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As American as apple pizza pie

Americans eat 350 slices every second, and pizza's popularity is soaring from Sydney to Moscow. For purists, however, Naples is still the one and only home of the genuine article

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A food that is normally shared and eaten without utensils, pizza apparently meets emotional as well as nutritional needs. Whatever the reason, it is rapidly overtaking the burger as America's favorite food. It comes in thick crust and thin, in squares as well as circles, with traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella or as white pizza with gourmet toppings.

Today's pizza may be the product of 2,000 years of evolution, beginning in the Middle East. Our modern version had to wait for the tomato to be discovered in the New World, and for the creativity of a chef who first used mozzarella to represent the white portion of the Italian flag. Invention continues to this day. In the 1940s Chicago's Pizzeria Uno came up with deep-dish, or Chicago-style, pizza. The Pizza Hut chain was founded in 1958 by two brothers while they were still students at Wichita State University. In the 1960s two more brothers, this time in Medford, Wisconsin, came up with the Tombstone brand (their bar was across the street from a cemetery). Domino's, with its promise of delivery within 30 minutes, became a major player in the 1980s.

If you can't get to one of the nation's 61,000 pizza restaurants or have your pizza delivered, you can buy pizza fresh or frozen, ready for the oven. Further, insists at least one cookbook author, you can make more- than-passable pizza in your own kitchen, starting from scratch.

Not everything wolfed down in the name of pizza would get a passing mark from the keepers of the flame in Naples, generally acknowledged to be the birthplace of pizza as we know it today. There, for example, crust is everything. Tens of millions of Americans worry not one wit about what the pizza police think, however, as they go through their fair share of the 100 acres of pizza that disappears every day in the United States.

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