Pizza was once a peasant food. When millions of southern Italians immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, they brought with them a tradition of preparing inexpensive, oven-baked flatbreads topped with cheese and basil. An Italian grocer named Gennaro Lombardi opened the nation’s first licensed pizza parlor in 1905 in an Italian-American neighborhood of New York City. Other restaurants followed, including Joe’s Tomato Pies in New Jersey, the famous Pepe’s Pizzeria in Connecticut, and eventually deep-dish joints like Uno’s in Chicago. Each catered to their surrounding lower-income Italian neighborhoods.
The humble “tomato pie” has come a long way since then. Through Italian families, it made its way to Amarillo around the mid-century (see sidebar) and has continued to bubble up in popularity ever since. Pizza spread out of its Italian enclaves and found a wide-ranging American population that turned it into one of the nation’s most beloved foods.
Today, those early, simple dishes have not only fueled the growth of enormous pizza restaurant chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut, but also gourmet pizzerias that rely on decidedly non-traditional toppings like candied jalapeños or barbecue chicken. Like any mid-sized city in America, Amarillo is home to its share of chains as well as independent pizzerias. We dedicated this issue to exploring pizza in Amarillo, from its colorful history to the city’s particular preferences. Grab a slice and read on.
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.