Welcome to the second post in the History of Our Menu. If you missed the first one where we explore the origins of pizza, make sure you take the time to read it. Today, we are covering the history of buffalo wings – that amazing appetizer that has filled the stomachs of many football fans around the nation.
The Origins of a Classic:
Buffalo wings, as much as cherry pie, are a United States delicacy. This unbreaded finger food comes in either flat or drummete that is deep-fried and coated in a spicy hot sauce. While some people will order the delightful mild or sweet and tangy wing, that is not true to the original vision of the buffalo wing.
Throughout the history of buffalo wings, there are conflicting claims as to who invented this classic. It is generally regarded as originating in Buffalo, New York (hence the name) around 1964. From our understanding – and from pretty much everywhere we read – Teressa Bellissimo, the owner of the Anchor Bar, concocted the buffalo wing and sold it alongside celery sticks with blue cheese for dipping.
To this day, Ms. Bellissimo’s original vision remains the most popular form of the buffalo wing. Here at Tuscan Pizza, we sell ours true to her creation.
The Go-to Appetizer:
You probably think of buffalo wings as a snack or an appetizer – well that is exactly how Ms. Bellissimo thought of them too. One of the stories behind buffalo wings was that her son and his friends were looking for snacks after coming home from college. It was at this point that she threw them in the deep frier (instead of throwing them away like most people during this era) and serving them with hot sauce.
Another iteration of the story is that Ms. Bellissimo created buffalo wings for her patrons at the Anchor Bar. It’s said that after a full night of drinking, she needed an appetizer to sell to customers. Thus, according to this version of the story, buffalo wings were created as quick and easy finger food.
No matter which version of the story you choose to believe, it’s clear that the buffalo wing was created as the ultimate appetizer. Not much has changed since then either. Today, Tuscan Pizza sells more buffalo wings than any other appetizer on our menu. It continues to sell more and more every year – especially during the greatest sports day of them all, Super Bowl Sunday.
Last year alone, over 1.3 billion buffalo wings were consumed during the Super Bowl.
That’s a lot of wings! We believe it’s pretty safe to say that wings are loved by American’s across the country.
Growth And Popularity:
While the buffalo wing is hugely popular by any measure in today’s society, it wasn’t always the case. In 1977, Buffalo, NY started the movement to make chicken wings popular. They issued an official proclamation celebrating the buffalo wing founder and created the city-wide Chicken Wing Day.
Right after the celebration and in the late 1970s and early ’80s, buffalo wing interest exploded. They gained country-wide popularity as a bar food and appetizer staple. Even Canada got in on the buffalo wing craze and it started popping up across the great white north as a result.
Whole franchises have built their chains around this beloved food. Without Ms. Bellissimo, places like Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters, and other restaurants probably wouldn’t exist (certainly not in the same capacity). Even Tuscan Pizza would sorely miss buffalo wings if Ms. Bellissimo hadn’t first thrown chicken wings in the deep frier.
Rise of the Wing Festival:
The history of buffalo wings wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the rise of wing festivals. The United States continues to show admiration every year by hosting tons of competitive eating events across the nation. One of the largest, Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl, draws an average of 20,000 people to their live event. For comparison’s sake, when the Philly Wing Bowl started in 1993, only 150 people attended the event. It’s now broadcast on TV, the radio, and internet streams; becoming a cultural phenomenon.
Of course, Buffalo New York also hosts their own wing bowl, called the National Buffalo Wing Festival. It too draws monster crowds – 84,000 unique online viewers in 2010. Originating in 2002, each Wing Festival has grown in size and competition.
Many small bars and restaurants also offer wing eating contests for customers. The most commonplace version of the contest is seeing who can eat the most wings dipped in the hottest sauces during a set period of time. It’s gotten so intense that many restaurants intentionally create an extra-hot sauce just to torture theses brave customers. If you manage to overcome the odds, you are generally rewarded with your picture on a wall or even their website. If you’re lucky you will get other rewards as well.
A Variety of Sauces and Wings:
While it deviates from the original vision of the buffalo wing, many pizzerias, our’s included, offer a variety of sauces for chicken wings. While we prefer them the way they were intended, there’s now sauces influenced by many different cultures:
If you go to a wing festival you can ever try really adventurous sauces, such as blueberry BBQ or maple and bacon flavored glazes. It helps keep the popularity of wings growing and continually drums up interest in our favorite appetizer.
Sometime during the 2000s when the increased cost of chicken wings expanded, many pizzerias like Tuscan Pizza began offering “boneless wings.” It’s generally haled as a neater eating experience and customers love that they’re offered more meat for their dollar.
Boneless wings differ from traditional wings in that they’re usually small pieces of skinless, boneless chicken breasts coated in flour and spices then fried or baked. For the most part, they come served just like buffalo wings with sauce, blue cheese, and celery.
If reading all of this has made you crave buffalo or boneless wings (it made me crave them while writing it), make sure you stop by south jersey’s best pizzeria and pick up an order. Say hi to Tuscan Pizza’s owner Miguel while you’re there.
Until next time, this is the history of buffalo wings.