50 Mouthwatering Facts About Pizza

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monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images

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 50 facts that’ll tell you everything you need to know about pizza.

1. The word pizza dates back to 997 CE.

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. The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas was one of the first people to take note of the pizza trend.

Portrait of novelist Alexandre Dumas
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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. America's first pizza parlor is still operating today.

The first pizza place in America was Lombardi’s in New York City. Originally opened as a grocery store, Lombardi’s started selling pizza in 1905.

4. Pizza's popularity in the United States began with Italian immigrants.

An American takeaway pizza parlor
Carl Purcell, Three Lions/Getty Images

During the first few decades of the 20th century, pizza was predominantly eaten and sold by working class Italian immigrants.

5. GIs were partly responsible for building pizza to America.

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. America's pizza craze began on the east coast.

Neon Pizza sign in New York City pizza store
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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. Pizzas were originally only sold by the pie.

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. Dogs love pizza, too.

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. Chicago's Pizzeria Uno invented the deep dish pizza.

Chicago Style Deep Dish Cheese Pizza with Tomato Sauce
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The first-known Chicago deep dish pizzas were created in 1943 by the restaurant that later became the Pizzeria Uno chain.

10. The founder of Domino's is one of only three people with a degree in "Pizza-ology."

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 "30 Minutes or Less" guarantee led to unsafe driving conditions.

Domino’s dropped its “30 minutes or less” guarantee in 1993 after a series of lawsuits accused the company of promoting unsafe driving.

12. That 30-minute guarantee is still good in some places around the world.

Elio Blanco cuts a Domino's Pizza April 14, 2004 in Miami, Florida
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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. Frozen pizzas arrived in grocery stores in 1962.

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 divisive Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada by a native of Greece.

Close-up photo of a Hawaiian pizza
Juanmonino/iStock via Getty Images

The Hawaiian pizza was invented in 1962 by Sam Panopoulos, a native of Greece who ran a pizza place in Canada.

15. The president of Iceland has some thoughts on Hawaiian pizza.

In 2017, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the president of Iceland, told schoolchildren he would ban pineapple pizza if he had the power. (Jóhannesson later walked back the comment, insisting he held no such influence, but it sounded more like a lament than a retraction.)

16. More than half of Britons like pineapple on their pizza.

Also in 2017, a UK survey revealed that while 53 percent of citizens liked pineapple on their pizza, 15 percent would support a ban.

17. Politicians have used pizza deliveries to spy on reporters.

Man delivers pizza
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In the late 1960s, the U.S. Army’s 113th Military Intelligence Unit spied on reporters and politicians using fake pizza deliveries.

18. Countries around the world have developed their own spin on the Italian specialty.

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.

19. The first online pizza order was made in 1974.

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.

20. Pizzerias have been used as fronts for illegal activities.

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.

21. Chuck E. Cheese was founded by the co-founder of Atari.

A sign is posted in front of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant on January 16, 2014 in Newark, California
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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.

22. Chuck E. Cheese wasn't the only pizza place with animatronic mascots.

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).

23. There's a pizza expert known as the "Dough Doctor."

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.

24. Several future celebrities, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, began their careers delivering pizzas.

Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme speaks onstage during the Beyond Fest screening and Cast/Creator panel of Amazon Prime Video's exclusive series "Jean-Claude Van Johnson" at the Egyptian Theatre on October 9, 2017 in Hollywood, California
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Amazon Prime Video

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.

25. Frankie Muniz starred as a pizza-delivering superhero in Pizza Man.

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.

26. Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin formed a pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band.

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.”

27. Pizza played a key role in catching a serial killer in 2010.

Hand with black glove is stealing a slice of pizza on white background
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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.

28. Pizza has played a role in preventing several crimes.

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.

29. A pizza delivery once faked out a burglar.

In 2014, a woman called 911 to report a burglary, 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.

30. In 2001, a pizza was delivered to the International Space Station.

International Space Station Orbiting Earth
3DSculptor/iStock via Getty Images

In 2001, Pizza Hut delivered a six-inch salami pizza to the International Space Station—the first pizza delivered to outer space

31. NASA-funded scientists invented a 3D-printed pizza.

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.

32. The U.S military invented a pizza that can last for up to three years.

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.

33. Pizza has served as inspiration for several artists.

Hot pizza slice with melting cheese with frame concept photo
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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.”

34. Pizza chefs have their own lingo.

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.

35. Pizza chefs are always look to achieve the perfect "crumb."

Cook hands kneading dough
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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.

36. There are four primary kinds of mozzarella.

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).

37. Scientists have studied what makes the best cheese topping.

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.

