Why There Was Once A Funeral For 30,000 Pizzas In Michigan

It's 1973, and under a still Michigan sky, mourners surround a grave, looking into the deep hole as if expecting to find some answers in the cold dirt and the ancient clay. The pastoral farmland seems less colorful, less vibrant — even the flowers of March seem to carry a sense of bitter nostalgia. Michigan governor William G. Milliken says a brief, hopeful speech of courage and hope before the funeral begins. As the good folks gather around to say their goodbyes, the once invigorating country air now seems heavy with the sense of the forlorn, the forgotten, and the spicy taste of marinara sauce.

It is no secret that Michigan has a deep love of pizza. Detroit-style pizza, that deep-dish style with caramelized crust and crispy cups of pepperoni, is said to have originated from a Michigan bar known as Buddy's Pizza. While it may not be known as the "Pizza Capital of the World" — an honor held by Pennsylvania's Old Forge (via Pizza Need) –Michiganers do love nothing more than a piping hot slice of hot, gooey, cheesy pizza straight from the oven. 

Aside from having their own style of pizza, one would reasonably agree that it's a bit overdramatic to have a funeral for 30,000 pizzas, wouldn't it? But this story isn't one of obsessive pizza fans, but instead it is a story of people coming together as one to support not just a businessman or a pizza maker, but a good friend in his time of need.

The pizzas were buried due to contaminated toppings

The reason for such a massive pizza burial is connected to a food scare in the 1970s, regarding the sale of unsafe mushrooms. According to AtlasObscura, in January of 1973, a canning factory in Ohio discovered their stock of mushrooms had been contaminated with the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a paralyzing disease, in the body if consumed. As the mushrooms were recalled, any products containing the tainted fungi would have to be removed or destroyed. This included the products of one Mario Fabbrini, a frozen pizza maker.

An immigrant who had escaped a life under Fascist rule, Fabbrini had finally found stability and footing in America, where his pizza brand, Papa Fabbrini's Frozen Pizzas, had taken off. Upon learning his pizza was possibly tainted, Fabbrini recalled all of his frozen pizzas. Although some tried to hoax Fabbrini out of money by claiming they were sick from his pies, friends and neighbors rallied around Fabbrini to support him in any way they could (via Saveur). To dispose of the supposedly tainted pies, Fabbrini held a massive funeral in which thousands of his pizzas, still wrapped in cellophane, were buried in a mass grave. As friends, neighbors, and even the governor came out to show support, Fabbrini still served them his famous pizza.

Although Fabbrini would sue the canning company when it became clear his pies were not contaminated, he later sold his business in the 1980s for $5,000.