Author Topic: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?  (Read 7333 times)

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Offline Daithi

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Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« on: April 20, 2011, 01:51:58 PM »
I had always assumed that it was either invented in Italy and was one of the traditional toppings brought to the U.S., or at the very least was popularized by New York Pizzerias. However, I have since found out that the former is definately not true, and I now doubt that the latter is true either.

There appears to be two main traditional versions of pizza in Naples -- the Margarita and the Marinara. The Margherita is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The Marinara is topped with garlic and oregano and doesn't even have cheese. No pepperoni! In fact, pepperoni isn't even Italian. According to an article from the NY Times, pepperoni is an Italian-American creation that first appeared in an American print ad in 1919 (the article didn't say where or what publication the ad appeared). However, the bottom line is that pepperoni topped pizza definitely didn't come from Italy. You can order a spicy salami topped pizza in Italy called "diavola" pizza (i.e. "devil"  >:D pizza), but the salami still isn't pepperoni and in this case it appears the Italians are copying us and not the other way around.

I also can't find any evidence that pizza topped with pepperoni originated in New York either. No NY pizzeria seems to try to claim they introduced pepperoni. Furthermore, some of the most popular (and best tasting) pizza in New York is still the traditional Margherita style pizza, or just a plain cheese pizza. Based on the popularity of pizza NOT containing pepperoni in New York, I tend to doubt that New York popularized the use of pepperoni on pizzas. However, pepperoni was being produced in Italian-American communities, so it stands to reason that it was in one of these communities that pizza topped with pepperoni would have first become popular (so NY isn't completely ruled out).

Histories of pizza also indicate that it was soldiers returning from duty in Italy after WWII who brought back with them an appetite for pizza. Yet, the variety of pizza that soldiers would have ate in Italy did not contain pepperoni. Nevertheless, pizza quickly spread in popularity after WWII and pepperoni pizza was a big part of that popularity, and all the early chain pizzerias made pepperoni pizza. So, does anyone know if there are any photographs of pizza containing pepperoni prior to WWII? Does anyone know who first popularized pepperoni pizza? Does anyone have ANY information on the history of pepperoni pizza?


Offline mmarston

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« Last Edit: April 20, 2011, 03:14:11 PM by mmarston »
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Offline Daithi

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2011, 01:16:40 AM »
Thanks mmarston,

The first link you provided is same NY Times article I referenced in my original post. I had also seen the 2nd link you provided, but it didn't look like that link had much to do with pizza. I was unable to find much information about the history of pepperoni pizza by using Google.

In an effort to expand my search, I searched Google Books for "pizza" books/magazines that were published before 1952 and was surprised to find no mention of pepperoni. Most books/articles limited their description of pizza to dough, tomato sauce, and cheese. There were a few references to mushrooms and/or ham as a topping, and several mentioned sardines as a topping, but none mentioned pepperoni.

I think my next step will be a search of old newspaper articles.

Offline mmarston

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2011, 06:40:55 AM »
Oops,

Sorry I didn't read your post more carefully. I just remembered reading that article not long ago.

You might try getting in touch with the author John Mariani, (“How Italian Food Conquered the World”) who referenced the ad in the NYT story. Another person who might have some info is Evelyn Slomon the pizza guru.
Good luck.
Nobody cares if you can't dance well.  Just get up and dance.  Dave Barry

Offline Daithi

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2011, 04:53:40 PM »
For anyone else who might be interested --

I did some research on newspaperarchive.com and there just isn't a lot of references to pepperoni pizza prior to the late 1950s. The earliest reference I was able to find was an Ad in a newspaper from Lima, OH in 1949 that advertised a business that sold pizza topped with cheese, anchovies, and pepperoni. There were actually very few ads for pizza at all prior to 1940, and where pizza was mentioned the usual toppings described were cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies. Based on the ads, anchovies were really popular back in the day.

