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How much was a pizza in 1950?

Pizza has become one of America’s favorite foods over the past 70 years. In 2021, Americans consumed an average of 46 slices of pizza per person per year. But pizza was just starting to take hold in the American diet back in 1950. How much did pizza cost when it was still a relative novelty in the United States? Let’s take a look at pizza prices in 1950 and how they compared to other common expenses at the time.

The origins of pizza in America

Pizza originated in Italy, but it did not become popular in the United States until the early 20th century when Italian immigrants brought pizza recipes with them to American cities. The first pizzerias opened in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia between 1905-1910. However, pizzas at this time were modest affairs made by street vendors with simple toppings like sauce and cheese.

Pizza remained a niche ethnic food until after World War II. American servicemen stationed in Italy during the war came home with a craving for pizza. This sparked a pizza craze stateside. Pizzerias started opening across the country in the 1940s to meet the demand. Pizza consumption skyrocketed in post-war America.

Pizza prices in the late 1940s

In the late 1940s, pizza was still gaining a foothold nationwide. Full pizzas cost between $0.75 to $1.00 at most pizzerias. A standard cheese pizza was the norm, with additional toppings costing 5-10 cents each.

For example, one menu from Joe’s Pizzeria in Los Angeles in 1949 listed a small 10-inch cheese pizza for $0.85 and a large 16-inch cheese pizza for $1.25. Extra toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, or anchovies cost an additional $0.10 each.

At the high end, some fancy “gourmet” pizzas with special toppings like clams or eggplant cost between $1.50 to $2.00 in upscale restaurants. But a basic cheese pizza from your average corner pizzeria was selling for around $1.00.

Pizza Prices in 1950

By 1950, pizza continued to increase in popularity across America. More pizzerias were opening nationwide. Pizza was still not considered a staple food, but it was becoming more common, especially in cities on the East Coast and Midwest where pizza parlors were concentrated.

Average cost of a pizza

In 1950, the average cost of a cheese pizza was about $1.25 to $1.50. Here are some examples of pizza prices from menus around the United States in 1950:

  • Angelo’s Pizza in Philadelphia – small 10” cheese pizza $1.25, large 14” $1.75
  • Santillo’s Pizza in Elizabeth, NJ – small cheese pizza $1.10, large $1.50
  • Marcello’s Pizza in Boston – cheese pizza $1.35
  • Pagliacci’s Pizza in Seattle WA – 10” cheese pizza $1.50
  • Palermo’s Pizza in Chicago – small cheese pizza $1.25, large $2.00

The most inexpensive pizzas were around $1.00, while pizzas from higher-end restaurants or pizzerias in major cities like New York could cost up to $1.75 for a large pie. On average across the United States, a typical cheese pizza cost between $1.25 to $1.50 in 1950.

Cost of pizza toppings

Basic toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, anchovies, or extra cheese typically cost an additional $0.10 to $0.25 per topping in 1950. Some pizzerias offered deluxe pizzas with combinations of toppings like pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms for $1.75 to $2.25 for a large pizza.

Here are some example pizza topping prices from 1950:

  • Otto’s Pizzeria in LA – extra toppings $0.15 each
  • Paisano’s Pizza in Pittsburgh – pepperoni $0.20, mushrooms $0.15, onion $0.10
  • Salerno’s Pizza in San Francisco – deluxe pizza (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms) large $2.25

So pizza with extra toppings generally cost between $0.10 to $0.25 more per item in 1950.

Cost at major pizza chains

Some major pizza chains that got their start in the 1940s and 1950s included Shakey’s Pizza and Pizza Hut.

Shakey’s opened their first location in Sacramento, California in 1954. A basic cheese pizza cost $1.29 while a deluxe pizza was $1.69.

The first Pizza Hut opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1958. Their prices were similar, with a small cheese pizza starting at $1.25 and specialty pizzas averaging around $1.75.

So the major pizza chains had prices aligned with independent pizzerias, with a typical cheese pizza costing $1.25 to $1.50 in the early 1950s.

How Pizza Prices Compared to Other Food Costs

To put pizza prices in context, let’s look at what other common grocery items were selling for in 1950.

Food Item Average Price in 1950
Pizza (cheese) $1.25-$1.50
Hamburger $0.30
Loaf of bread $0.14
Bacon (per lb) $0.45
Potatoes (10 lb bag) $1.00
Milk (per gallon) $0.82
Ground coffee (per lb) $0.68
Soda (6 pack) $0.25
Movie ticket $0.50

As we can see, a cheese pizza averaging $1.25-$1.50 was one of the more expensive food items at the grocery store in 1950. A whole hamburger was only $0.30, a loaf of bread $0.14, and a gallon of milk $0.82. Pizza was a relative luxury food compared to other common grocery prices of the time.

