The Iowa Invention That Changed The Way We Eat Pizza
When you think of Iowa, certain foods come to mind. Sweet corn that we all enjoy in the summer. Perhaps a juicy Iowa-raised steak. How about some Blue Bunny ice cream made in Le Mars, Iowa? But there is one Iowa food invention that was part of my childhood, and my adult life for that matter, more than any other.
I'm talking about the Taco Pizza. I can't tell you how many pieces I've eaten in my lifetime. I was fortunate to grow up in the state where it was created. Ask someone from another state if they've ever enjoyed taco pizza before coming to Iowa and they'll look at you and ask, "Is that a thing?" Is it ever! The reason that I grew up with the taco pizza is that there was a Happy Joe's restaurant in nearby Monticello, just miles from our farm. Happy Joe's is where the taco pizza was born.
Joe Whitty was the founder of Happy Joe's Pizza. The Monticello location was just one of many across Eastern Iowa. It turns out that Happy Joe created the taco pizza the same year that I was born! It was fate! Destiny! Wikipedia says that the legend of the taco pizza began when Whitty found out that one of his franchised restaurants wanted to put tacos on the menu. Joe said no. Instead, he decided to create something even better. Take the ingredients of tacos and crush them up and put them on a pizza! Behold...the birth of the taco pizza!
The taco pizza quickly became a best seller at Happy Joe's locations across the state. It remains their best-selling pizza to this day. And when something becomes popular, others want in too! Other restaurants quickly added a taco pizza to their menus. Wikipedia says that a restaurant called Pizza Inn wanted to patent the name taco pizza. But another huge pizza chain objected. Yes, Pizza Hut contended that the term taco pizza described what was on the pizza and shouldn't be allowed to be patented. Happy Joe's agreed and the two restaurants teamed up and won the case.
While many restaurants now carry taco pizza, I still personally prefer the original. Give me a deep-dish taco pizza from Happy Joe's and life is good. I actually prefer the supreme version that has sour cream and black olives added to the mix! The next time you dive into a piece, just remember the best pizza flavor EVER was created right here in Iowa. Thank you, Mr. Whitty.