You know what is essential, pizza. For more than a century, Americans have delighted in the perfect delivery and carry out, do it all meal. We can thank Gennaro Lombardi for opening the first pizzeria in 1905, but without the cheese, pizza isn’t pizza. Let’s take a deeper look this month at pizza, pizza cheese, and how important it has become in our diet.

Even though we have Mr. Lombardi to thank for bringing pizza to the United States, the popular belief is that pizza was first made more than 2000 years ago when Roman Soldiers would add cheese and olive oil to matzah, an unleavened flatbread made of only flour and water.

Of course, pizza has truly changed and developed in its 2,000 plus year history. The pizza we eat today is believed to have been created by baker Raffaele Esposito from Naples. The legend says that in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited his home town and asked him to make them a pizza. He topped his flatbread with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. You guessed it, the Margherita pizza was born!

But why mozzarella cheese? Mozzarella is used because of its high water activity, elasticity, and more importantly, it has a unique stretchability that makes it perfect to be used for pizza. But it is more than that. Mozzarella has a delicate, milky flavor. It is a smooth-textured cheese that has great melt-ability. Mozzarella cheese provides a smooth and flavorful element that can hold other items to the pizza without burning.

Just like the dish it decorates, mozzarella cheese has evolved over the years as well. Today we use a low-moisture mozzarella. It has a firmer texture, it is easier to grate, and it has better browning and melting characteristics. Even in the low-moisture form, mozzarella is a soft, curd cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a lower fat content, about 20%, compared to cheddar cheese which normally is around 30% fat content. Mozzarella is also a fresh cheese. Unlike swiss, cheddar, parmesan, or gouda which are aged for a specific period of time before they are consumable, mozzarella is ready to eat fresh.

We aren’t surprised that cheese is the most popular pizza topping. It is followed by pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and then bacon. We say, put it all on the same pizza… YUM!

How did pizza become the 2nd most popular fast food in America second only to the hamburger? Variety. The ability to order a pizza with so many different toppings or crust options makes it very hard to get bored. Ultimate California Pizza offers almost 40 options just between meats and veggies. That is more than 100,000 permutations, more than 1,000 combinations!

American’s love pizza so much we designated February 9 as National Pizza Day. Of course in our minds, dedicating a full 24 hours to admiring the hot, smooth, and cheesy, ready to eat, fresh out of the oven, the mouthwatering amazingness that is pizza never seems to give this amazing meal the recognition it deserves, but it’s a start.

So while we wait for things to slowly return to normal, and while there still seem to be many things that remain unknown, rest easy with the knowledge that Ultimate California Pizza will be right here in Myrtle Beach to serve you fresh, hot, cheesy delicious pizza. Ultimate California Pizza believes in pizza. Ultimate California Pizza knows that pizza is ESSENTIAL!