Dining

Hawaii Pie-0

Here's a Hawaiian pizza worth getting fired up about
Photo: Katie B. Foster/Tasting Table
Hawaiian Pizza

Pineapple on pizza: It’s got to be the most controversial thing that’s ever happened to the universally beloved food. The mere mention of said pie triggers instant eye rolls and “no thanks” from mouths that wouldn’t otherwise dare turn down a slice

If you’re a hater, you’ve probably just never had a good one. But we’ve found a pie that will convince even the biggest skeptic to declare their love for Hawaiian pizza loud and proud. It’s called the Lou-Wow (see the recipe), and it comes from Brooklyn’s recently opened Emmy Squared, sister restaurant of hit pizzeria Emily.

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Emmy Squared serves Detroit-style pizzas, which are cooked in square dishes that allow cheese to collect and crisp up around the edges. Named for partner/chef Lou Tomczak, the Lou-Wow comes with hot sauce-soaked fresh pineapple.

“The saltiness of the ham is combatted by the sweetness of the pineapple, and then the spiciness of the hot sauce. It hits on all those levels,” Emily Hyland, who co-owns the pizzeria with her husband, Matt, says.

“People can be really particular and stubborn about what should and shouldn’t be on pizza. . . . Just because it’s not ‘normal’ doesn't mean it's not delicious,” Emily says, and the depth of flavor that the hot sauce adds is proof.

Emmy Squared isn’t the only pizzeria giving the Hawaiian pie a good name either. In New York, Speedy Romeo serves a pie called The Dick Dale, with speck, pineapple and grilled scallions. Paulie Gee’s Porkypineapple is loaded with speck, house-pickled pineapple and Parmesan. More speck turns up at Pizza Beach, alongside pineapple, rosemary and jalapeño—a pepper popping up on Hawaiian pies across the country. Cases in point: Nashville's Five Points’ Hot Hawaiian pie and the Pizza alla Benno, named for Mario Batali’s son, at L.A.’s Pizzeria Mozza.

“We included jalapeño,” Batali says, “because Benno likes spice. Pineapple and Canadian bacon alone fall flat; with the jalapeño, you can more clearly taste every element and achieve a brighter collective high point.”

The one place you may not find Hawaiian pizza, or at least not eat it regularly? Hawaii. That’s because the pie doesn’t actually come from the state—or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter. It was invented in Ontario, Canada, by Greek immigrant Sam Panopoulos, who is now more than 80 years old. Panopoulos created the pie at Satellite Restaurant, which, though still standing, has new owners and doesn’t even advertise its now-famous creation.

“People in Hawaii never or rarely eat their namesake pie,” Hawaiian chef Chris Kajioka of Senia restaurant says.

“We just ate pepperoni,” Jonathan Mailo, the Hawaiian-born former chef de cuisine at New York’s Juni, adds.

Though Kajioka isn’t personally a fan—“I hate when the crust becomes a globby mess from all the moisture from the syrup-soaked, canned pineapple,” he says—he makes some sense of the attribution to his home state, albeit a fallacy: “Hawaii has a long-known affection for salty pork and having the best pineapple in the world.”

It’s no surprise, though, that some Hawaiian chefs take issue with the misnomer. When Mark Noguchi of the pili group was at the CIA, he says he “wrote a letter to the administration about why they should remove Hawaiian pizza from their Apple Pie Bakery menu, because it perpetuated mis-cultural representation. They pulled it.”

Authentic or not, with restaurants like Emmy Squared churning out elevated takes on the controversial pie, pineapple on pizza may finally move past that knee-jerk dismissal. Maybe you should give it a go again. And maybe we should all just stop calling it Hawaiian.

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