Red Sauce How Italian Food Became American

The Origins of Bagel Pizza

By on Thursday, November 4th, 2021 at 8:53 am | 17 views

Bagel pizzas -- where do they come from?

There are few fusion foods that cause more controversy than bagel pizzas. The question of who invented the bagel pizza is an east coast / west coast rivalry bigger than Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.

Richard Katz, a bagel maker in the city of Boston, says his father, Harry, invented the first bagel pizza in 1970. The Park Street bakery began in 1938 in what had then been a Jewish neighborhood, and it had been famous for babka and challah.

Harry Katz combined sauce, mozzarella, and canola oil with a flat, pre-baked bagel bottom. Katz’s bagel pizzas don’t have holes in the center, but are otherwise made the same way as bagels. The bagel pizzas make up about half the bakery’s income, and for a time they even sold frozen versions in the grocery store. However, since most grocery stores charge for shelf placement, the Katz frozen bagels were never easy to find.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Bruce Treitman lays claim to inventing a true bagel pizza around 1973 or 1974. The Western Bagel chain was founded in Los Angeles in 1947 by Dave Ustin who moved to California from New York City. The chain expanded over the next decades across southern california. The bagel pizza was officially launched at the chain in 1974.

Bagel pizzas were around earlier than either Katz or Treitman claim to have invented the food. Amster Pizza Bagel, Inc, was founded in 1967 in South Euclid, Ohio. The company applied for a patent in 1970 for their packaging system that included 6 bagels. They sold frozen bagel pizzas in the midwest region during the time.

Some unverified sources claim that a teenager, Anthony DeMauro, invented the bagel pizza while working at Amster’s Bagel Bakery around 1959, but there is no documentation supporting this claim. Even so, DeMauro is unlikely the inventor of the bagel pizza in 1959.

A wire story circulating newspapers across the country as early as 1957 discussing the new phenomenon of pizza — a “smelly, soggy” food worth $200m a year in sales. The article cites a pizza-bagel originating near Delancey Street in New York City’s Lower East Side Neighborhood. At the time, Italian and Jewish immigrants lived in close quarters in tenements, a natural place for the bagel pizza to evolve.