That Plastic Thing In Your Pizza Box Serves A Purpose & We Have Carmela Vitale To Thank For It
As a kid, I remember using those little plastic tables that came in pizza boxes as tables for my Barbie dolls. In reality, though, it turns out those plastic things in pizza boxes actually have a real purpose — and it's not doll furniture. (Which is good, given that they weren't really the right size for my imaginary tea parties anyway.) They also have an interesting history I did not know about until just now. Now that I know about it, though, I can safely say we'd be lost without these little guys. They're the unsung heroes of pizza lovers everywhere.
The real reason pizza delivery places include those little tables is because they keep the box from sticking to the cheese in the center of the pizza. If you just put the pizza in the box alone, chances are that at some point during delivery, the middle of the lid — which often grows saggy from the steam that comes with having a hot pizza inside — will be pushed down into the pizza. This will cause the cheese to stick to the cardboard, and by the time it arrives, half your cheese won't even be on the pizza anymore. It'll be plastered to the lid of your box.
And that is a crime, because cheese is glorious, especially on pizza. It's why we spend so much time trying to fit cheese into as many parts of the pizza as possible, with things like stuffed crust pizza or even grilled cheese crust pizza. Because you want more cheese on your pizza, not less.
So who is responsible for this glorious invention that protects the structural integrity of our glorious pizza? Her name was Carmela Vitale.
Vitale was not a scientist or engineer; in fact, at the time she invented the pizza table, she was a wife and mother serving on the city council of her small town on Long Island. She was, however, the inventor responsible for literally saving pizzas everywhere. Vitale submitted her patent for what she called a "package saver" in 1983 at the age of 46, and it was approved two years later, in 1985.
Vitale's role in creating the design, though, has gone largely unremembered. She did not pay the fee to renew the patent in 1993, and it ultimately lapsed. Vitale herself died in 2005 at the age of 68.
It's unclear if Vitale ever had grander plans for her "package savers" — she certainly didn't ever seem to be interested in manufacturing or selling them. Still, every time your pizza shows up intact without half the cheese stuck to the top, you have Vitale to thank.