Walk into most Italian eateries, such as Tommy’s Pizza and Subs in Santee, CA, and the aroma of freshly baked dough and the sight of gooey, golden mozzarella cheese will launch your taste buds into overdrive. At the heart of this experience, of course, is mozzarella cheese, a dairy treasure that has become an indispensable ingredient in Italian food.
How did this creamy, stretchy cheese find its way into the hearts (and stomachs) of so many? Let’s explore the rich and “melty” history of mozzarella cheese.
Mozzarella cheese’s story begins in ancient Italy. While its exact origins are unknown, it’s widely believed to have been first crafted by Italian monks in the Campania region during the 7th century. The mozzarella produced in this era was typically made from the milk of Mediterranean water buffaloes, known as “mozzarella di bufala.” The cheese was initially enjoyed as a fresh and soft delicacy, often seasoned with salt and served as a simple, rustic dish.
The name “mozzarella” is derived from the Italian verb “mozzare,” which means “to cut” or “to break off.” This aptly describes the cheese-making process, where curd is cut into small pieces before being formed into its distinctive shapes.
A Slice of Renaissance Influence
The Renaissance period in Italy brought significant changes to the culinary world, including the art of cheese-making. By the 14th century, mozzarella had evolved into a cheese with a smoother texture and a milder flavor, making it even more suitable for culinary applications. Its versatility and melting properties soon captured the imagination of Italian chefs.
The Italian Renaissance was also a time of discovery and exploration, and with it came new ingredients to the European palate. Tomatoes, for example, were introduced to Italy from the New World, and the marriage of tomatoes and mozzarella in dishes like the Margherita pizza marked a turning point in the history of both mozzarella cheese and pizza.
The Rise of Pizza
Pizza, as we know it today, began to take shape in Naples during the 18th century. Street vendors and informal eateries started selling flatbreads topped with a variety of ingredients, including mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella cheese was the perfect accompaniment to these early pizzas, which were far simpler than the elaborate pies we enjoy today. Its creamy texture and mild flavor complemented the other ingredients, creating a harmonious and satisfying dish.
Coming to America
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a significant wave of Italian immigration to the United States. Along with these immigrants came their culinary traditions, including the art of pizza-making. In cities like New York and Chicago, Italian-American communities began opening pizzerias that served pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, a nod to their homeland.
These humble pizzerias grew into iconic establishments, and mozzarella cheese played a pivotal role in this transformation. Its melty, gooey goodness became synonymous with the American pizza experience, solidifying its status as a must-have ingredient in pizzerias, sub shops, and Italian restaurants across the country.
The Sub Connection
While mozzarella cheese had firmly established itself in the pizza world, it also found a home in another beloved culinary creation: the submarine sandwich, or sub. Subs, often filled with a variety of cold cuts, vegetables, and condiments, gained popularity in the United States during the mid-20th century.
But the real magic takes place with hot subs. Mozzarella cheese, with its ability to melt into a luscious, savory blanket, became a natural addition to hot subs like the “meatball sub” and the “chicken parm sub.” Mozzarella cheese is also popular in calzones and other pizza-like dishes.
Enjoy Mozzarella and More at Tommy’s
The best thing about Mozzarella is that you can enjoy it today by sinking your teeth into a slice of pizza oozing with melted mozzarella or by savoring a hot, cheesy sub sandwich or calzone at Tommy’s Pizza and Subs in El Cajon/Santee, California. For more than 30 years we’ve been mastering the art of Italian traditional pizza, calzones, and subs, making us the favorite place in the area for family dining, takeout, catering, and delivery. We invite you to check out our menu and order online or by phone for pickup or delivery, or dine in our restaurant.
Football and Pizza: The Perfect Match
On Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays during the upcoming NFL season, get any large, two topping pizza from Tommy’s for just $20.99 plus tax. Or, you can buy any two medium Tommy’s pizzas at their regular prices and get a third of equal or lesser value for free.
Tommy’s #ReadyForSomeFootball Contest
Simply follow the steps below to enter for a chance to win a FREE 2-topping 16” Pizza (50 participants are required, so tell a friend!):
- Like Tommy’s Facebook Page.
- Visit Tommy’s Website.
- Follow Tommy’s Instagram Account.
- Tag two friends and use #ReadyForSomeFootball and #TommysPizza.
The winner will be randomly drawn on October 1, 2023. Applicants limited to the Santee, El Cajon, and Lakeside CA areas.
More Specials from Tommy’s
- Our popular “Monday Special” – two 14-inch pizzas with one topping for $26.99
- Tuesdays “$2 Pizza Slice Special”
- Our family favorite, “Family Special” – one large pizza with two toppings, one Italian torpedo sandwich, and one antipasto salad for $39.99
- Our “Spaghetti Dinner Special” – two spaghetti dinners plus garlic bread and two salads for $35.00.