Why Is Pizza Called Pie? All About The Other Name For Pizza

If you’ve ever been to an authentic Italian restaurant (or any restaurant that sells homemade pizza, for that matter), chances are you have been served a “pie”.

Your pie looks and smells and tastes exactly like a pizza, so it’s unclear why the server called it a pie. Perhaps it was a mistake, you think to yourself.

And then you see or hear someone else call a pizza a pie, and you’re wondering if you’ve stepped into an alternate dimension. 

One of life’s greatest unanswered questions is: Why is pizza called pie? If a pizza can be called a pie, can you call a pie a pizza?

Surely, if a pie and a pizza are two separate things, then it makes no sense to use the names interchangeably? Does that mean I can call a pumpkin pie a pizza? 

If you’ve ever wondered why Italian-American singer Dean Martin once sang “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”, we’ve got you covered. This is all about the other name for pizza!

Why Is Pizza Called Pie?

Pizza was first introduced to New York by Italian immigrant Gennaro Lombardi, who owned a small grocery store in Little Italy.

During his lunch break, he would sell homemade tomato pies. In 1905, he opened a restaurant that became the first pizzeria in the United States. 

In December 1903, the New York Tribune wrote an article about the new dish, calling the pizza an Italian pie. The article then went on to describe how a pizza is made, all the while likening it to some sort of tomato pie. 

Lombardi’s restaurant started a wave of pizza popularity around the states, but only amongst Italian immigrants. After the Second World War, veterans who had returned from Europe craved the foods that they had eaten abroad.

The popularity wave hit shortly after this, as pizzas across the states were altered and modified to suit the American pallet. 

Nowadays, pizza is one of America’s most popular foods. There are a bountiful number of options to eat pizza – from dining at an Italian restaurant to cooking a frozen pizza in the oven. 

As the years go by, the term “pie” doesn’t seem to be used as much for pizza.

However, you’re most likely to hear the word “pie” be used for pizzas in New York – especially by Italians and older generations in New York.

This term is most commonly used when referring to a whole pizza rather than a slice. Even across the country, Americans will call a pizza a pie for slang. 

What Does A “Pizza Pie” Refer To? 

Any type of pizza can be called a pie as long as the pizza has not been served in separate slices. Thick crust and thin-crust pizzas can both be called pies, regardless of the toppings.

This means that if you are served a whole circle of pizza, this is a pie (or a “pizza pie”). If you are served a slice of pizza, this is simply known as a slice of pizza or a slice of pizza pie. 

The reason for this is that the word “pizza” is pretty ambiguous in terms of what you’re referring to.

You have to be specific when it comes to ordering or talking about pizza because while you might think you’re referring to a whole pizza, someone could simply offer you a slice of pizza.

This is why Italians and some New Yorkers prefer to use the terms “pie” and “slice of pizza” to differentiate the two. 

Looking at it in another way, you wouldn’t ask a waiter simply for “water”. You would ask for a bottle or a glass of water. It’s important to be specific about these things to avoid confusion and disappointment! 

Pie vs Pizza 

While the terms can be used interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference between a pizza and a pie to avoid confusion. 

What Is A Pizza?

Pizza dates back to 18th-century Italy when poor people needed to create a substantial food type with the ingredients they had.

It has since spread across the world in popularity thanks to immigration, with each country having its own modifications of the iconic food. 

Pizza is made up of a round dough made by mixing wheat flour with yeast and water. It is then typically topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and other chosen toppings before being cooked in an oven.

Some of the most popular toppings include pepperoni, salami, chicken, vegetables, ham, pineapple, mushrooms, olives, sausage, and more. 

Virtually every country has its own way of making pizza, which is why each pizza looks and tastes different depending on where you go. 

What Is A Pie?

A pie is a circular pastry dish that is filled with savory or sweet fillings. The size of a pie is typically 2” in thickness and 8” in diameter, and a pie only counts as a pie if it is baked.

The pastry of the pie itself is typically made of butter, flour, salt, and water. In America, a pie doesn’t need a top but must have a bottom crust, while European pies almost always have a top crust.

A pie is often confused with a tart, however, a tar will generally have a thicker crust than a pie. 

The most popular fillings for a pie include steak, cheese, chicken, mushroom, ale, kidney, chocolate, pumpkin, apple, and cream. 

Who Calls A Pizza A Pie?

Who Calls A Pizza A Pie

You will only ever hear the term “pie” used for a pizza in the United States. This is largely influenced by the New York-Tribune article that called a pizza a tomato pie.

The term is most commonly used in north east America, primarily New York, which was the home to the country’s first pizzeria.

You will most likely hear Italians and older generation New Yorkers call a pizza a pie. 

Interestingly, a lot of Americans have never heard of the term “pie” when referring to a pizza. It is believed that the term didn’t gain popularity across the states due to the confusion with actual pies.

It makes sense, considering how different a pizza is from an actual pie. This is also why the term didn’t take off across the world. 

What Do Italians Call Pizza?

To clear any confusion, “pizza” does not mean “pie” in Italian.

Pizza was only ever referred to as a pie (a tomato pie or an Italian pie) when Italian immigrants introduced the dish to the United States. Italians have only ever called pizza by its real name! 

How Did Pizza Get Its Name?

It is believed that pizza is named after the Greek word “pitta”, meaning “pie” – which is possibly another reason why pizza is often called pie -or the Langobardic word “bizzo”, which meant “bite”.

