Pepperoni 101: A Look at the History and Popularity of Pepperoni
According to a study by Convenience Store Decisions, pepperoni is by far America’s favorite pizza topping. In fact, close to ¼ of a billion pounds are consumed on pizzas annually. (Yes, that’s billion with a “b.”) Pepperoni is consumed on approximately 36 percent of all pizzas that are ordered. But what is pepperoni, and why do we like it?
THE HISTORY OF PEPPERONI
First of all, pepperoni is entirely American. Though it’s similar to some spicy types of southern Italian salumi, there’s really nothing Italian about it. It has a finer grain. It’s softer. It’s bright red. And almost all pepperoni is mass-produced with an artificial casing. Pepperoni is an American invention like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parm.
The word “pepperoni” literally translates to “big peppers,” which are commonly referred to as bell peppers in the United States. The first mention of pepperoni in print was from 1919, during a period when Italian butcher shops and pizzerias began to flourish in New York City. In reality, pepperoni was probably born on Mulberry Street or Bleecker Street in Lower Manhattan, not in lower Italy as many people think.
WHY WE LIKE PEPPERONI
Maybe it’s an American thing we only recognized in our subconscious. Maybe it’s the spicy, salty, slightly smoky combination on top of cheese and a sweet tomato sauce. Maybe it’s the way some pepperoni curls and collects that delicious grease.
The reality is, we’ll never really know why pepperoni gained favor as American’s favorite pizza topping. Over the last several years, artisanal pepperoni varieties have emerged from some of the most reputable salumaris and charcuteries in foodservice, and it looks like the trend toward quality will only continue, making the perfect pizza much more achievable.
But when you’re creating the perfect pizza, there’s much more involved than just the ingredients. Having the right oven and pizza equipment will go a long way toward having happy customers – both in foodservice operations and home kitchens.