46 Mouthwatering Facts About Pizza for National Pizza Week
If you live in the United States, it’s statistically likely you’ll eat around 6000 slices of pizza over the course of your life. But how much do you actually know about that delicious combo of dough, cheese, and sauce? Where did pizza come from? What makes a great slice?
Whether you’re a fan of thin crust, deep dish, or the New York slice, here are 46 facts that’ll tell you everything you need to know about pizza—all in honor of National Pizza Week.
1. The word “pizza” dates back over a thousand years—it was first mentioned in a Latin text written in southern Italy in 997 CE.
2. In 1835, Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, traveled to Naples, where he observed that the Neapolitan poor ate nothing but watermelon during the summer and pizza during the winter.
3. The first pizza place in America was Lombardi’s in New York City—originally a grocery store, Lombardi’s started selling pizza in 1905.
4. During the first few decades of the 20th century, pizza was predominantly eaten and sold by working class Italian immigrants .
5. … But after World War II, American GIs came home from Italy with a craving for pizza, bringing the food to a broader consumer base for the first time.
6. The first American cities to start selling pizza were New York, Boston, New Haven, Connecticut, and Trenton, New Jersey. All four of these cities had an influx of Southern Italian immigrants around the turn of the century.
7. At first, pizzas were sold exclusively by the pie. But in 1933, Patsy Lancieri (of Patsy’s Pizzeria in New York City) started selling pizza by the slice—a trend that was quickly picked up by other pizzerias.
8. Humans aren’t the only ones who love the taste of pizza: There’s even a mini pizza for dogs called the “Heaven Scent Pizza” made of flour, carrots, celery, and parmesan cheese.
9. The first-known Chicago deep dish pizzas were created in 1943 by the restaurant that later became the Pizzeria Uno chain.
10. Domino’s was founded in 1960. The restaurant chain’s founder, Tom Monaghan, is one of three people in the world who hold an advanced degree in “Pizza-ology” from the “Domino’s College of Pizza-ology”—a business management program he founded in the 1980s.
11. Domino’s dropped its “30 minutes or less” guarantee in 1993 after a series of lawsuits accused the company of promoting unsafe driving.
12. The Domino’s delivery offer is still good in some places around the world. The guarantee has been great for business in Turkey, for instance.
13. The first frozen pizza hit the market in 1962. It mostly tasted like cardboard until the genius food inventor Rose Totino got her hands on it.
14. The Hawaiian pizza was invented in 1962 by Sam Panopoulos, a native of Greece who ran a pizza place in Canada.
15. In the late ‘60s, the U.S. Army’s 113th Military Intelligence Unit spied on reporters and politicians using fake pizza deliveries.
16. Pizza may have originated in Italy, but countries around the world have developed their own regional spins on the classic food. In Brazil chefs top their pizzas with green peas, the French love fried eggs on their slices, and in China a crust made of mini-hot dogs is surprisingly popular.
17. The first pizza ordered by computer happened in 1974: The Artificial Language Laboratory at Michigan State needed to test out its new “speaking computer,” so they used it to order a pepperoni, mushroom, ham, and sausage pizza from a local pizza joint.
18. In the 1980s, the Pizza Connection trial became the longest running criminal jury trial in American history, running from 1985 to 1987. It prosecuted a group of mafia members who were using pizza restaurants as a front for drug trafficking.
19. Chuck E. Cheese’s was founded by Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of Atari, as a way to make more money off of the game consoles.
20. Chuck E. Cheese may be the most famous animatronic pizza-selling animal in the world, but in the ’80s, ShowBiz Pizza Place’s “Rock-A-Fire Explosion” gave the rat a run for his money. ShowBiz’s animatronic band played hit pop songs and original tunes at locations across America, and were the creation of Aaron Fechter (who also invented Whac-a-Mole).
21. When pizza chefs around the world need help with their recipes, they turn to “Dough Doctor” Tom Lehmann. Lehmann, who lives in Manhattan, Kansas, is a pizza expert who has been working with the American Institute of Baking since 1967. One of the biggest challenges he’s faced? Low-carb dough requests during the height of the Atkins diet craze.
22. Plenty of famous people got their start making and delivering pizzas. Stephen Baldwin and Bill Murray both worked at pizza restaurants, and Jean-Claude Van Damme used to deliver pizzas.
23. The only pizza-themed superhero movie made to date is called Pizza Man—released in 2011, the film stars Frankie Muniz as a pizza delivery guy who acquires super powers from eating a genetically modified tomato.
24. In 2013, former child star Macaulay Culkin formed a pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band called Pizza Underground. The band performs hits like “I’m Waiting for the Delivery Man” and “All the Pizza Parties.”
