It’s been hailed as the plastic savior of pizza and its various toppings. Millions of pies are delivered annually with a three- or four-legged plastic centerpiece known as a pizza saver, and it's turning 35 this year. What better time than National Pizza Week to discover the origins of this essential pizza accessory?

The pizza saver was first patented on February 12, 1985 by Carmela Vitale of Dix Hills, New York, who saw a plastic divider as a way of preventing the tops of pizza boxes from bowing inwardly and pressing against the top of the pizza, which can happen when steam from a hot pie weakens the cardboard. As a result, the top can fuse to the cheese, ripping off the entire upper portion of the pizza when the box is opened.

Vitale opted for a three-legged pizza saver to keep the box top raised and to minimize damage to the pie itself, a key concern in any attempt to alter how pizzas are delivered. As a city council member, Vitale had no vested interest in pizza portability. In all likelihood, she had simply observed pizzas being ruined from sagging boxes and decided to do something about it.

Vitale never produced the pizza savers in great quantities herself; that was left to major plastics manufacturers who could roll them out for as little as one cent apiece. After her patent expired in 1993, anyone was free to produce them. But the next time you order a double pepperoni, try to remember the woman who made a cheesy box top a thing of the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]