The American Pizza Dream

August 2nd, 2022

During the late 19th Century millions of Italians left their motherland and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to a faraway continent in search of new beginnings and prosperity. The place they landed upon was a young country known as the United States of America, with many arriving on ships at the port city of New York. Due to the great losses of young men suffered during the civil war, America’s workforce had been severely depleted, and it was hoped that these new workers would contribute to the industrial evolution of one of the world’s most ambitious countries, whilst also escaping the economic depression of their native land. Fast forward over one hundred years and that is exactly what they did. The influence of Italian Americans immigrants has helped grow America into the economic powerhouse that we know it as today. Yet their significance in history cannot be measured simply in fiscal terms, as they have also played an important role in defining the American culture as we know it today.

Perhaps the most enduring influence of Italian immigrants is the arrival of pizza to the shores of America. What sailed across the tides as a simple recipe is now an industry worth approximately 56 billion dollars in the US alone, making it the largest market for pizza anywhere in the world, with 850,000 people employed in pizza restaurant work: roughly the same number as the entire population of small nations such as Guyana or Fiji. But if we expand the parameters to include all pizza-related work, those numbers are significantly higher. From the wheat growers to the buffalo farmers, the packaging manufacturers to the supply couriers: the amount of labor required to satisfy America’s appetite for a slice of pizza is almost unfathomable.

Much of the American boom in consumerism can be attributed to the influence of mass marketing, and the pizza industry is no exception. With so many big chains wrestling with each other for their share of the market, they spend millions and millions of dollars in an attempt to stand out and win new customers with their creative advertising campaigns. You only have to turn on your television for an hour to witness the latest big pizza chain commercial, almost certain to be followed by a competing attempt from another player in the fast food game court. But these days marketing isn’t only reserved for the big players. With the rise of social media even the smallest local pizzerias can promote themselves in a tailored and affordable way in order to stand out from the swathes of competition. And of course there are still those who still prefer the traditional methods of leaflet menus posted through letter boxes or a young man distributing vouchers on the street corner. All of these methods contribute to the economics of an industry that shows no signs of slowing down. Pizza remains as popular as ever and healthy competition and innovation in the market plays a huge part of that.

There is a sense of an enduring legacy in the rise of pizza in America. Those Italians that came in search of work and prosperity helped create an industry that to this day provides employment and livelihood for so many people.