38. There's a term for that gooey layer between a pizza's base and toppings.

Close-up shot on a slice of pizza
Jyliana/iStock via Getty Images

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.

39. Dough-spinning is an art form.

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.

40. Dough-spinning has a culinary purpose, too.

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.

41. There's an association that sets rules about what makes a true Neapolitan pizza.

Preparation of a Margherita Neapolitan style pizza with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil
Paolo Paradiso/iStock via Getty Images

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.

42. Pizza Margherita takes its name from Queen Margherita.

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.

43. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn't originally love pizza.

When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first launched as a black-and-white comic book series in 1984, they weren’t the pizza-loving action heroes fans would fall in love with. The four brothers—all named after famous Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci—only began eating pizza when their far more kid-friendly Saturday morning cartoon series launched in 1987.

44. Philadelphia is home to a pizza museum.

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia
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There’s a pizza museum in Philadelphia called Pizza Brain that is home to the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia.

45. Halloween is a popular night for pizza.

Pizzerias sell the most pizzas on Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and Super Bowl Sunday.

46. The world's biggest pizza weighed more than 50,000 pounds.

Close-up of a young woman eating large slice of pizza
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The largest pizza in the world was 131 feet in diameter, and weighed 51,257 pounds.

47. The idea for Bagel Bites came from the back of a Lender's Bagel bag.

The inventors of Bagel Bites got the inspiration for their first recipe off the back of a Lender's Bagel bag.

48. Forty percent of us eat pizza at least once a week.

Close-up image of group of friends or colleagues eating pizza
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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.

49. Saturday night is pizza night.

Saturday night is the most popular night of the week to eat pizza.

50. Blotting your pizza does reduce the number of calories in a slice.

bite of cold pepperoni pizza
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Blotting your pizza does affect the number of calories you consume, but not by a lot. The Food Network series Food Detectives estimated the amount of calories saved by blotting to be about 35 calorie per slice.

Graham Crackers Were Invented to Combat the Evils of Coffee, Alcohol, and Masturbation

tatniz/iStock via Getty Images
tatniz/iStock via Getty Images

Long before they were used to make s’mores or the tasty crust of a Key lime pie, graham crackers served a more puritanical purpose in 19th-century America. The cookies were invented by Sylvester Graham, an American Presbyterian minister whose views on food, sex, alcohol, and nutrition would seem a bit extreme to today's cracker-snackers. Much like the mayor in the movie Chocolat, Graham and his thousands of followers—dubbed Grahamites—believed it was sinful to eat decadent foods. To combat this moral decay, Graham started a diet regimen of his own.

Graham ran health retreats in the 1830s that promoted a bland diet that banned sugar and meat. According to Refinery29, Graham's views ultimately inspired veganism in America as well as the “first anti-sugar crusade.” He condemned alcohol, tobacco, spices, seasoning, butter, and "tortured" refined flour. Caffeine was also a no-no. In fact, Graham believed that coffee and tea were just as bad as tobacco, opium, or alcohol because they created a “demand for stimulation.” However, the worst vice, in Graham's opinion, was overeating. “A drunkard sometimes reaches old age; a glutton never,” he once wrote.

Graham’s austere philosophy was informed by the underlying belief that eating habits affect people’s behaviors, and vice versa. He thought certain foods were "overstimulating" and led to impure thoughts and passions, including masturbation—or “self-pollution,” as he called it—which he believed to be an epidemic that caused both blindness and insanity.

Illustration of Sylvester Graham
Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Graham's views directly influenced Victorian-era corn flake inventor John Harvey Kellogg, who was born a year after Graham died. Like his predecessor, Kellogg also believed that meat and some flavorful foods led to sexual impulses, so he advocated for the consumption of plain foods, like cereals and nuts, instead. (Unsurprisingly, the original recipes for both corn flakes and graham crackers were free of sinful sugar.)

In one lecture, Graham told young men they could stop their minds from wandering to forbidden places if they avoided “undue excitement of the brain and stomach and intestines.” This meant swearing off improper foods and substances like tobacco, caffeine, pepper, ginger, mustard, horseradish, and peppermint. Even milk was banned because it was “too exciting and too oppressive.”

So what could Graham's followers eat? The core component of Graham’s diet was bread made of coarsely ground wheat or rye, unlike the refined white flour loaves that were sold in bakeries at that time. From this same flour emerged Graham's crackers and muffins, both of which were common breakfast foods. John Harvey Kellogg was known to have eaten the crackers and apples for breakfast, and one of his first attempts at making cereal involved soaking twice-baked cracker bits in milk overnight.

