Pineapple on pizza

The Sweet and Spicy pizza at Heirloom Pizza Co. in Monterey with—gasp!—pineapple.

Stepping between Giants and Dodgers fans—that’s nothing. Between a mob of Westboro Baptist Church members and pro-choicers? Still doesn’t compare.

No, if you want to truly test your peaceful arbitration skills just mention pizza and pineapple in the same sentence.

Just about everyone takes sides on the matter. A 2016 survey by Harris Insights & Analytics of favorite pizza toppings landed pineapple in the top ten. But when that same survey turned to least favorite, pineapple once again made the list. A poll by Slice (a pizza delivery app) found a near 50-50 split. And last year, Iceland and Canada—nations that could not conceivable harm anyone—came to the brink of war over the issue.

Well, almost.

Discourse even turned nasty in the Weekly’s normally kind, gentle and loving office when I introduced the Burning Question. While account executive Tracy Vasquez gave an enthusiastic “absolutely yes!” Staff writer Pam Marino, on the other hand, labeled pineapple on pizza an “abomination.”

It’s hard to come up with an issue more divisive. Yet when you turn to those who actually prepare pies professionally, the controversy seems to fizzle.

At Casa Sorrento Pizzeria in Salinas, the menu features two pineapple-laden pizzas, the Hawaiian and the Sweet and Spicy. “We just put the Sweet and Spicy on the menu and it’s really popular,” reports general manager Holly Chernetsky. “It’s probably one of our best sellers.”

The owner of Monterey’s Heirloom Pizza Co., Michael Foley, recalls that his early menus did not include pineapple. He added the option after hearing from customers.

“People would ask for it all the time,” he says. “It’s hard to figure who doesn’t like pineapple.”

For Jeano Abraham, owner of Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria in Carmel, the matter should have been settled long ago. “We have 85 toppings, and it’s gotta be there,” he says of the tropical fruit. “Pineapple and pepperoni is a great combination.”

Allegro includes the fruit on its Hawaiian pie. Heirloom scatters it on their version of the Sweet and Spicy. At Gianni’s in Monterey, pineapple is key to their Big Wheel, as well as the Hawaiian. Down the road from Gianni’s, Pelican Pizza lists it as part of the Combo and the Hawaiian Masterpiece.

Scanning pizza parlor menus, one might be ready to thank—or blame—our 50th state for the mess. Ham, pineapple and perhaps some onion is the foundation of what most restaurants refer to as a “Hawaiian” pie. Yet according to most accounts, the combination was actually invented in Canada by a Greek restaurateur.

In 1962, Sam Panopoulos added pineapple in a fit of experimentation. In a 2017 interview with the BBC, given shortly before he died, Panopoulos explained “We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste.”

So just a youthful mistake. OK—or stroke of genius.

The Hawaiian pizza’s Canadian origin caused the temporary international rift after Iceland’s President, Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson told a group of high school students that he would ban pineapple if he could. You know, make Iceland great again. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded with fighting words.

Well, what Trudeau said in a Tweet was “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation.” But if you listen to a certain president, those can be translated as fighting words.

Yet consider that pineapple and pizza have endured since 1962. Maybe Abraham is right—it’s about time for both sides to calm down.

“Pizza was Shakey’s and Round Table—if you really wanted to get wild, you got pineapple,” he says, referring to the late 1980s, when he opened Allegro. “Pineapple is like yesterday.”

It seems that unless a place is rooted in Italian tradition—Gusto comes to mind—pineapple is considered routine. Yet the answer to this week’s Burning Question depends on the person you ask. America remains a land bitterly divided.

Only one person in our newsroom showed the cool neutrality Abraham seeks. As news writer David Schmalz says, “I don't think I've ever ordered it, or gotten emotional about it.”

Sage wisdom. Well, maybe.

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(3) comments

James Toy

The Canadian origin of pineapple on pizza explains why the Canadian bacon & pineapple pairing was my first experience with it circa 1970. I was skeptical, but when I tried it I liked it. In those days it wasn't controversial. But if you asked about putting anchovies on pizza back then you could start a war!

Debbie Howitt

As a native New Yorker, it's a definite thumbs down, no go on pineapple on pizza! I like pineapple, but hot pineapple is nasty. Pizza is no place for fruit. Fugeddabout it!

Bill DeBolt

And please stop calling it Hawaiian pizza. Putting pineapple on pizza doesn't make it Hawaiian anymore then putting grits on pizza makes it Southern style pizza. Using the word Hawaiian to sell your pizza only makes you look like a total idiot.

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