The higher price makes sense given pizza’s status as a unique new food item that required specialized preparation compared to staples like bread and milk. Additionally, pizza’s popularity in cities meant real estate and ingredient costs were higher for pizzerias. All of these factors made pizza more costly than other foods in 1950.

How Pizza Prices Changed from 1950 to 1960

Between 1950 to 1960, pizza continued to explode in popularity across America. Advancements in freezer and frozen food technology enabled pizza makers to freeze and transport pizzas nationwide. Chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Shakey’s expanded. Pizza became more affordable and accessible.

As a result, pizza prices dropped over the course of the 1950s. Here is how average pizza prices changed over the decade:

Year Average Price of Cheese Pizza
1950 $1.25-$1.50
1955 $1.10-$1.35
1960 $0.99-$1.25

As we can see, the average cost of a cheese pizza dropped from around $1.50 in 1950 down to $1.25 or less by 1960. This represents over a 15% decrease in the average pizza price through the 1950s as pizza became more mainstream and widespread across the United States.

Trends in pizza prices and consumption

A few key factors drove down pizza prices in the 1950s:

  • Efficiency improvements in pizza making, allowing pizzerias to produce more pizzas faster.
  • Expanded pizza chains benefited from economies of scale.
  • Wider availability of mozzarella cheese and other pizza ingredients.
  • Introduction of frozen pizzas that could be mass produced and distributed.

At the same time, pizza consumption dramatically increased. Annual per capita pizza consumption nearly quadrupled from around 2 pounds per person in 1950 to over 7.5 pounds per person by 1960. As pizza became more popular and accessible, prices dropped to meet rising consumer demand.

Pizza’s transformation into an American staple

During the 1950s, pizza transformed from an exotic urban food into an ubiquitous American mainstay. What was once considered a luxury food only found in Italian restaurants became affordable and available across the country thanks to expansion of pizza chains. Frozen and ready-made pizzas enabled home cooks to make pizza easily. And American tastes rapidly changed to embrace pizza as both comfort and party food.

The drop in pizza prices through the 1950s mirrored this rapid adoption. By 1960, pizza was well on its way to overtaking hot dogs and hamburgers as America’s favorite fast food.

The Pizza Landscape Today

Pizza remains a staple of the American diet today. Here is how pizza consumption and pricing has continued to evolve from the 1960s onward:

Pizza consumption

  • In 1970, annual per capita pizza consumption reached 17 pounds per person.
  • By 1980 it doubled to over 34 pounds per person as pizza became a weekday convenience food.
  • In 2021, Americans ate an average of 46 pounds of pizza per person.

Pizza accounts for over $45 billion in annual sales today, with dedicated pizza restaurants accounting for about $16 billion.

Pizza prices

Like most prepared and convenience foods, pizza prices have gradually increased over the decades due to inflation. However, economies of scale in pizza production have enabled chains to also offer very cheap deals and discounts.

Here are some example average pizza prices today from major national chains:

  • Pizza Hut – Large cheese pizza starts around $12.99
  • Domino’s Pizza – Large cheese pizza starts at $7.99
  • Little Caesars Pizza – Large cheese pizza for $5.99
  • Pap Murphy’s – Large cheese pizza $7.99 (take and bake)

Many national pizza chains now regularly offer deals like $5.99 large cheese pizzas to compete for customers. Adjusted for inflation, cheese pizzas today remain quite cheap compared to historical prices.

Artisanal pizza trends

In recent decades, higher-end artisanal and gourmet pizzas have also become popular. At trendy pizza restaurants in major cities, wood-fired thin crust pizzas with fancy toppings can cost $15 to $25 per pie or more. This resurgence of quality over quantity harkens back to pizza’s early days as an exotic luxury food.

So in 2022 there is now a wide range of pizza available at many price points – from cheap $1 frozen pizzas to $25 wood-fired artisanal pies. Pizza at all prices remains in high demand.


Since pizza first came to America in the early 1900s, it has gone from an unknown ethnic food to a completely ubiquitous staple of the American diet. In 1950, when pizza was just gaining mainstream popularity after WWII, a basic cheese pizza cost between $1.25 to $1.50 on average. Pizza was still seen as an exotic Italian food.

Over the course of the 1950s, several factors combined to drive pizza prices down while consumption dramatically increased. Pizza became affordable, convenient, and readily accessible to the masses for the first time. By 1960 pizza cost under $1.00 on average, and it was well on its way to becoming America’s #1 fast food.

Today, modern pizza chains continue to compete on price and value. While gourmet artisanal pizza has also gained a following, pizza remains affordable to most Americans. Unlike in 1950 when it was still a luxury, pizza is now considered an everyday convenience food. But no matter how many slices we eat, pizza retains its special place in American cuisine thanks to generations of tasty evolution since those early days when pizza first sold for $1.50 a pie.