It’s hard to say exactly what set off the firestorm that is the great pineapple pizza debate of 2017. Did a humble tweet kick things off or was it a remark made by the President of Iceland that really fired up the controversy? With everyone from Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsay to Jimmy Kimmel and Justin Trudeau weighing in, one thing’s for sure: people have some seriously strong opinions about pineapple on pizza.
But what do those on the front lines of pizza making think? To get to the bottom of pineapple pizza’s pros and cons, we reached out to some of the country’s top pizza talents to settle the discussion once and for all.
Just kidding. As if the pineapple on pizza squabble could ever be solved.
Despite what you may have read on Twitter, a surprising number of pizza chefs are actually team pineapple. “I love it,” says Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Pizzeria Locale, which has locations in Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas. Having grown up in Canada, the birthplace of pineapple on pizza, the chef could be accused of bias, but he insists it’s a really good combination of flavors and reports that Pizzeria Locale’s Hawaiian pizza is among its top five in popularity.
Matt Hyland, the chef-owner of New York’s Emily and Emmy Squared, is also pro pineapple and for a very simple reason: “Pineapple roasts up nicely and tastes good when cooked, so I think it makes sense.”
The Hula Hog at Emmy Squared
Ken Forkish, owner and head baker of Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Portland, is equally enamored with cooked pineapple. “When it’s baked,” explains Forkish, “the flavors concentrate and its sweetness delivers a hit of tropical [flavor].”
Of course, the pineapple love isn’t universal. Scott Toth, the owner and pizza maker at Chicago’s Craft Pizza and Pizzeria Serio, says he’s not a fan of pineapple, despite that fact that his pineapple-topped Wicker Pork pie is quite popular. You’ll also find pineapple on the menu at Austin’s Via313, even though co-owner Brandon Hunt finds that the fruit distracts from the taste of the cheese, sauce, and dough, which for him, is what pizza is really about.
And then there’s the sweet factor. Though she remembers enjoying pineapple pizza as a kid and thinks it’s fun and nostalgic, Nicolette Manascalchi, the executive chef of San Francisco’s A16, insists she’d never eat it now. The fruit is too sweet to be on pizza and it has too much acid to taste good with sauce and cheese, says Manascalchi.
Nancy Silverton, the legendary chef behind Los Angeles’ Pizzeria Mozza, is anti-pineapple, but her son isn’t. “Whenever we would go out, Ben would ask for pineapple on his pizza,” explains Silverton. “I would kind of cringe. It was embarrassing.” Years later, Silverton pushed her personal preferences aside and put a pineapple pie on her menu to honor her son.
The pinepple pizza debate, of course, isn't just limited to the fruit. Hawaiian pizza, which was invented in Canada in the 1960s by Sam Panopoulos, is typically made with ham or bacon, but these days chefs have branched out to create Hawaiian-style pies topped with all manner of pork. Chef Mackinnon-Patterson opts for prosciutto cotto—sliced, cooked ham—at Pizzeria Locale, but insists any pork will do. It’s about using the sweetness of the fruit to balance the smoky, salty, savory qualities of the meat, he explains.
At Pizzana in Los Angeles, master pizzaiolo Daniele Uditi has a prosciutto cotto and pineapple pie on the menu, but he’s also working on a version with shredded pork, inspired by the luau pork he ate in Honolulu. Martin Arellano, executive chef and partner of Chicago’s Roots Handmade Pizza doesn’t have a Hawaiian pizza on his menu, but he think the pineapple really shines when paired with traditional pork toppings like pepperoni and sausage.
The Hawaiana at Pizzana. Photo Credit: Amy Neunsinger
Naturally, there are exceptions to the pork and pineapple rule. Paulie Gee’s Paul Giannone features pineapple pies on several of his menus, including at his Greenpoint, Brooklyn location, where house-pickled pineapple is paired with brisket. Though originally averse to pineapple on pizza, Giannone now loves how the fruit accentuates the flavor of the meat.
No matter where you fall on the pineapple pizza spectrum, it’s worth noting that the pizza pros we spoke to discouraged being overly serious when it comes to toppings. “I don’t like to limit myself to traditional ideas of what does or doesn’t belong on pizza,” says Uditi, while Hyland argues there are far too many rules in pizza.
Even Hunt, who doesn't like pineapple on pizza, prefers to be non-preachy and believes people should eat what they like. Hunt does, however, draw the line at ranch dressing, but that’s a pizza discussion for another time.
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