25. Pizza played a role in helping police catch an alleged serial killer known as the “Grim Sleeper” in 2010 when an undercover officer took a DNA sample from a slice of pizza the killer had been snacking on at a family birthday party.
26. Pizza has also helped prevent several crimes: In 2008 when a pizza delivery man in Florida was confronted by robbers, he threw the hot pizza he was delivering at them and escaped harm.
27. In 2014, a woman called 911 to report a burglary and sexual assault, but because the burglar was still in her home, she came up with a novel way to get the attention of police: she pretended to order a pizza. Fortunately, the police figured out that something was not quite right with the pizza order, and instantly responded to the call.
28. In 2001, Pizza Hut delivered a six-inch salami pizza to the International Space Station—the first pizza delivered to outer space
29. A little over a decade later, in 2013, a group of NASA-funded scientists invented a 3D printer that could cook pizza in just 70 seconds, literally spraying on flavor, smell, and micronutrients.
30. The U.S. Military Lab recently invented a ready-to-eat pizza that can last for up to three years. The pizza is intended for soldiers abroad who are craving a slice … and also presumably for anyone preparing for a zombie apocalypse.
31. Pizza is such an iconic food, it even inspired an art show. In 2013, the Marlborough Gallery in New York curated a show called “Pizza Time!” featuring more than 25 pizza-inspired works of art. The works ranged from paintings like “Caveman on Pizza,” which featured a sunglasses-wearing caveman surfing a giant slice of pizza, to works of art made of actual pizza, like John Riepenhoff’s “Physical Pizza Networking Theory.”
32. Pizza chefs use a wide variety of pizza lingo to show they’re in the know. For example, a ball of dough that’s been stretched and is ready for toppings is called a “skin,” mushrooms are often referred to as “screamers,” and slices of pepperoni are called “flyers,” for the way they’re thrown around the pizza kitchen like Frisbees.
33. Pizza chefs call the internal cell structure of pizza dough “the crumb”—most pizza makers try to achieve a crumb that’s airy with large holes.
34. The four primary kinds of mozzarella used to make pizza are mozzarella di bufala (made from the milk of water buffalo in Italy, and used on Neapolitan-style pizzas), fior di latte (similar to mozzarella di bufala, but made from cow’s milk), burrata (a fresh Italian cheese known for its creamy filling), and “pizza cheese” (the less perishable whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella used by the majority of American pizzerias).
35. In 2014, food scientists studied the baking properties of different cheeses, and found scientific evidence for a commonly known fact: Mozzarella makes the best pizza cheese.
36. Ever eat a soggy slice of pizza that seemed to have a gross gooey layer between the base and the toppings? There’s a term for that. It’s called the “Gum Line,” and it’s dreaded by pizza chefs. It’s caused when dough is undercooked, has too little yeast, or is topped with sauce or cheese that’s recently been pulled from the refrigerator and hasn’t had a chance to reach room temperature.
37. Think spinning pizza dough sounds simple? Think again. Dough-spinning has its own professional-level sporting event where pizza teams compete in acrobatic dough-spinning competitions at the World Pizza Championships.
38. But spinning pizza dough isn’t just for show: It’s the best way to evenly spread dough, create a uniform crust, and even helps the dough retain moisture.
39. There’s an association called the Associazione Verace Pizza Nepoletana (“True Neapolitan Pizza Association”) that sets specific rules about what qualifies as a true Neapolitan pizza and certifies pizza restaurants accordingly.
40. According to legend, the “Pizza Margherita” takes its name from Queen Margherita of Savoy who, in 1889, sampled three pizza flavors made by master pizza chef Raffaele Esposito and expressed a preference for the version topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, and designed to resemble the Italian flag. Nice story—and while the Queen did eat Esposito’s pizza, there’s no evidence of what was on the menu, and a lot of skepticism that this was mostly a marketing scheme concocted (complete with forged historical documents!) to boost business.
41. Over the years a number of strange pizza-flavored products have been released, including potato chips, condoms, ice cream, beer, and e-cigarettes.
42. There’s a pizza museum in Philadelphia called Pizza Brain that is home to the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia.
43. Pizzerias sell the most pizzas on Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and Super Bowl Sunday.
44. The largest pizza in the world was 131 feet in diameter, and weighed 51,257 pounds.
45. The inventors of Bagel Bites got the inspiration for their first recipe off the back of a Lender’s Bagel bag.
46. Research firm Technomic estimated in 2013 that Americans eat 350 slices of pizza each second, and that 40 percent of us eat pizza at least once a week.