In 1979, a regional Norwegian food manufacturer was handed an ultimatum by its parent company: switch the declining operation to frozen pizzas or shut down entirely. The manager acquiesced, hung up the phone, turned to his wife, and asked:
“What the hell is a ‘pizza’?”
His bafflement wasn’t entirely unfounded. The Italian dish first appeared in Oslo restaurants in 1963, but the capital didn’t see a dedicated parlor until 1970: Peppes Pizza has since grown to become Scandinavia’s largest pizza chain, but in its first decade, it was constrained to the Oslo region. “Pizza” was a foreign concept to the rest of the country until the frozen Pizza Grandiosa—colloquially known as “Grandis”—came into play.
The origin of Grandiosa’s recipe is unknown, but I will speculate that it took inspiration from a typical Norwegian sandwich: slices of bread topped with Jarlsberg cheese, red peppers, and ham. Even the thin crust (imported from Canada) was more reminiscent of Norwegian flatbread than a regular pizza. The pie was familiar enough not to be scary, yet different enough to pique shoppers’ interest.
Grandiosa-sales snowballed through the eighties, and the concept of Lørdagspizzaen (The Saturday Pizza) became a staple of Norwegian culture. Saturdays were for pizzas, and pizzas were Grandiosas. It was inescapable for those of us who grew up during that period. Birthday parties, sleepovers, for some even Christmas dinners… The phantom taste of Grandiosa is still my pavlovian response to hearing “pizza.”
These days, Norwegians eat twenty-five million Grandiosas annually, close to five per capita. It’s not for nothing that 20% of the population considers Grandiosa one of Norway’s national dishes.
Make It A Grandiosa Saturday
You can’t easily find a Grandiosa outside of Scandinavia, so here are some steps to making your own personal-pan1 pie.
- Pizza dough, cut in half: Since Grandiosa is synonymous with convenience, I got the dough from Met Market. A frozen crust would be more authentic, though. (Bonus points if it’s Canadian.)
- 1½ tbsp of tomato sauce: I used an arrabbiata sauce. The original uses something closer to a thin tomato paste.
- 1 handful of shredded Jarlsberg cheese.
- ½ red pepper, diced.
- 1 thick slice of ham cut into small cubes. The real thing uses something closer to Spam, but I will not debase myself to that level.
Layer ingredients until the pizza looks something like this:
Follow your favorite dough’s heating instructions. In my case, that was in the oven for about 15 minutes at 475˚F for a thick, fluffy crust. (A proper thin crust requires a proper pizza oven.)
A Questionable Taste in More Ways Than One
These days, there are seventeen different Grandiosa varieties to choose from, some marketed with that famous Norwegian sensibility:
The manager who gambled on an unknown dish was Ivar Moss (1934-2016). Reportedly, he didn’t even like the Grandiosa, calling it goop on top of a Canadian crust. Still, his factory flourished, and his hometown made hundreds of millions of dollars from the pizza business.
Aina Rødal, Pål Kristian Lindseth. “Favorittpizzaen til folket drar på årene.” NRK. February 11, 2010. www.nrk.no/mr/grandiosa-er-30-ar_-1.6988517
“Svineribba ubestridt på juletoppen.” NRK. December 1, 2009. www.nrk.no/norge/svineribba-ubestridt-pa-juletoppen-1.6891140
“Om Grandiosa.” Stabburet. www.grandiosa.no/om-grandiosa/
“Grandiosa.” Wikipedia. April 22, 2021. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandiosa
Lars Martin Gimse. “Grandiosaens far er død.” Dagbladet. March 23, 2016 — www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/grandiosaens-far-er-dod/60441094
I really don’t feel the need to push Grandiosa on anyone, and therefore use the second half for a proper pizza. ↩