One very cool thing I found was an entire article written in 1902 that was about an Italian composer named Pietro Mascagni and his quest to find Pizza Margherita in New York City. It describes how he went to the little Italy sections of New York in search of his favorite meal. Now, while I was reading the article, in the back of my mind, I was thinking "This is so cool! They're going to mention a place serving pizza in New York that pre-dates Lombardi's!" Well, not to hold anyone in suspense -- they didn't. It turns out that Mascagni was unable to locate any businesses in New York that made pizza, but he did find a fellow countryman (or woman in this case) that made him his favorite food. So, Lombardi's claim to pizza history is still firmly intact.

Offline Daithi

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2011, 12:01:01 AM »
One more update for those who might be interested. Here are some figures from my newspaper search.

The search for -- Pepperoni Pizza -- where both words needed to be present for a match to occur but they didn't have to be right next to one another returned the following matches--

1900-1940 returned 1 match and it was for pepperoni by the lb. and for pizza -- not pepperoni pizza.
1940-1950 returned 18 matches where only 1 ad that appeared 6 times in 1949 was for pepperoni pizza.
1950-1955 returned 300 matches where most actually were for pepperoni pizza.
1955-1960 returned 1,400 matches.
1960-1965 returned 4,600 matches.

A search for just "Pizza" between 1900 and 1940 only returned 800 matches, and the vast majority of these were not for the food pizza but were matches of people with the last name Pizza. In contrast, a search for "soda fountain" between 1900 and 1940 returned over 150,000 matches.

By the way, I did find a match for pepperoni pizza in my Google books search that was from the 1930s, but in reading the description I found that they weren't talking a pepperoni sausage but were using pepperoni as the plural for red and green bell peppers.

One last thing, by the 1950s there seemed to be 5 main pizza toppings -- plain cheese, pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms, and sausage. I know there are some places you can still get anchovies, but this topping is nowhere near as popular as it once was. However, in the early 1980s I was in the Army stationed in Georgia, and I ordered a pizza from a local pizza place. I'm originally from California and when we order a pizza in California we use the term "combination" for a pizza with a combination of ingredients. The guy in Georgia had no idea what I was talking about. At this point I think I was starting to get ticked off, and I'm sure I was getting a little condescending trying to explain that I wanted a pizza with the "works", with lots of toppings at a reasonable price, and I was sure they had something like that even if I didn't know the term used in Georgia for this type of pizza. Eventually he did send me a "combination" pizza, and I probably don't have to tell you this, but it is not a good idea to get testy with a person that is preparing your food -- it was loaded with anchovies (and who knows what else). It went in the trash.

Offline PietroUK

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2011, 07:34:39 AM »
When I was 10 we went on a family holiday to Rome. And, as a family of dumb, monoglot English idiots we weren't aware that Pepperoni wasn't a known Italian entity. I remember my Dad saying pepperoni a countless number of times unable to relay the meaning to the waiter. So, after a while we think he's cracked it as he takes down our order a little bemused but we think it's right. Several minutes later the pizza arrives at our table - topped only with one type of green vegetable - it was Pepper Only (and of course - peperoni is Italian for Bell Pepper - still a dumb monoglot).
« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 10:09:32 AM by PietroUK »

Offline Botch

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Re: Who popularized pepperoni pizza?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2011, 08:34:50 PM »
Several minutes later the pizza arrives at our table - topped only with one type of green vegetable - it was Pepper Only
:-D  :-D  :-D
I remember finally being able to afford my own place, no roommates, in Dayton OH, and I ordered a pizza with just anchovies because, well, every time I was in a group nobody wanted to try them.  The pizza delivery place asked me three times, "Just anchovies?!?!?!?"  It arrived, I set it on the table, grabbed the green can of Kraft Ground Parmesan out of the cupboard, and sat down to eat.
I grew up in a drier climate, and it was safe to store Kraft Parmesan in the cupboard.  Dayton, with its higher humidity, not so much.  I sprinkled cheese all over my pizza, did a double take, and noticed all kinds of wriggling worms on my pizza!!!   :o :-X :o
I threw the whole thing into the garbage, didn't even eat that night, and to this day still haven't had an anchovy pizza, even though I know it was the cheese that had "gone bad"... 
I cook with wine.  Sometimes I even add it to the food.  - W. C. Fields