Stashed inside closets in his Brooklyn apartment, Scott Wiener has exactly 652 pizza boxes. It’s the Guinness World Record for pizza box collections, and proof of Wiener’s bigger pizza obsession–he also runs a company that takes people on pizzeria tours of New York, writes a blog on pizza, and recently published a book about pizza boxes. “Everything I do is pizza-related,” Wiener says.
What makes the perfect pizza box? Though most are still a simple cardboard square, Weiner says a few innovators have tried to solve some of the design’s basic flaws. “Boxes are notoriously bad at impacting the flavor of a pizza,” he explains. “Normally you get a pizza in a box, you lift open the box, and the box has trapped so much steam that the pizza is gross and soggy.”
One smarter box, from New York’s Eataly, uses a reflective aluminum lining to keep pizza hot, while 17 vents let steam escape. But Wiener says the best design he’s seen so far actually comes from Mumbai, India, where a manufacturer created the VENTiT and flipped around the usual way of making a box: The wavy middle part of the cardboard is stamped with holes before it’s connected with the other layers, creating a series of vents that perfectly handle steam.
Other designs aim for a more sustainable box, like the Green Box, which transforms into a set of disposable plates and a new box for leftovers. Another, called the Hybrid Pizza Box, is a reusable container that customers can return to their local pizzeria for cleaning, so it never ends up in the trash.
The trick, Wiener says, is coming up with design that doesn’t make manufacturing more expensive. “That’s why the Green Box is awesome–it doesn’t increase the price of the box,” he says. “It’s sort of a no-brainer.”
Though Wiener is interested in these structural innovations, most of the boxes in his collection just have a standard design with an interesting print. The entire collection started on a trip to Israel, when he discovered a yellow-and-blue printed box that looked completely different than anything he’d seen in New York City. “The printing is the fun part,” he says.
“What makes an image interesting is its context. When you’re in an art gallery looking at paintings you sort of have a level of expectation that the art is the final product. In a pizzeria the art is a means to an end,” he explains. “When I find boxes that are more than just placeholders, that’s when I get really excited.”