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Pizza and buffalo wings – the origins of a classic American combo


By Murray Schulman
It was Friday evening. I’d had stops at DGC Catering, Phat Belly Deli & Baked Goods and the Restaurant Store, and that was all before noon. That afternoon, I had some calls to make for SCORE, I wrote up a few reports and I hung up my clean clothes. Liz was busy tending to her myriad chores and errands. It was the end of a typically busy week for us.

Liz looked up at the kitchen clock, turned around and said, “What do you want for dinner?” Immediately, what popped into my head is “What do I want”? Fortunately, that is not what came out of my mouth. Instead, I calmly said, “I don’t know. What would you like?”

Liz gave me a mild version of “the look,” and replied in her soft-spoken way, “Why do I have to decide? You pick!”! So, here I was stuck in this quandary, wondering what Liz would like. So I threw up my hands in defeat and said astutely, “I don’t have the slightest idea.”

Then she gave me the full-force “look,” which can freeze a man in place and turn his knees to rubber. I looked right and I looked left, quickly realizing there was no one there to save me. Her hands formed fists and began to rise to her hips. Trembling, I shouted the first thing that came to mind. “Pizza!”

Yes, let us have an old standby – large cheese pizza. So just to ensure I was on solid ground, I hastened to add that I would place the order, and would also add a dozen “buffalo wings.” Liz’s hands slid back down to her side and her face returned to normal as she said, “Fine! Just do not get the wings too spicy.”

I wiped my brow and a relieved smirk grew on my face as I replied, “Yes, dear”! I jumped in my car and drove to the pizzeria to pick up our pizza and wings.

Soon all was calm and we are munching on our dinner. I looked at the combination of cheese pizza and buffalo wings and thought to myself, “Why is the combo of pizza and wings on every menu in every American pizza shop?”

I had to know the answer. What I discovered through an article in “Thrillist,” is that La Nova Pizza of Buffalo, N.Y., first introduced the idea of bundling buffalo wings with pizza in 1957. This became so popular that La Nova turned into a buffalo wing conglomerate that supplied their wings to national pizza chains. According to Maria Merlino, national sales director of La Nova Wings Inc., Don Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods, never would have been able to sell the chicken wing idea to Dominoes and Pizza Hut if not for La Nova. Merlino states that since the company paired pizza and wings, the brand has sold billions of wings.

My reaction was that once you eat a couple of buffalo wings, you really cannot taste anything else. Much less a cheese pizza. It looks like I am dead wrong.

Both pizza and wings are hand-held foods. The contrast between saucy, spicy, wings and melty cheesy pizza are easily melded because both flavors pair perfectly with cool sauces like ranch or blue cheese. In the “Thrillist” author’s words, “It’s a match made in pizza heaven.”

Just think, The New Yorker stated some 50 years ago that wings were parts of the chicken that most people do not consider good enough to serve to bar flies. But, in 1964 The Anchor Bar of Buffalo fame invented the Buffalo Wing, and everything changed.

The wing became so popular that there have been wing shortages in the United States. The popularity of pairing pizza and buffalo wings appears to be crazy. I am here to tell you that it is crazy. Crazy like a fox!
Next time Liz asks me what I want for dinner, and nothing readily comes to mind, I am simply going to order pizza and buffalo wings from our local pizzeria. Problem solved.

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