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9 Quirky Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know About the Origin of Your Favorite Foods

Updated: Feb. 12, 2023

From salads to sandwiches to ice cream cones—we've got the scoop on the history of your favorite foods.

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Pizza fit for a queen

The Margherita pizza was created in 1889, when Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples, according to the owners of Brandi Trattoria in Port Chester, New York. In honor of the queen, Chef Raffaele Esposito and his wife created a pizza resembling the Italian flag and its colors; red (tomato), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). Later that same year, Queen Margherita penned a letter identifying Brandi Pizzeria as the originator of the Margherita Pizza. Brandi Pizzeria in Naples is still in operation today and Brandi Trattoria in Port Chester is its first official outpost in the U.S.

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We all scream for ice cream (cones)

In Norfolk, Virginia, the founder of Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue is credited with inventing the first ever waffle ice cream cone in 1904—ahead of the World’s Fair in St. Louis where it was first served to the masses. The original cone machines that Albert Doumar created are on display and in use today at Doumar’s, which serves homemade ice cream and North Carolina style BBQ dishes at its original Monticello Avenue location. Hankering for a scoop? Head to the best ice cream shop in your state.

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Meet me at the Waldorf for a salad

This American staple, the Waldorf Salad, was created, not by a chef, but by the maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, at New York City’s legendary Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896, where it became in instant success. The original version of the salad consisted of only diced apples and chopped celery mixed with mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts were added later and became an integral part of this classic dish.

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Hail, Caesar!

It’s virtually impossible to locate an American eatery that doesn’t have some sort of Caesar Salad on the menu. And, no, a Roman emperor didn’t first concoct it. It was created, according to legend, by an Italian-American restaurateur named Caesar Cardini in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico, to appeal to American visitors.

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Nebraska vs New York

There are two decidedly different schools of thought as to where the Reuben sandwich, a tasty blend of corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese—all blanketed in a couple of slices of rye bread, was created for the first time. Natives of Omaha, Nebraska, get blue in the face with rage if someone insists it was a New York invention. Their version has the sandwich first being created by Reuben Kulakofsky for his weekly poker game. New Yorkers, on the other hand, prefer to believe that Arnold Reuben of Reuben’s Deli first created it. Here are 9 foods that were created on accident.

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Oodles of noodles

Whether Marco Polo “discovered” noodles in China in the 1200s and brought them back to Italy or, as many Italians believe, they were already being enjoyed there, one thing is definite: noodles and pasta really caught on and today they still take center stage on tables all over the world.

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Hungover people everywhere should give praise

A picture perfect place to enjoy some Native American cooking classics is Santa Fe, New Mexico, where your first foodie stop can be Tia Sophia’s. This humble diner, first opened in 1975, features nothing but good old-fashioned New Mexican cuisine at very affordable prices and is located just off the town’s charming and historic central plaza. Native American staples such as posole (hominy) are on the menu and can be revved up by adding some “Christmas,” a term coined in the 1980s by waitperson Martha Totuno, to mean both red and green chile peppers, condiments that are staples on every Southwestern table. Perhaps Tia Sophia’s biggest claim to fame is the invention of the Breakfast Burrito, which became such a hit that now it appears on menus across the U.S. and around the world. Learn the surprising birthplaces of 20 favorite foods and drinks.

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Eat dessert first!

Boston has given us so much down through the years and one of its most famous creations is the Boston Cream Pie and Parker House Rolls. Both originated in the kitchens of the Omni Parker House hotel. Built in 1927, the historic hostelry originally opened in 1855 and claims to be the longest continuously operating hotel in the U.S. The Boston Cream Pie (actually a cake) now reigns as the official dessert of Massachusetts. When the Parker House opened in 1855, chocolate was mainly consumed at home as a beverage or in puddings. And there was no lack of chocolate in Boston, since America’s first chocolate mill had opened in neighboring Dorchester in 1765. Since colonial times, New Englanders have enjoyed a dessert called American “Pudding-cake pie,” but in 1856 when Parker House’s own Chef Sanzian and his bake staff drizzled chocolate icing onto sponge cake filled with vanilla custard, something new and sensational was born. Originally dubbed the “Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie,” this delectable dessert is now savored all around the world. On December 12, 1996, thanks in part to a local high school civics class that sponsored the bill, Boston Cream Pie was proclaimed the official Massachusetts State Dessert despite stiff competition from the Toll House Cookie, the Fig Newton, and Indian Pudding.

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A drink fit for a Rockefeller

While gin was a British libation, it quickly gained popularity in the New World where it was first used to make a little cocktail called the martini. The first one made was allegedly created at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel, which was originally opened in 1906 by John Jacob Astor IV, and closed in 1921 due to the onset of Prohibition and when Astor perished aboard the Titanic. During its original run, the hotel was a place for dignitaries and glitterati like F. Scott Fitzgerald, John D. Rockefeller and more. One night, a bartender by the name of Martini di Arma di Taggia, whipped up a special drink for John D. Rockefeller. This drink came to be known as the martini. The Knickerbocker, which recently underwent a spectacular renovation, still has the “Original Martini” on its menus today, so you can try the original for yourself. No matter what your favorite toast is, “Cheers!” will fill the bill just about anyplace around the world. Next up, learn the 50 things food manufacturers won’t tell you.