Whether you agree with Buffalo chicken as a pizza topping from a culinary or philosophical perspective or throw it in with pineapple and ham as a controversial bastardization, you’d be hard-pressed to deny Buffalo chicken’s iconic presence on menus at pizzerias across America. And while Teressa Bellissimo is generally credited with having invented Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar in 1964, credit for its invention as a pizza topping is a little harder to pin down. When did wings move out of the side dish and onto the pie? Who Invented Buffalo chicken pizza?
The hard beginning of a search for the originator of Buffalo chicken pizza has to be 1964 with their Nickel City origin. From there, consider that La Nova Pizza is generally accepted as the first pizzeria in Buffalo (in 1971) to also start serving wings. It seems logical that would mark the best starting point for the first pizzeria to serve Buffalo chicken on top of pizza. I’m working on finding out when La Nova started making their Chicken Finger Pizza (it features a blue cheese base, spicy crust, fontinella, Cheddar and mozzarella) but so far, no word as to whether it marks the birthplace of this topping’s national prominence.
Domino’s started serving wings with pizza in their stores in the Buffalo area in 1992. So the ease of proximity of Buffalo wings as a flavor to pizzas made by local shops and corporate chains is 1971 to 1992. According to Domino’s, the brand’s own Buffalo Chicken pizza was created by its product development team when they launched their American Legends specialty pizzas in 2009, many of which had a region or city as inspiration (Buffalo, Memphis, Honolulu, etc.).
Domino’s started serving wings with pizza in their stores in the Buffalo area in 1992.
Domino’s said the pizza was inspired by a limited time product they sold years ago called the “Buffalo Stampede pizza,” and that it was a test or something available in a few small markets, but no one seems to know exactly when it originated. Of course, Domino’s is not the only pizza chain in the Buffalo chicken game. Pizza Hut introduced their own version nationwide in 2004. And Little Caesar’s was making one with celery and blue-cheese dressing as early as 2002.
But this all seems late in the game.
In 1997, the monthly American women’s magazine McCall’s (defunct since 2002) announced their 1996 Recipe Contest Winner was for Buffalo Wing Pizza, which called for shredded chicken seasoned with Mrs. Dash to be scattered on a prefab crust along with Monterey Jack, chopped celery and either blue cheese or ranch interchangeably. But the first reference to “Buffalo chicken pizza” I can find is from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press on February 14, 1996 at a restaurant (since closed) called Table of Contents in St. Paul and Minneapolis by chef (and now professional angler) Kristine Szczech. Not to denigrate Minnesota in any way, but it seems a bit far from the original dish’s origins to be the topping’s birthplace, and while 1996 feels closer to a logical birthday, it’s hard to believe it didn’t happen before then.
The first reference to “Buffalo chicken pizza” I can find is from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press on February 14, 1996 at a restaurant called Table of Contents in St. Paul and Minneapolis by chef Kristine Szczech.
How about California Pizza Kitchen? Does the secret rest with Ed LaDou, the first pizza chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago? LaDou was famous for his outlandish pizza toppings and was a developer of the first menu at California Pizza Kitchen in Beverly Hills in 1985. Did he ever do a Buffalo chicken wing pizza? Given that LaDou passed away in 2007 unless CPK’s founders Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax have any insight, the world may never know.
So there you go. Why did the Buffalo chicken wing cross the, er… how did the Buffalo chicken wing get on a pizza? That’s all I’ve got. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’ve reached out to some of the most well-regarded and knowledgable pizza experts across the country and they’re stumped too. I’m hitting Buffalo again next month and I suspect that’ll be my best shot at an answer.
Think you may know a pizzeria that claims to have invented Buffalo chicken as a topping? Don’t know the answer to this epic question, but have heard of another baby whose delivery was allegedly induced by eating Buffalo chicken wing pizza as at one Charlotte, N.C. pizzeria?
Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m dying to know.