The True History of Hawaiian Pizza

Featured image deliciously stolen from here.

I love me some Hawaiian pizza, which in my neck of the woods we call “Canadian bacon and pineapple.” I always have, and I always will. I grew up with it; it was what I ordered as a child whenever the family went out for pizza. And for most of my life, I have been blithely unaware that this is the most divisive of the pizza flavors.

In the most recent chapter of Jake and the Dynamo, I depicted Pizza Margherita flying into a murderous rage whenever Hawaiian pizza is mentioned. I included this because I thought it was funny, but in the process of writing the chapter, I did a little research, only to discover that some people … well … fly into a murderous rage whenever Hawaiian pizza is mentioned. Even Hawaiians don’t like it.

Over at Atlas Obscura, Dan Nosowitz has done the noble deed of tracking down and interviewing my hero, my idol, the man whose treaded-upon dirt clods my lips are not fit to kiss, by whom I mean Sam Panopoulos, the man—nay, the genius—who invented the Hawaiian pizza.

Even his name suggests a giant destined for great deeds: his surname ends with “opoulos,” as in “city,” preceded by “Pan,” as in pans for pizza. The man is a veritable city of pizza pans. And his first name is Sam, which rhymes with ham, which goes on Hawaiian pizza. This is friggin’ destiny, people.

Panopoulos made the epic journey from Greece to Canada in 1954, briefly stopping (as fate would have it) in Naples, where he had his first brush with pizza. In Chatham, Ontario, he opened a restaurant, the Satellite, where in the 1960s he served American dishes, but also served some Chinese food and began experimenting with pizza, throwing together whatever toppings he had to hand. In 1962, inspired by the Chinese sweet and sour pork and the current popularity of canned pineapple, he tried throwing pineapple on a pizza pie. He called it the Hawaiian.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Personally, I hold to the opinion that the addition of jalapenos perfects the Hawaiian pizza by adding spicy to the sweet of the pineapple and the savory of the ham. It’s like everything at once, an entire universe of flavor encapsulated and distilled in a single dish.

Mmm … I shouldn’t have written this post while hungry.

  • Unclever_Hans

    With authentic Cantonese sweet and sour pork and fresh organic pineapple on a genuine Naples-style crust, I’d say that the Hawaiian pizza could become my favorite, as well. I imagine it too international in origin for the tastes of patrons like Theodore Beale, however.

  • Roffles Lowell

    Hawaiian pizza is an absurdity, true, but I hardly think it scales with the likes of cheeseburger pizza, or worse still the insulting redundancy of baked ziti atop a pizza.
    In my neck of the woods, these kinda pies are what you view as a bait and switch tactic for when a pizza parlor can’t actually fix you a good plain slice in the first place