Like pancakes with bacon, Vegemite with avocado, or Vegemite with anything, some food combinations are either loved or loathed. Pineapple on pizza is a debate that will not die.
The combination is said to have originated in Canada, at the hands of Greek-born Sam Panopoulos, and the Hawaiian name was a nod to the brand of canned pineapples he used in the ’60s. Nearly 60 years on, the divisive combination remains a talking point: earlier this year Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was forced to retract his statement that he believed pineapple “fundamentally” did not belong on pizza, following social outcry.
To weigh up the pros and cons of the controversial dish, we spoke to two local experts on the matter.
Dan Zeidan is the executive chef and co-owner of popular Collingwood pizza joint Lazerpig. For Zeidan, pineapple on pizza could not be more Australian. “I think it’s one of those things that people think they don’t like but everyone really does,” he says. “Everyone seems to think pizzas need to be traditional Italian, but they don’t. They can be Aussie as well.”
For Zeidan, pineapple has a rightful place on his menu. “There is nothing repulsive about pineapple on pizza if done properly,” he says. “Any pizza can be bad if it’s made with crap ingredients. But if it’s all good ingredients there’s no reason why it would be terrible.”
Pineapple is the “king” ingredient in Lazerpig’s Tropical Melbourne pizza, which uses freshly sliced pieces of the juicy fruit coated in Panela sugar and taken to with a blowtorch for crystallisation. Over a stretched base it’s topped with slow-roasted garlic, smoked fior di latte cheese, freshly shaved ham and rosemary salt.
Zeidan calls Lazerpig’s pizzas “Australian spins” on classics dictated by seasonal produce available at the markets. See its current offering, Fontina Turner: its “king” is asparagus – currently in season – along with fontina cheese, shaved zucchini ribbons and chilli. The Lazerpig dough even originates from a home-brew culture.
Pineapple is not on Pizza e Birra’s menu. According to Dario D’Agostino, chef and owner of the authentic Italian institution in St. Kilda, nor would you find it at any traditional restaurant in Italy. “Italians, we are very traditionalist,” says D’Agostino. “To go to a traditional pizza shop in Italy then ask for pineapple on the pizza is like asking for the Eiffel Tower in Rome. It is not possible.”
The traditional Pizza e Birra pizza has a spongy crust, crunchy base and uses flour and mozzarella imported from the motherland for authenticity. “We focus on food from central Italy, mainly from my region, Abruzzo,” says D’Agostino. “We offer a very simple menu, but very traditional.”
For D’Agostino, pizza should consist of a tomato base, cheese and basil, and a maximum of three extra ingredients.
“Our philosophy is ‘less is more’,” says D’Agostino. “If you start loading your pizza with 10 different kinds of ingredients, you’re not eating pizza anymore – you’re eating a minestrone of ingredients. Just because strawberry and gorgonzola goes well on a cheese platter doesn’t mean it goes well on a pizza.”
D’Agostino has another reason for not adding pineapple pizza to the Pizza e Birra menu. The sweet and sour combination is a matter of personal distaste. “Not because I’m too traditionalist,” he says. “I just don’t like it.”
Zeidan at Lazerpig has advice for the anti-pineapple-pizza team: “Move out of home and try it.” In other words, get out of your comfort zone. “Egg on a pizza is another one people can get weird about,” he says. “But again, it’s one of those Aussie things. I even suggest having our Tropical Melbourne with an egg.” Add a dash of chilli oil, and his yet-to-be-officially-named “Extra Aussie” is brilliant, according to Zeidan.
While adding pineapple to a pizza is up for debate, one thing both chefs agree on is it is always best paired with beer.
“Pizza must be eaten with beer – that’s paramount,” says D’Agostino.
“I think having a couple of beers with a pizza is brilliant,” agrees Zeidan. “They just go hand in hand, don’t they, beer and pizza? Almost as good as ham and pineapple together.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.