Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza
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Surprising Facts About Pizza, America's Favorite Comfort Food

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Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza
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That's Amore

If you're like most Americans, you eat pizza at least once or twice a week without batting an eye, but how much do you really know about this cheap and easy culinary superhero? From its global origins to deliveries in outer space, here's a heaping slice of pizza trivia, including the not-very-surprising news that an American pizza chain failed in Italy.


Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza Joints Across America

Domino's Pizza Milan
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Italians Don't Care for Domino's

After seven years in Italy, U.S. pizza chain Domino's is leaving the country. The reason isn't particularly surprising: Italians prefer homegrown pizza options. The franchise operator for the Italian Domino's locations blames the failure on competition from other food delivery apps used by local restaurants, as well as the easing of pandemic restrictions that sent customers back into restaurants. Though all 29 of the Italian Domino's are shutting down, we suspect Italians won't be lacking for options.


Related: The Craziest Pizza in Every State

A pizzaiolo in 1830
Wikimedia Commons

No One's Quite Sure Where It Really Came From

Though Naples, Italy, is widely credited as the birthplace of modern pizza, its roots stretch back much further, and possibly in multiple directions. The ancient Greeks reportedly enjoyed flatbreads with onions, cheese, and garlic, while Persian soldiers baked them with cheese and dates atop their shields (so convenient). Marco Polo even seems to have enjoyed an early cousin of the dish, scallion pancakes, in China.


Related: The True Origins of Classic 'American' Foods

Lombardi's Pizza
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The Oldest Pizzeria in the U.S. Is Still Open

Though there's always some controversy over food "firsts," you can grab a slice at what's widely accepted to be America's first pizzeria. Lombardi's, established in New York's Little Italy by an immigrant from Naples, opened in 1905. It's still pumping out pizzas baked in a coal oven, just as it has been for more than a century.

White clam pie from Pepe's in New Haven, Connecticut
White clam pie from Pepe's in New Haven, Connecticut by Krista (CC BY)

The Most Pizza-Loving State Isn't New York

Sorry, Empire State. It turns out Connecticut actually loves pizza more, according to a Zippia analysis of pizza restaurants per capita and orders placed on Yelp and Eat24. In fact, New York didn't even crack the top 10, coming in at No. 11. The least pizza-obsessed state? Hawaii.

Totino's Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
Cheapism

Totino's Was the First Major Frozen Pizza Brand

Better known today for pizza rolls that inevitably scald the roof of your mouth, Totino's became the first brand of frozen pizzas to make a dent in the national market in the early 1960s. By the mid-'70s, the brand was so successful that it was snapped up by Pillsbury for $22 million, according to CNBC. (Not too shabby, considering Rose Totino had to make her loan officer a pizza in the early '50s, because he'd never heard of the stuff.)

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Close up of tasty hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple
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Pineapple Remains a Polarizing Topping

The data backs it up: You either love pineapple on pizza, or you really, really don't. Though 12% of Americans say pineapple is their absolute favorite pizza topping, 24% say the opposite, according to a YouGov survey. (Similarly polarizing: olives and chicken.) Of course, there are some toppings it seems like everyone can agree on: 53% say pepperoni is a favorite, while 49% remain firmly anti-anchovy.

A slice of Hawaiian pan pizza
A slice of Hawaiian pan pizza by @joefoodie (CC BY)

The Hawaiian Pizza Wasn't Invented in Hawaii

While we're on the subject of pineapple, it turns out this vaguely tropical pie was invented in the least Hawaiian of places: Canada. In the 1960s, a Greek immigrant to Ontario decided to add pizza to his restaurant's menu after returning from a trip to the U.S., according to Mental Floss. The infamous ham-and-pineapple combo was concocted "just for the fun of it" but found a receptive audience. 

Concert goers at the 25th anniversary concert festival of Woodstock share pizza admits the trash of the event in August of 1994 outside of Saugerties, New York
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We Eat a Lot of It …

About 3 billion pizzas are sold annually in the United States alone, and the average American consumes 46 slices of the stuff every year. Want to break it down even further? Forty percent of us eat it every week, and we down 350 slices every second. Bring on the Tums.

food, pizza, pizza box, delivery, arugula
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… But Not as Much as This Guy

In 2018, competitive eater Geoff Esper managed to eat 83 slices, just shy of 14 six-slice pizzas, in 10 minutes. Given his pedigree, the feat isn't surprising: He holds numerous other eating records, including feats involving chicken wings, brats, pretzels, and tamales.

Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita taken by Valerio Capello on September 6th 2005 in a pizzeria ("I Decumani") located on the Via dei Tribunali in Naples.
Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita taken by Valerio Capello on September 6th 2005 in a pizzeria ("I Decumani") located on the Via dei Tribunali in Naples. by Valerio Capello (CC BY-SA)

Neapolitan Pizzas are Held to Strict Rules

If you're a real pizza snob, it might be worth seeking out the abbreviation "VPN" on the menu. That means the pizza has been vetted by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (based, of course, in Naples, Italy). To become certified, restaurants must adhere to approved ingredients, equipment, and methods to make a true Neapolitan pizza, right down to how to chop the mozzarella.

Domino's Pizza April 14, 2004 in Miami, Florida
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You Can Get a Ph.D. in Pizza (Kinda)

Domino's founder Tom Monhagan wanted a unique, in-depth way to train corporate higher-ups, so he helped develop the so-called Domino's College of Pizzerology. Monhagan and at least two others hold the "school's" highest degree, while more have apparently become masters in pizza-making.


