When it comes to food, don’t mess with the Italians. When it comes to pizza, know that any creative interpretation can generate outrage … and not just among Neapolitans. In fact, pizza is one of the most discussed foods on the web. It is common knowledge that Italians blame Americans for horrors like pineapple on pizza; in fact, Italians would probably like to pass an international law banning this barbaric culinary practice. But other atrocities have recently come to light, which makes pineapple on pizza seem like the minor leagues.
The latest scandal is a breakfast pizza from Fong’s Pizza in Iowa. Called “Fruit Loops Pizza,” it is made with a base of mozzarella and sweet cream cheese, followed by the sugary, multicolored breakfast cereal, and covered by a sauce of condensed milk and Greek yogurt. Comments ranged from the bewildered to the disgusted with one respondent lamenting, “As an Italian, I am formally declaring war on Iowa.” Fong’s Pizza offers other unconventional taste combinations like “Crab Rangoon,” which combines surimi (a paste made from fish), green onion, mozzarella, asiago, crispy wonton and sweet chili sauce. Mamma mia.
Moving to Europe, a Swedish citizen created a pizza with kiwifruit which drew over 400 comments on social media including one that called it an “abomination against nature.” British Chef Gordon Ramsay says that pineapple, like kiwi, is acidic and so is tomato sauce: “Too many acidic foods at once and you might melt your insides.” A magnet for controversy, Ramsay in the past stirred up a hornet’s nest with vegan-shaming comments like “I am a member of PETA*, that is, People Eating Tasty Animals. Now at his “Gordon Ramsay Street Pizza” restaurant in London, he offers a plant-based pizza covered in pine nuts, pesto, tomato sauce and eggplant. The internet had a meltdown with comments like “Gordon, please stop pretending to know Italian cuisine” and “If you’re being held hostage by a vegan, give us a signal.”
Even in Italy, straying from the tried and true is risky. Celebrated chef Carlo Cracco serves his version of a margherita at his bistro in Milan’s famous Galleria. Cracco dared to add healthier whole grains to the crust, left off the requisite basil, and charged 16 euros for the honor. The pizza was immediately renamed “Scraccorella” and as one diner noted, “Every time Cracco bakes his pizza Margherita, a Neapolitan pizza maker dies of a broken heart.” Others pleaded for an intervention from San Gennaro (the patron saint of Naples). The craziest pizza price of all belongs to Sirani, a gourmet pizzeria in Brescia. For 95 euros (about $115), you can get a “4+4,” which is garnished with Carabineros prawns, a rare crustacean considered the best in the world. Red and almost 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) in length, the four prawns on the wedges can weigh up to half a kilo (about 1 pound).
Returning to North America, Rocky’s Pizzeria in New York offers a penne, cream and vodka specialty, dubbed “an orgy of carbohydrates,” and “the usual American….” Rocky’s offers a pineapple and ham specialty too. Maybe because Hawaii produces many pineapples and maybe because pineapple pizza was a favorite of President Barack Obama (who came from Hawaii), most people think this often-ridiculed version of pizza originated in the United States. In fact, it originated in Canada. Sam Panopoulos, a Greek-born Canadian cook, is credited with the idea of adding canned pineapple to pizza at his Ontario restaurant in 1962. It has earned the disdain of pizza puritans. When Iceland’s president suggested it should be banned in 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation.”
Guess what? At a highly respected Milanese restaurant, Crosta, chef Simone Lombardi and baker Giovanni Mineo decided to challenge gastronomic prejudices by offering their daring pineapple, ventricina (a pork sausage commonly found in Abruzzo) and cilantro pizza. Comments? “Really balanced,” “Fantastic,” and “Well, I hate to admit it, but the pizza is really interesting.”
*People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is the official name of the organization.