast-forward a half-century or so, and it's apparent America loves pizza and has adopted it as its own. The average American eats around 46 slices of pizza a year, and about 350 slices of pizza are eaten per second in this country.