Adverse economic conditions forced four million southern Italians to come to America by 1900. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi applied to New York City for the first license to make and sell pizza at his grocery store in his Italian-American neighborhood. Other pizzerias began opening and the 1930’s saw the pizza spread to Boston and on to San Francisco but primarily it was still in just a few New England states. Pizza at this time was an ethnic food for those without much money eaten by southern Italians in the city neighborhoods where they lived and worked. In 1943, the Chicago pizza was born which was a deep-dish crust at least an inch deep allowing room for extra sauce and toppings. This stuffed pizza better resembled a pot pie more than a New York-style thin-crust pie.
When the American GIs stationed in Italy returned home after World War II, pizza found new life.
Ira Nevin, a returning soldier, built the first gas-fired Bakers Pride pizza oven relying on his prior experience repairing ovens for his father’s business. A Bakers Pride pizza oven cooks faster at much higher temperatures than a regular oven providing a crisp crust but allowing for a moist interior.
Thanks to the American “can do” spirit, a little knowledge, the new Bakers Pride oven, and the Hobart Mixer, aspiring men with a vision were ready to go into business. The pizzerias began sprouting up all over the country from 1945 through 1960. Most were independently owned. Some were Italian while others were Greek, but all of them were American.
Unlike other classic American foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and ham sandwiches, pizza was a perfect communal food; it was meant to be shared. Slices were not yet sold individually. So, normally a group of people ordered and ate the pizza together.
The late 1950’s saw pizza chains develop with a new approach offering pizza at a lower cost and eventually guaranteeing faster delivery times.
Today, pizza stores are successful with both the fast-producing chain approach and the independent owner’s craft of producing a more unique pizza well worth the wait time. One can choose a quick meal that fits a busy schedule, eating on the fly, or less expensive options for those on a tight budget. One can opt to enjoy a high-quality pizza pie with locally-sourced ingredients and a rotating menu of unique new selections concentrating more on the dining experience.
As of 2013, Nicolas Watson of the Pizza Industry in Las Vegas, noted that the independent pizza restaurants out-numbered the large chains two to one and that almost 60% of the pizzerias in Las Vegas were independently owned. Las Vegas had more independently owned pizzerias than the nation’s average of 54%.
Per the 2023 International Pizza Expo and conference in Las Vegas, “Nearly, 14,000 pizzeria owners/buyers, pizzaiolos, vendors and other professionals gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center to sample, learn, network and buy … the most ever gathered together in the event’s 39-year history!”