The Origins of Pizza in America

There’s nothing more annoying than parents who argue with teachers about their kids’ grades. I swore I’d never be one of those people and have lived up to that standard. Except once. That was the pizza incident.

My older son’s 8th grade social studies class were assigned to write an essay from the perspective of one of their ancestors. He wrote as my grandfather, telling his tale of arriving here from Italy. In the story, my grandfather laments that America has lousy pizza.

He did a great job and would have had a perfect score, except his social studies teacher knocked off five points due to the pizza reference.

“Pizza,” she wrote in big red letters, “was invented in America after WW II.”

Pizza was invented in America? WTF?

This prompted a phone call.

“Look,” I said, trying not to sound confrontational, “I’m pretty sure there was pizza here before 1945 — and I’m positive we didn’t invent it.”

Editor’s note: beginning a statement with “look” always sounds confrontational.

She bristled. “No, it was first created by American troops returning from World War II. It was inspired by what they ate in Italy.”

The steam was beginning to build in my head. “Well, according to everything on the internet, you’re wrong.”

“Mr. Madeo. Maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

This was eight years ago, back when everything on the internet was true, so I  called the principal. He wisely said he wasn’t interested in getting involved in academic disputes.


Just as I am not one to complain about grades, I am not one to insist on having the last word, so when I saw the teacher at my kid’s 8th grade graduation I was nothing but gracious and humble. “I just wanted to thank you for everything this year. But I still say you’re wrong about the pizza thing.”

She glared at me. I smugly turned away. So there.

29 thoughts on “The Origins of Pizza in America

  1. I…what? Really?

    You’re a nicer person than I am. I would have printed out and brought in books to refute her idiocy. Including the fact that “pizza” (flat bread with stuff on it) has been made since neolithic times. I mean, …argh, where does she think the name Pizza Margherita came from?

  2. This was eight years ago, back when everything on the internet was true…

    What? I just looked on Wikipedia and it said everything on the internet is still true.

  3. “The first printed reference to “pizze” served in the US is a 1903 article in the Boston Journal. The first “official” pizzeria in America is disputable, but it is generally believed to have been founded by Gennaro Lombardi in Little Italy, Manhattan. Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store in 1897 which later was established as the first pizzeria in America in 1905 with New York’s issuance of the mercantile license. ”

    Don’t you remember WWII broke out in 1897?? ; )

  4. And did Miss Know-It-All (who was probably a “Mericon” anyway) cite her own source? I highly doubt it. I’m guessing that she’s one of those folks who washes down her Domino’s cheese pizza with a glass of milk. BARRRRRRFFFFF!!!!

    Rob, Bethlehem SUCKS.

  5. Rob, Bethlehem SUCKS

    Oooh. An ensuing battle of the sprawling, cul-de-sac-y suburbs. Kevin Marshall, call East Greenbush. I’ll get a hold of Guilderland and make the popcorn. 🙂

    And to think, this all started over pizza.

  6. Okay- so the teacher was wrong.. it happens quite often. But, you went to the principal??? Why?? To get the teacher in trouble or something?

    1. I have to say, in my position? I’d TOTALLY try to go to someone else, and the first place I’d go is the Principal (since I don’t know where else I would).

      I mean, we can chuckle about this in hindsight, and call me melodramatic for saying what I’m about to say: no 8th Grade Social Studies teacher should be that vehemently and proudly wrong without being certain of their sources. That’s not just indicative of someone that’s wrong about pizza, that’s indicative of a really, really bad teacher. I mean, she even took POINTS AWAY – which affected his GPA – for something that was easily disproven and for which she could not cite her information (because it was incorrect).

      I cannot stress this enough: she was a social studies (essentially: HISTORY) teacher who couldn’t even tell you that pizza was Italian and not invented in America for crying out loud.

  7. Let’s not forget, this is really a story about the thickheadedness of adults — on my part and the teacher’s. I’m confident my son got a good education there.

  8. Then I can personally attest to the fact that the teacher is wrong! My late mother learned to make pizza from her mother, who in turn learned it from her mother. My maternal grandmother arrived in New York on January 21, 1921.

    Tell THAT to Miss Sandringham-Maxwell or whatever her name is!

  9. See, I went through a similar issue back in fourth grade.

    I switched schools in mid-semester, going from Corinth Elementary in upstate NY to Patrick F. Lyndon in West Roxbury, Mass. At Corinth, we learned that the mid-atlantic states included New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey – and for some reason, Ohio and Indiana. When asked about those mid-atlantic states at PF Lyndon, I reiterated what I was taught. And I got a failing grade.

    “Ohio and Indiana are not mid-atlantic states, Mr. Miller.”

    “Yes they are,” I said.

    “Mr. Miller, are you trying to say that you’re right and the textbooks are wrong?”

    How can you argue with that kind of logic? You can’t.

  10. Maria, why are you singling me out as “mean” when others have made comments against the teacher? Kelly refers to the teacher’s “idiocy.” Kevin Marshall asked if the teacher was Christine O’Donnell. Rob called the principal about this teacher, and still brought it up at his son’s 8th grade graduation.

    But you single ME out as “mean.” Why?

    1. I don’t think you were out of line — nor do I think I did anything “mean” for that matter. If anything, the people at the school talked to me like I was the idiot. Perhaps I AM an idiot, but that’s beside the point.

  11. Hmmm… You aren’t bad. I’d have got that grade changed. I have done it when I knew my daughter was right and the teacher wrong. Of course, when I plunked the evidence down in front of the teacher, she actually swallowed hard and apologized and fixed the grade.

    Maria, where’s Roz being mean? I don’t see it. I’m mean. I’m a bitch. I have made one teacher cry. But to this day, I think that teacher (not the one above) knew he was wrong, knew I had a right to complain, knew he was in fact violating a law about what he could and could not teach in school and was being an ass and was shock that he actually ran into a parent with the balls to call him on it.

  12. Bad teacher, with a dumb idea of what’s useful to know. Here’s the correct answer to “Who invented pizza?” (or the sandwich, or scrambled eggs, etc.): Nobody. They just are. It’s like asking “Who invented the fart?”

    Okay, not a perfect example, since the fart was almost certainly invented by the Earl of Manwich. Or George Carlin. Or Gaseous Clay.


  13. Great…Thanks Lou, you just had me laughing out loud to the point that I went into a coughing fit! People at work are looking at me like I’m nuts! Just because I am nuts doesn’t mean they should know it.

  14. I’m so far behind with “my” blogs – so wish I’d seen this 8 years ago. Teachers can be so self-righteous and HATE to be told they may be wrong. But wasn’t the assignment to give someone’s PERSPECTIVE? Oh, I could really get going on this, but since I’m so late, I won’t. But, Rob, you were right to call her on it. I would have tried to get her fired.

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