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Where Does Pepperoni Come From? A History of America’s Favorite Pizza Topping


Contrary to popular belief, pepperoni was not invented in Italy. It was actually created by Italian immigrants in New York City in the early 1900s. No wonder it’s America’s most popular pizza topping! Believe it or not, pepperoni is the Italian word for bell pepper, so keep that in mind if you’re considering ordering a pepperoni pizza in Italy (although, if you’re in a popular tourist definition, such as Rome, they will most likely know what you want).

The history of pepperoni, just like the history of pizza, is a fascinating web of corporate espionage, betrayal, political drama, failure, and redemption. Nah, we’re just kidding, but it’s still pretty interesting! Read on if you would like to learn more about this iconic spicy salami.

The Secret Origin of Pepperoni… 

We weren’t lying when we said pepperoni was invented in the United States. However, it was invented by Italian-Americans, and you can actually trace its lineage all the way back to the early days of the Roman Empire!

People have been drying and smoking meats for centuries, even long before the era of the Roman Empire. Still, it was the ancient Romans who pioneered the curing process (using salt and other spices as curing agents to keep meat fresh for long periods of time). This allowed them to stockpile meat instead of having to rely upon what they could catch every single day.

This preservation method led to the creation of sausage, including some spicy sausages that were bright red in color. Sausage became a staple food across much of Europe and eventually made its way into the American diet as well. You see, pepperoni was an attempt to emulate Italian sausage and salami using ingredients available in the States.

The first recorded mention of pepperoni occurred in 1919 in New York City. The topping began to appear in several Italian delis and pizzerias across Lower Manhattan. At the time, people considered pepperoni as an ethnic Italian dish. It wasn’t until the 1950s, the commercialization of gas pizza ovens, and the aftermath of World War II that both pizza and pepperoni became a cultural touchstone.

How Pepperoni Is Made

We’ve heard people say it’s a bad idea to learn about the sausage-making process and, even worse, see it in action. We’re not sure why. The method of making pepperoni is actually quite fascinating! Pepperoni begins life as ground pork and beef mixed with spices, like garlic, pepper, fennel, and mustard seed.

Pepperoni makers add salt (often sodium nitrate) to the meat-spice combination to cure it and then seal and refrigerate it. After a few days, they stuff the mixture into casings (often hog casings). Once the cured meat is in the casings, they tie off the casings to form a rope of links.

They refrigerate the links for around twelve hours to solidify their shapes, and then they hang the links to dry, usually in a smoke chamber to preserve them further and add extra smoky goodness, for a few weeks. After the meat dries, they package the links individually or slice them up and ship them to your nearest grocery store–or to Dogtown Pizza!

Pepperoni Fun Facts!

  • Americans consume more than 250 million pounds of pepperoni each year and more than 340 tons each day.
  • Excluding cheese, pepperoni is, by far, the most popular pizza topping in the United States.
  • National Pepperoni Day is September 20th.
  • September 20th is Dogtown Pizza’s favorite day of the year.
  • In 1994, a pepperoni and mushroom pizza became one of the first things ordered on the internet.
  • Pepperoni pizza is the most popular frozen pizza variety.
  • Around 36% of people add pepperoni to their pizza orders.
  • Pepperoni typically gets its bright red color from paprika.
  • You’re going to pick up a Dogtown Pepperoni Pizza from your local St. Louis grocery store for dinner tonight.

Oh, wait. Did we say that last one out loud? We may have slipped a mild hypnotic suggestion into that list of pepperoni fun facts. In any case, Dogtown Pizza’s frozen St. Louis-style pizza is the best frozen pizza money can buy! If you’re craving pizza after reading this blog post, then we’ve done our job correctly, and we’re happy to satiate that craving!

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