Slices of rye bread, a jug of milk, apples and ears of corn on sackcloth, wooden table
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However, Kellogg was one of the few remaining fans of Graham’s diet, which began to fall out of favor in the 1840s. At Ohio’s Oberlin College, a Grahamite was hired in 1840 to strictly enforce the school’s meal plans. One professor was fired for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall, and the hunger-stricken students organized a protest the following year, arguing that the Graham diet was “inadequate to the demands of the human system as at present developed.” Ultimately, the Grahamite and his tyrannical nutrition plan were kicked out.

Much like Kellogg’s corn flakes, someone else stepped in and corrupted Graham’s crackers, molding them into the edible form we now know—and, yes, love—today. In Graham’s case, it was the National Biscuit Company, which eventually became Nabisco; the company started manufacturing graham crackers in the 1880s. But Graham would likely be rolling in his grave if he knew they contained sugar and white flour—and that they're often topped with marshmallows and chocolate for a truly decadent treat.

7 Tasty Facts About Tater Tots

bhofack2, iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2, iStock via Getty Images

Whether you associate them with your school cafeteria, your childhood home, or your local dive bar, tater tots are ubiquitous. Creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the bite-sized pellets rival French fries for the title of most delicious potato product. But they’re more than just a tasty side dish—they’re also an upcycling success story, a casserole ingredient, and one of the few foods that’s more popular frozen than fresh. Here are some more facts about tater tots you should know.

1. The first Tater Tots were made from French fry scraps.

Brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg founded the Oregon Frozen Foods Company, later known as Ore-Ida, in Ontario, Oregon, in 1952. One of their first items was frozen French fries, and after seeing all the potato scraps they had leftover, they came up with an idea. By chopping up the potato parts, seasoning them, and molding them into pellets, they were able to create a new product. With help from a thesaurus, they landed on the name tater tot and debuted their creation in 1954.

2. Tater Tots are the main ingredient in Hotdish casserole.

Hotdish casserole with tater tots.
ALLEKO, iStock via Getty Images

Tater tots are typically served as an appetizer or a side dish, but in certain states, they’re part of the main course. Hotdish follows the long Midwestern tradition of tossing whatever’s in the kitchen into a casserole. It’s made by mixing together ground beef and frozen vegetables and topping it with a layer of tater tots before baking the whole dish in the oven. It’s a hearty match for Midwestern winters, plus, it’s a way to sneak more tots into your diet.

3. The name Tater Tot is trademarked.

If the golden nugget of potato-y goodness you’re eating is not Ore-Ida brand, it’s not really a tater tot. The Grigg brothers trademarked the catchy name shortly after developing the product, and Ore-Ida still holds its trademark on tater tots today. This doesn’t stop people using it as a catch-all term for the generic version of the food. Ore-Ida tried to combat this in 2014 by running an ad campaign warning customers not to “be fooled by Imi-taters.”

4. Tater Tots have different names around the world.

The all-American tater tot has spread around the globe, but it’s usually sold under a different name abroad. Tot-lovers in New Zealand and Australia may refer to them as potato gems, potato royals, potato pom-poms, or hash bites. The food is so popular in New Zealand that Pizza Hut launched a pie with a hash bite crust there in 2016. In Canada, they’re called tasti taters or spud puppies, and they’ve been labeled oven crunchies in the UK.

5. Homemade tater tot recipes may not be worth it.

Tater tots on a plate served with ketchup.
MSPhotographic, iStock via Getty Images

Tater tots are the ultimate convenience food—unless you try making them from scratch at home. Recipes online involve peeling and grating pounds of potatoes, frying them once, chilling them overnight, and then shaping them into tots and frying them a second time. Without the streamlined method and equipment of a factory, the process can take 12 hours. Even fine restaurants that feature tater tots on their menus often prefer the taste (and convenience) of the frozen stuff.

6. Idaho praised Napoleon Dynamite for featuring Tater Tots.

Napoleon Dynamite takes place in Idaho, and one of the ways the 2004 film pays tribute to the state is by prominently featuring the tot. The State of Idaho passed a resolution in 2005 commending the makers of the film, specifically thanking them for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.”

7. The birthplace of the Tater Tot is hosting a Tater Tot festival.

Nearly 70 years after tater tots were invented there, Ontario, Oregon, is honoring its patron potato product by dedicating an entire festival to it in August 2020. The Tater Tot Festival will feature games, food vendors, and a Ferris wheel, plus special events like a tater tot-eating contest and a tater tot-themed play. The fair will end with the crowning of the tater tot festival king and queen.

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