NOTE: This article contains images from the US patent archive.Complete patent documents are linked in the caption following each photo.
A clear ancestor of the modern pizza slicer, patent was submitted in 1897 for use in trimming cigar wrappers. [Courtesy of US Patent Office—click for full patent]
In the world of food gadgetry, no piece of gear is more iconic than the pizza slicer. The mere sight of a circular blade cradled in a handle holds no mystery as to its use, however the story of its evolution is far more layered. The concept of serving pizza by the slice is fairly new (post-WWII) but the genetic material for the contemporary circular pizza blade can be found scattered across the past three centuries.
Our journey begins with the invention of the mezzaluna (half moon) by Silvio Pacitti in 1708. There’s not much information floating around about this fellow, but we can safely assume he was born and lived on the Italian peninsula, the southern region of which birthed our beloved pizza. He was the Ron Popeil of his time, having invented something extremely simple to make food preparation easier. While most standard knives cut by dragging across their subject, the mezzaluna has a rounded blade that impacts its target with a downward motion as it rolls across. This creates a clean incision without disrupting the material being cut.
This pizza knife is a modern version of the mezzaluna, aka rocker, aka machete, in use at Pequod’s in Chicago. [Photo: Jon Porter / Chicago Pizza Tours]
Originally available in small sizes with either a single or double blade, the mezzaluna was initially intended for vegetable and herb chopping. Pizzerias in the Midwest now employ larger versions to cut both thick and cracker-thin pizzas quickly and evenly. While it may not be as popular as its wheeled counterpart, the mezzaluna certainly predates it. The image above shows a modern version of the mezzaluna used for cutting deep dish pizza, a style which didn’t emerge until the 1940s. The task of splitting such a thick product is obviously a job smaller tools aren’t cut out for.