Pizza is one of the best-loved dishes in the world. It is easy to eat, it is versatile, and (unless you’re Italian, perhaps), you can top it with anything that your heart desires. There’s even a dessert pizza!
Like many other famous dishes that have put a stamp on the culinary world, pizza has its own history. And of course, this history traces back to Italy, the home of other famous dishes such as pasta and tiramisu. As expected, Italy – specifically Naples – is the birthplace of pizza. It is not a surprise that many of the oldest pizzerias in the world are suffused with the rustic Neapolitan atmosphere and charm. However, the USA is another great place to find old and established pizza places. If you are a pizza fan, you might want to visit some of the world’s oldest pizzerias.
1) Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba (stand, 1738; store, 1830), Italy
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is widely believed to be the world’s first and oldest pizzeria. It was first established in 1738 as a pizza stand for peddlers, and in 1830 it opened its actual pizzeria in the heart of the city, at Via Port’Alba 18. It replaced the street vendors who traditionally prepared pizzas in wood-fire ovens before bringing them onto the street to sell them.
Throughout its existence, it has been making simple and classic Neapolitan pizzas (such as Pizza Margherita), baked in ovens lined with lava rocks obtained from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Nowadays, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is run by the fifth generation of the Luciano family.
2) Brandi (1780), Italy
Brandi, which is also located in Naples, is widely believed to be the inventor of the mythical pizza Margherita. It gained a reputation after its pizza maker (pizzaiolo), Raffaele Esposito, was asked to make pizzas for Italy’s royal family. It only consisted of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The wife of King Umberto I, Queen Margherita, is said to have loved Brandi’s pizza so much that she would request the restaurant on each subsequent visit. Thus, the pizza Margherita was born.
3) L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (1870), Italy
Also known as “Da Michele” for short, this pizzeria is also located in Naples. Like most pizzerias in Italy, Da Michele is a family-run business. It was founded by Salvatore Condurro in 1870 and is still run by the Condurro family.
Like many traditional Italian pizzerias, Da Michele makes only two pizzas – pizza Margherita with tomato, basil, garlic, and mozzarella; and pizza marinara with tomato, oregano, and garlic.
4) Lombardi 1892 (1892), Italy
Lombardi 1892 was founded in the turn of the century by Enrico Lombardi, who used to make and sell pizza in Brazil before setting up his own shop in Naples. Like many Italian pizzerias, Lombardi is a family affair. Nowadays, it is run by Lombardi’s grandsons. Lombardi’s specialty is pizza with provolone cheese; its other dishes are also strikingly simple, but perfectly executed.
5) Lombardi’s (1905), USA
Lombardi’s is not a branch of the original pizzeria in Naples. Rather, it is an altogether different pizzeria, far removed from the Italian soil.
Not only Lombardi’s is the oldest pizzeria in New York, but it is also the oldest pizzeria in the entire USA. An Italian immigrant, Gennaro Lombardi, moved to the US in 1897 and opened his pizzeria at New York’s Spring Street. Before he opened his pizzeria, Lombardi used to make tomatoes pies – thick foccacia-like pies without mozzarella cheese or any other topping – which he then sold to workers from the area’s factories.
The original restaurant operated until its closure in 1984. A decade later, Lombardi’s grandson Gennaro Lombardi III and childhood friend John Brescio reopened the business, with the new store only a block away from its original location. This means that Lombardi’s is not the oldest continuously operating pizzeria in the US. Instead, that honor goes to Papa’s Tomato Pies in New Jersey, which you will read next.
6) Papa’s Tomato Pies (1912), USA
Although Lombardi’s in New York is the oldest pizzeria in the US, Papa’s Tomato Pies in New Jersey takes home the crown as the longest continuously operating pizzeria in the country. Unlike Lombardi’s, which closed for a decade before reopening under new management, Papa’s Tomato Pies has been open since the start.
An Italian immigrant named Giusuppe “Joe” Papa opened a pizzeria on South Clinton Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1912. It experienced a few subsequent relocations until it settled in Robbinsville, New Jersey in 2013, and has been operating there ever since.
Papa’s Tomato Pies is a family-run business. Today, it is operated by Papa’s grandson, Nick Azzaro, who has worked for the restaurant since he was 14.
7) O’Scugnizzo’s Pizzeria (formerly Eugeno Burlino, 1914), USA
O’Scugnizzo’s is known for its tomato pies as well as its upside-down pizzas. O’Scugnizzo’s pizzeria was founded in Utica, New York, by Eugeno Burlino in 1914. He only sold tomato pies, which cost only a nickel apiece. He was then succeeded by his son Angelo “Chops” Burline (anglicized form of “Burlino”), who made O’Scugnizzo what it is today. Burline’s son, Steven, currently runs the store. You can order O’Scugnizzo’s pizzas to be shipped anywhere within the mainland USA via its website.
8) Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana (1924), USA
Totonno’s is not to be confused with makers of Totino’s frozen rolled pizza! Totonno’s was founded in Brooklyn, New York City in 1924, and is still operating up to this day despite a number of disasters (including a hurricane and two major fires). It is famous for its thin-crust pies, which are considered one of the best in the city.
9) Frank Peppe Pizzeria Napoletana (1925), USA
Going further on the East Coast for the search of the oldest pizzerias in the USA, there’s Frank Peppe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut. It is the oldest pizzeria in the state. Frank Peppe is famous for its two products, the Original Tomato Pie and the White Clam, the latter of which is the restaurant’s invention. Order either, and it’s guaranteed that you will be coming back to Frank Peppe for more!
10) Regina Pizzeria (1926), USA
The Polcari family used to run a grocery before it segued to the pizza business by founding Regina Pizzeria in 1926. Nowadays, Regina Pizzeria operates several other branches in the Boston area. But the original location in the North End continues to attract crowds by using the same recipe since it began.