Thanks to a Nothern Minnesota distillery I went down the rabbit hole of pizza rolls this morning. Apparently, my history of the pizza roll was missing a Northern Minnesota piece. I had wrongly assumed that the Totino family came up with the idea of a small 'pocket' of pizza, but that honor actually goes to Jeno Paulucci who lived up in Duluth.

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What got my pizza roll rabbit hole started was a post from Vikre Distillery that was a picture of two women. The post above the photo said that one of the women was one of the inventors of the pizza roll, and that was what began my descent into the darkness of the pizza roll web.

Image Credit: Vikre Distillery Screengrab Paul Shea/TSM
Image Credit: Vikre Distillery Screengrab Paul Shea/TSM

As the story goes, Jeno who was at the time in the 1960s was making Chinese food, wanted to see what else he could put inside a mini-egg roll. He turned to one of the women in the above photo, Bea Ojakangas, and she began experimenting with different fillings. Of course, we know that ultimately the filling that was decided on was pizza flavored, and that began what we now know as a pizza roll.

Minnpost wrote about it a few years ago, and some of the other fillings that 'could have been' were interesting, to say the least.

"Cheeseburger, California burger, Reuben sandwich, fillings, even peanut butter and jelly—because I was told that the boss really liked his PB & J sandwiches. Five or six of the fillings were ‘pizza’ flavored, made with Italian sausage, pepperoni, or shrimp.”

Jeno's then sold the pizza roll company off to Pillsbury in 1993, which then renamed Jeno's Pizza Rolls as Totino's Pizza Rolls, as Pillsbury had already acquired the Minneapolis-based pizza maker years earlier.

Just make sure the next time you make some pizza rolls for the kids or yourself that they have had some time to cool down before biting down, we wouldn't want you or your kids to burn your/their mouth.

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