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Where the Hawaiian pizza actually comes from

the Hawaiian pizza

Where the Hawaiian pizza actually comes from
Where the Hawaiian pizza actually comes from
This is where opinions differ: Pizza Hawaii has always been a source of debate

The combination of ham and pineapple is a pizza topping that few Italians approve of. That this pizza does not come from Italy may therefore sound logical. But it wasn’t invented in Hawaii either. 

It’s the pizza that fuels endless discussions in families and groups of friends. Some find the toppings of ham, pineapple, cheese and tomato sauce obnoxious, others love the sweet taste of pineapple combined with the other hearty toppings. One thing is certain: the Hawaiian pizza has become a cult.

But it wasn’t invented in Italy, Hawaii, or even in another US state. The Hawaiian pizza was invented by Sam Panopoulos. We are talking about a Greek who lived in Canada and ran several restaurants there. One of them should go down in history. It’s the Satellite in Chatham, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario, now called Chatham-Kent.

First stop on the way to Pizza Hawaii was Naples

Panopoulos’ trip to Canada played an important role on the road to pizza Hawaii. The Greeks emigrated to North America in the 1950s and used the ship route to do so. Along the way, his ship also stopped in Naples, Italy, where pizza was once invented. Panopoulos was enthusiastic and got to know and love pizza in her native city.

After working in mines in Canada, the Greek later began experimenting with Italian food himself. He didn’t know how to bake a pizza the traditional way or what was typically served on it.

But that didn’t matter much. Because in Canada, pizza wasn’t as well known as it is today. “The pizza that existed in Canada at the time was primitive,” Panopoulos said in an interview with the online portal Atlas Abscura. At that time, the focus was only on a topping. Customers could choose between bacon, mushrooms and pepperoni. But that wasn’t enough for the Greeks. He experimented and developed a pizza topped with ham and pineapple. In 1962, the Hawaiian pizza was born.

Name should add exotic touch

The timing was perfect. Back then there was a real tiki trend that brought the Polynesian culture to North America. The name should only give the pizza an exotic touch, but the pizza has nothing to do with Hawaiian cuisine. The concept of combining ham and pineapple was completely new, but not at the time. Because as early as 1955, seven years earlier, the German TV chef Clemens Wilmenrod is said to have invented the Hawaiian toast.

The controversy over pizza Hawaii, and whether you can actually eat it or not, has even become political in recent years. Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson told children in 2017 that he would like to ban pineapples on pizza. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then defended the Hawaiian pizza as a Canadian invention. Jóhannesson eventually backed down, saying he didn’t have the power to  make laws prohibiting people from putting pineapple on their pizza.”