We all love French fries, and you can’t really go wrong with ice cream; kale is having a moment, and doughnuts are the new cupcake. The food world will forever have its fads and perennial faves, but few eats make the transition from beloved nosh to downright cultural institution. Pizza, however, has always been special.
Having a passion for pizza is a universal pastime. And judging by the steady stream of listicles and other assorted literature on the subject, it’s an eternally hot topic. Pizza’s many incarnations, geographical and otherwise, are incessantly ranked, categorized, analyzed, argued over, evaluated, and celebrated. But look beyond the mind-blowing goodness that is the food itself to discover an even more intriguing phenomenon—the way the mere idea of this cheesy, saucy, crusty delight has managed to leave a big ol’ welcome grease stain on every element of popular culture as we know it. Pizza has appeared on the silver screen, inspired countless musical stylings, fueled fashion decisions for the likes of Beyoncé, graced the walls of art galleries, cropped up everywhere from athletic events to DJ dance parties, and penetrated the deepest depths of the Internet.
So what is it about pizza? Well, perhaps it’s the inherent communality of it, that it’s sliced to be shared. Or maybe we’re drawn to its customizable, and therefore deeply personal, quality. It could be the high-low factor—that it’s just as likely to be topped with truffle oil as it is to be sold for 99 cents. Who knows, this very air of mystery might even be part of the appeal. Whatever the case, we’re all obsessed. Here, we explore the cultlike fandom of everyone’s favorite food.