The earliest forms of pizza are suggested to have originated in 997 AD in Italy thanks to an Italian text, as well as a 1598 Italian-English dictionary that referred to a small cake.

The word “pizza” was then used frequently in 18th-century England. 

Unfortunately, the origins of the name “pizza” are somewhat unclear, as each historian will have a different opinion on where the name came from. 

Other words are believed to contribute to the foundation of the name “pizza”, including the Ancient Greek word “pikte” (meaning fermented pastry) and the Latin word “picta”. 

What Are Other Names For Pizza?

As pizza is one of the most popular food types in the world, it only makes sense that the term is used worldwide.

Pizza doesn’t have many other names or variations other than translations depending on the country’s language. 

Pizza pie is another nickname for pizza, but this term isn’t used as much as pie. We can assume that the term “pizza pie” was used to lessen the confusion of the slang word pie for pizza. 

Interestingly, in Vietnam, pizza is called bánh pizza. Bánh directly translates to cake or pie, which is argued to be another influence on the whole “pizza/pie” debacle. 

History Of Pizza In America 

While pizzerias started to pop up across New York and the north east United States in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the Second World War when pizza became prominent in American culture.

American soldiers and veterans were deployed across Europe to fight against the axis, with a lot of them staying in Italy.

When they returned to America, they brought back tales and stories about the fantastic food they encountered, including tomato, mozzarella, and pizza.

The combination of returning veterans and Italian immigrants is the reason why pizza is so popular! 

Shortly after the war in 1953, the growing popularity of pizza became evident in Dean Martin’s famous song Amore, wherein the lyric stated “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”. Popeye the Sailor then featured pizza in a 1960 episode. 

Capitalism took advantage of the pizza that was becoming increasingly mainstream, so the next few decades saw a wave of advertisements and modifications to the iconic food.

New toppings and recipes were created depending on the state and local area. The two biggest pizza chains, Dominos and Pizza Hut, were founded in 1960 and 1958 respectively to make pizza more accessible across the country. 

Nowadays, it is estimated that Americans count towards one-third of pizza consumption in the world, eating around 3 billion pizzas every year! 

Where Did Pizza Originate?

Pizza as we know it was originally invented in Naples, Italy, as a meal for the local working-class people.

As an industrial port, the wives of Naples would prepare tomato pizzas, which then became a popular dish amongst street vendors, for the returning sea workers.

These pizzas were designed to be folded up and eaten like a sandwich without cutlery. 

The whole point of these pizzas was to use the ingredients that were inexpensive to buy and found in most household kitchens, which is why the toppings were originally sparse. In 1889, Margherita of Savoy (the Queen of Italy) visited Naples and tried the pizza.

The Margherita pizza was henceforth created when pizza maker (known as a pizzaiolo) Raffaele Esposito attempted to create the country’s flag on a pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. 

Other versions of pizzas have existed across several nations that will often claim that they were the originators of pizza.

China, the Middle East, and Europe would serve flatbread with tomato and cheese toppings for decades before pizza was properly invented in Naples. 

Is Pizza Italian Or American?

Pizza will always have its roots planted in Italy, but thanks to Italian immigrants and the return of American veterans after World War II, America has since become a pioneer in the modernization of pizza.

America took inspiration from the original recipes of pizza and took it several steps further by inventing new toppings and combinations, which then spread across the continent and the rest of the world.

Most notably, the notorious Hawaiian pizza was created by Greek-born Canadian Sam Panopoulus in 1962, henceforth starting the infamous “does pineapple belong on pizza?” argument. 

Once pizza was introduced to America, America then re-exported their version of pizza, allowing other countries and cultures to create their own pizza creations.

As with most American foods like burgers, America took pizza one step further and made it bigger, which is why the country is known for its gigantic pizza slices.  

Is Pizza A Pie?

To put it simply – no, a pizza is not a pie, nor is a pie a pizza. This might be hard to understand considering how pizzas are often called pies, but the name itself is unrelated to the physical comparisons of pizzas and pies.

The only key similar traits between pizzas and pies is that both offer a crust, both are round, and both are sliced into triangle slices.  

However, a pizza is not a pie, because a pie is a deep baked dish that holds more fillings than pizza does.

We don’t have to explain the major differences between pizzas and pies, but just to make it clear – the reason why pizzas are often called pies is not that they are the same.  

So, Why Is Pizza Called Pie?

Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the article! If you’ve got this far, odds are you understand why a pizza is often called a pie, or you’re looking for some simplified clarification. 

To put it simply, there are several reasons why pizza is often called a pie. These reasons include:

  • The New-York Tribune 1903 article called the new Italian dish a tomato pie. 
  • Italians found it easier to differentiate a whole pizza to a slice of pizza by referring to a whole pizza as a “pie” (due to the similarities in shape and crust) and a slice as a “slice of pizza”. 
  • The term “pie” or “pizza pie” was popularized by Dean Martin’s 1953 song Amore

Nowadays, it’s not entirely common to hear Americans call a pizza a pie unless they are Italian, Italian-American, or part of the older generation in New York.

Some people stick to the tradition of calling a whole pizza a pie to keep pizza’s roots alive in America, but due to the confusion that comes with calling one food item by the name of another food item, the term is somewhat outdated. 

Conclusion

So, there you have it! If you hear someone refer to a pizza as a pie, now you know that they are referring to the pizza as a whole rather than an individual slice of pizza.

Chances are, if someone calls a pizza a pie, they probably come from Italian heritage, and potentially even the Italian immigrants who first introduced pizza to America.

This is all the more reason to enjoy the classic dish!