The 2000-year history of Italy's favorite dish

"The term and concept is a very old one," says Diego Zancani, emeritus professor of medieval and modern languages at Oxford University and author of " How We Fell in Love with Italian Food ."

But its initial form -- baked bread slathered in pork fat (and later olive oil) with cheese on top -- doesn't sound like the kind of food that could conquer the world.

Once it had earned the royal seal of approval, pizza was officially here to stay, but rather than it being Queen Margherita who sparked the global trend, it was Italy's poorest immigrants who popularized it around the world.

It's that adaptation of pizza that appeals to Christine Ristaino , senior lecturer in Italian language and literature at Emory University with a special interest in the cultural history of food, especially noodles .

She compares the evolution of pizza in the US to the film "Big Night," in which two first-generation Italian immigrants (played by Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci) open a restaurant on the Jersey Shore and disagree as to whether to adapt their food to American tastes.

But although Pace suggests visitors come to Naples and wander the alleys of the historical center, smelling the freshly baked dough in the air (and even taking a day-long pizza-making course with the AVPN), he says that the popularly held belief isn't correct.

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