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
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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. You can find all sorts of weird pizza-flavored items.

Over the years a number of strange pizza-flavored products have been released, including potato chips, ice cream, beer, and e-cigarettes.

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.

The Reason White Castle Slider Burgers Have Five Holes

White Castle
White Castle

While it’s not often mentioned in conversations about the best fast food burger on the menu alongside staples like Shake Shack or In-N-Out, the White Castle slider burger still holds a special place in the stomachs of those who enjoy their bite-sized convenience. In 2014, TIME even named the slider the most influential burger of all time, with its debut in 1921 helping begin our nation’s obsession with fast-service burgers.

Peel the bun off a White Castle burger and you’ll find the square meat patty has exactly five holes. Why? Thrillist writer Wil Fulton went looking for an answer to this gastronomic mystery. It turns out that the holes serve a very functional purpose.

In 1954, a Cincinnati-based White Castle employee named Earl Howell stuffed his location’s suggestion box with a note that said the patties might cook more quickly if they were pierced. The reason? The franchise steams its burgers on the grill, and the holes allow the steam to better penetrate the stacks of patties (usually 30 burgers tall) that are piled on the grill at one time. No one has to flip the burgers, and they wind up coming out of the kitchen faster. The steam also picks up the flavor of the onion acting as a bottom layer, allowing it to spread through the stack.

Howell’s idea soon spread from Ohio to White Castle restaurants nationwide. The company facilitates the creation of the holes by puncturing a “meat log” and then slicing it and sending the patties to locations.

If you enjoy their distinctive flavor, the holes have a lot to do with it. Enjoy.

[h/t Thrillist]

Why Do We Eat Candy on Halloween?

Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images
Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images

On October 31, hordes of children armed with Jack-o'-lantern-shaped buckets and pillow cases will take to the streets in search of sugar. Trick-or-treating for candy is synonymous with Halloween, but the tradition had to go through a centuries-long evolution to arrive at the place it is today. So how did the holiday become an opportunity for kids to get free sweets? You can blame pagans, Catholics, and candy companies.

Historians agree that a Celtic autumn festival called Samhain was the precursor to modern Halloween. Samhain was a time to celebrate the last harvest of the year and the approach of the winter season. It was also a festival for honoring the dead. One way Celtics may have appeased the spirits they believed still walked the Earth was by leaving treats on their doorsteps.

When Catholics infiltrated Ireland in the 1st century CE, they rebranded many pagan holidays to fit their religion. November 1 became the “feasts of All Saints and All Souls," and the day before it was dubbed "All-Hallows'-Eve." The new holidays looked a lot different from the original Celtic festival, but many traditions stuck around, including the practice of honoring the dead with food. The food of choice for Christians became "soul cakes," small pastries usually baked with expensive ingredients and spices like currants and saffron.

Instead of leaving them outside for passing ghosts, soul cakes were distributed to beggars who went door-to-door promising to pray for souls of the deceased in exchange for something to eat. Sometimes they wore costumes to honor the saints—something pagans originally did to avoid being harassed by evil spirits. The ritual, known as souling, is believed to have planted the seeds for modern-day trick-or-treating.

Souling didn't survive the holiday's migration from Europe to the United States. In America, the first Halloween celebrations were a way to mark the end-of-year harvest season, and the food that was served mainly consisted of homemade seasonal treats like caramel apples and mixed nuts. There were no soul cakes—or candies, for that matter—to be found.

It wasn't until the 1950s that trick-or-treating gained popularity in the U.S. Following the Great Depression and World War II, the suburbs were booming, and people were looking for excuses to have fun and get to know their neighbors. The old practice of souling was resurrected and made into an excuse for kids to dress up in costumes and roam their neighborhoods. Common trick-or-treat offerings included nuts, coins, and homemade baked goods ("treats" that most kids would turn their noses up at today).

That changed when the candy companies got their hands on the holiday. They had already convinced consumers that they needed candy on Christmas and Easter, and they were looking for an equally lucrative opportunity to market candy in the fall. The new practice of trick-or-treating was almost too good to be true. Manufacturers downsized candies into smaller, bite-sized packages and began marketing them as treats for Halloween. Adults were grateful to have a convenient alternative to baking, kids loved the sweet treats, and the candy companies made billions.

Today, it's hard to imagine Halloween without Skittles, chocolate bars, and the perennial candy corn debates. But when you're digging through a bag or bowl of Halloween candy this October, remember that you could have been having eating soul cakes instead.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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