 

Domino's Pizza is baked April 14, 2004 in Miami, Florida
Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC

You Can Order Pizza How Many Ways?

Of course, it depends on the number of crust, sauce, and topping options, but if we want to be precise about it, Domino's says you can get one of its pies a mind-boggling 34 million different ways.

A huge pepperoni pizza
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One Large Is a Better Deal Than Two Mediums

There's a reason pizza places are always bundling smaller pizzas into various promotions: You simply aren't getting as much pizza for the money. Good ol' math tells us that you'd get roughly 100 square inches of pizza in two 8-inch pies, but double that — yup, really — in a single 16-inch pizza. Moral of the story: Go big.

Shredded mozzarella cheese on a cutting board with a grater
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The Largest Pizza Ever Had 20,000 Pounds of Mozzarella

Speaking of going big: It's only fitting that the Italians hold the record for the world's largest pizza: A 13,580-square-foot monster prepared by five chefs at an exhibition center in Rome in 2012. They even gave the pizza a name — Ottavia — and made it gluten-free. It required 19,800 pounds of mozzarella and 8,800 pounds of tomato sauce.

Cheese pizza on a pizza stone on a white background
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The French Made a Pizza With 254 Different Cheeses

Though France may be content to let Italy have the record for the largest pizza, the cheese-loving nation has claimed the record for the cheesiest. A French chef managed to pack 254 different kinds of cheese, from Comté to Roquefort, atop a deep-dish crust only 12 inches in diameter.

North Dakota: Caviar
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The Most Expensive Pizza Costs Nearly $10,000

Filthy rich pizza lovers, this one's for you. Master pizza chef Renato Viola's Louis XIII pie is made with organic flour, Australian pink salt, three kinds of caviar, prawns, lobster, mantis shrimp, and organic mozzarella. It's served with a prestigious cognac and champagne by a team of three: Viola, a sommelier, and another chef. The bill? A mere €8,300, or a bit under $10,000.

Mount Kilimanjaro and clouds line at sunset, view from savanna landscape in Amboseli, Kenya, Africa
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Pizza Hut Once Delivered to Mount Kilimanjaro …

Everyone loves a good marketing stunt, and Pizza Hut obliged in 2016. It trekked more than 19,000 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to satisfy climbers' cravings, an adventure that became the world's highest-altitude pizza delivery and marked the opening of Tanzania's first Pizza Hut.

Fisheye view of several labs at the International Space Station
Wikimedia Commons

… and Outer Space

Pizza Hut had good reason to believe a mountaintop delivery was feasible. After all, in 2001, it rocketed a pizza into space, where it was enjoyed by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachov aboard the International Space Station. Longer-lasting salami was used in place of pepperoni, and lots of extra salt and spices were added to please space-worn taste buds, according to the BBC.  

Man wearing rubber monster mask and eating pizza
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Domino's Busiest Pizza Day Isn't Super Bowl Sunday

Domino's acknowledges that it does, indeed, make big bucks during the big game, selling 30% more pizzas that day than a typical Sunday. There are two days that are even busier, though: New Year's Eve, and perhaps even more surprisingly, Halloween. 

You Can Get a Pizza Box Made Out of Pizza
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You Can Get a Pizza Box Made Out of Pizza

Vinnie's Pizzeria in Brooklyn certainly doesn't shy away from all things meta. Not only does the shop make and deliver a pepperoni pizza inside a box made out of pizza (it's $45, if you're curious), it also makes "Pizza on Pizza" — that is, a cheese pizza topped with miniature slices of, well, cheese pizza.


You Can Smell Like Pizza (On Purpose)
Demeter Fragrance Library

You Can Smell Like Pizza (On Purpose)

"Smelling good enough to eat" takes on a new meaning when you're sporting pizza cologne, a real product made by Demeter Fragrance Library. It features scents of "tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, a touch of oregano — perfectly balanced for the adventurous." It's not without precedent: Pizza Hut released its own limited-edition scent in 2012.

KFC Made a Chicken-Crust Pizza
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KFC Made a Chicken-Crust Pizza

After the Double Down, we shouldn't be surprised. KFC unleashed its "Chizza" — that is, a circular fried-chicken fillet topped with tomato sauce, cheese, pineapple, and something called "chicken ham" — in Japan in 2016. (CNET wasn't impressed, saying after a taste test that "regret does indeed have a taste.")

Delivery boy in red uniform holding pizza box in front of door, making a home delivery
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Devotion to Pizza Saved a Man's Life

An Oregon resident was the most regular of regulars at a Domino's in Salem, placing an order nearly every day for seven years. So when the orders abruptly ceased, a Domino's driver stopped by his home. When no one answered the door, the driver called 911 — and first responders found the man on the floor "in immediate need of medical attention." (We hope he tipped well after that.)

A slice of New York style pizza to go
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Slices Are an American Thing

Italian pizza is delicious indeed, but don't expect to go to Italy and grab a single greasy slice, like you would in New York City. At a sit-down restaurant, it's invariably served as a personal-sized pie. If you're getting a quick bite, it's typical to find it sold in long slabs — just show the clerk how much you want, and they'll weigh it and charge you accordingly. Either way, mangia!

There's a World Pizza Games
Wikimedia Commons

There's a World Pizza Games

Move over, Olympics, the World Pizza Games are the real test of skill. Held during the annual International Pizza Expo, the games give pizza makers the opportunity for bragging rights in the following events: freestyle acrobatic dough tossing, fastest dough, largest dough stretch, fastest pizza box folding, and a pizza triathlon that combines those skills. Just check out the 2015 dough-tossing champ for a sample of the action.