Canadians’ Mark on the Culinary World of Pizza is Hawaiian

Order a Canadian Pizza at any pizzeria, and you’ll receive a pie with bacon, pepperoni, and mushroom atop mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce – though it’s unclear how this combination of pizza toppings came to be and what makes it uniquely Canadian.

Ask about Canadian pizza outside of Canada however, and you may be met with a retort about the blasphemy of pineapple as a pizza topping. 

That’s right, Canadians’ mark on the culinary world of pizza is Hawaiian. 

At the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, Greek-Canadian Sam Panopoulos invented the Hawaiian in 1962. At the time pizza had only just begun its rise to popularity in Canada, while it had long been a staple in Italy. In the 1950’s, as soldiers posted in Italy made their way home following the end of World War II, Italian food began gaining popularity in Canada. 

Because pizza was still a lesser known delicacy in Canada, and pizza purists were not in abundance, creativity when it came to pizza toppings was totally acceptable and even encouraged. 

One day, Panopoulos decided to toss some canned pineapple and ham on a pizza, inspired by the idea of a sweet and savoury flavour profile. He named it Hawaiian after the brand on the can.

The topping combination was a hit with his customers and has since become a menu staple at pizzerias around the world. Despite its popularity, pineapple pizza has sparked controversy amongst pizza lovers everywhere. 

Even world leaders weigh in on the topic. In 2017, Iceland’s president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson suggested pineapples should be banned from pizzas, inadvertently sparking a viral debate. Justin Trudeau tweeted, “[…] I stand by this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation. #TeamPineapple”.

Though the small crowd of pineapple pizza haters is a loud one, the silent majority makes their preferences clear through their ordering habits. In Canada, pineapple isn’t so taboo. Though toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers rank higher, according to a Research Co. poll, “more than seven-in-ten Canadians have no qualms with using pineapple as a topping for pizza.” Chef’s Plate found that pineapple is the third most popular pizza topping by search volume. In 2020, GrubHub’s Taste of 2020 report even found Hawaiian to be America’s favourite pizza!

No matter your pizza preferences, we can thank Greek-Canadian, Sam Panopoulos, for creating a national treasure that simultaneously unites and divides pizza lovers the world over.