The World War I fighter pilot history of Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron) is the stuff of legend. What many people don’t realize is that when he wasn’t being a fighter pilot, he was cooking and freezing pizzas with another lesser known pilot, Heinrich von DiGiorno. In 1917, Totino’s pizza was the only thing on the market in the way of frozen pizza. Aside from being drunk or 12 years old, Totino’s pizzas were mostly not all that tasty. Something had to give. Americans love their pizza and wanted it flavorful and frozen for mass consumption…which is why the Germans invented the better frozen Italian food staple sold in stores today.
Richthofen and DiGiorno were part of the German Flying Circus or Jagdgeschwader 1, in fact, Richthofen was their leader. His flying and fighting prowess were both feared and admired by his enemies. His close friends also admired his ability in the air, but were more impressed with his ability in the kitchen. He was all about freezing foods and reheating them for later. He did this because it was really cold in the cockpit of an airplane in early 20th century. He would take his lunch with him and it would freeze…then he’d have to thaw and reheat his lunch on the airplane’s engine. Nothing was worse than frozen food that tasted bad when you cooked it, especially while engaged in a bitter aerial dog fight with your sworn wartime enemies. He toiled in the kitchen to create an edible version of his favorite food, pizza. He traded recipes with DiGiorno, who also enjoyed pizza, fighter piloting and eating in his plane. Both Richthofen and DiGiorno naturally hated the Italians. They were still pissed or pizzed about Italy initially being Germany’s ally, but then changing sides and joining the Triple Entente. They knew they should give up pizza in defiance, but alas…they could not. So the cooking and experimenting continued throughout World War I.
Finally, late in 1917 they created two recipes that could successfully be frozen, heated and consumed. Although different recipes they were essentially the same thing…frozen pizza. Thus, a better than Totino’s pizza was born. Other than the pizzas being named after them, they are rarely or never credited with their creation.