In Pineapple we Crust… The Great Toppings Debate

March 28th, 2021

Pizza is more than a comfort food – pizza is a philosophy. Although there is insurmountable pleasure in eating a whole pizza by yourself, a big part of what makes it special is its quality of bringing people together. Pizza is one of the easiest meals to share – it can be dispensed equitably among the diners and the use of cutlery and plates can be disposed of eliminating the need to wash a crowd of dishes. Another benefit of sharing pizza is that you can try a variety of flavors, as long as the group can come to an agreement on which ones to order. The process of choosing the pizza toppings can be a fun collective activity. Although more often than not it can be an instigator of conflict. Paradoxically, the communal nature of pizza can collapse in a matter of seconds. Disagreements may brew between vegetarians and meat eaters, or between the classic pizza lovers and the experimental ones. But the major source of discord, which has polarized pizza fans across the world, comes from one single ingredient: pineapple.

The creation of the Hawaiian pizza is claimed by Sotirios ‘Sam’ Panopoulos, a Greek dentist aspirant who fled his native country with his older brother towards Canada. Three years after Hawaii officially became the 50th state in the United States (1959), Sam and his brother opened the Satellite restaurant in Chatham, Ontario. At the time, pizza was a novelty for Canadians, whose choice of toppings was quite conservative: it was limited to mushroom, pepperoni and bacon. Sam hired a Chinese cook who may have planted the seed by incorporating sweet and sour dishes into the menu. Inspired, Sam decided to experiment with a can of pineapples (the name Hawaiian simply comes from its label), adding chunks of it onto a pizza and sharing it with his customers. Given their approval, it quickly became a staple in the menu: just pineapple, pineapple and bacon, pineapple and mushrooms; in any way, the fruit was positively received.

Nevertheless, the origin of the Hawaiian pizza is the first of the controversies induced by a topping which has antagonized the pizza world. Although Sam has taken the credit to his grave, some people suggest it was actually invented in Australia, others that it is based on a German dish popular in the 1950’s called the Toast Hawaii which consisted of pineapple, cheese and ham on toast. A game designer called Neven Mrgan allegedly found in the Oregonian’s archives an ad for a pizza restaurant from 1957 which offered a pizza with pineapple, papaya and chopped green pepper, called nothing other than Hawaiian pizza. Regardless of its origin, the fact is that pineapple pizza has provoked debates from the privacy of family homes to the international public scenario. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau supported the topping by declaring to be a member of #TeamPineapple, a trending topic that took the dilemma to the social media platform, whilst Michelin star chef Gordon Ramsay proclaimed being a fervent opponent. Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson jokingly announced that he would happily pass a law banning pineapple from being added onto pizza.

Pizza purists refuse to accept this topping on the basis that it does not appear in the first Italian pizza menus. The Real Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) was founded in 1984 to protect the authenticity of Neapolitan pizza through a set of rules and procedures. They recognize Margherita (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive, salt ) and Marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano) as the only authentic Neapolitan pizzas. Nowadays, topping options have been taken much further than simply adding a tropical fruit. Among the most traditional pizza devotees are anchovies, mushrooms and olives haters. Unorthodox pizzas range from the popular meat combos and the use of dressings such as mayonnaise, ranch or barbecue sauce. Even seafood, eggs and spinach are debated toppings. Toppings also vary in accordance to the favorite ingredients in different countries, such as the Chicken Tikka Masala pizza based on an Indian dish, the Sweedish Banana Curry pizza or the Coconut and Shrimp pizza from Costa Rica. Some have taken their experiments towards the crust, from simple cheese stuffing to the most bizarre options that you could possibly imagine: hot dogs, watermelon, coconut flour, pretzels and cheeseburger. In the United Arab Emirates, they twist the pizza crust into the shape of cones which are covered in Parmesan cheese and filled with cream cheese or chicken strips. Then there are desert pizzas with toppings such as hazelnut spread, chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, bananas and strawberries. Some argue that it attacks the fundamentals of pizza from its definition as a savory dish to the exclusion of cheese, arguably the most essential ingredient.

It is true, there are extreme pizza toppings which defy even the most tolerant palates. In some cases, it seems as though the purpose of delivering a delicious meal has given way to a challenge in eccentricity. Some of the things that can be seen displayed over conventional pizza bases are difficult to assimilate through the eyes, not to mention how hard they would be to digest. Whole dishes like pasta, burgers, french fries and chicken nuggets rest over confused dough, who may wonder what its purpose is in such a complex preparation. Furthermore, there is a restaurant in New York City that offers 24-Karat Gold Leaves pizza (no, they are not cheap), and one in Missouri where you can order Cicadas pizza (yes, the insects).

At the end of the day, there is freedom of choice. Variety allows to cater to the cravings of those with a conservative approach as well as the ones with curious taste buds. At Amicci’s there are options for everyone. Moreover, if the harmony within your group is defied by strong disagreements in the toppings subject, Amicci’s menu has other delicious dishes to choose from. Find your local store and keep an eye out for coupons!