Do Hawaiians Eat Hawaiian Pizza? Plus, a Little History

Welcome to Ask the Critics, in which we answer your food, eating, and restaurant questions. Check out previous weeks' queries, and e-mail with your own.

Montreal Food Guy wondered:

Hi Robert and Sarah,

This may seem like an odd question, but here it goes: Do people in Hawaii like Hawaiian Pizza?

I personally find it a little disturbing and insulting to all pizzas. If you exclude the fact that a tomato is a fruit, then there should be no other fruit that should be considered a topping on a pizza.

Your thoughts.

I have to agree with Montreal Food Man on the disturbing nature of those pies topped with tomato sauce, cheese, ham, and pineapple, but I didn't feel quite qualified to hold forth on the eating preferences of a faraway state.

So I called up Nadine Kam, the features editor and restaurant reviewer at the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Hoping she wouldn't hang up on me, I asked her if Hawaii has Hawaiian pizza, and if so, if Hawaiians particularly like it. She told me this.

...Just about every chain restaurant here has a version of the pineapple-topped pizza, popular with a small segment of the population who like sweet-sour flavors. They love it, but they're an exception.

Tastes in pizza here are pretty conservative, even in the post-CPK [California Pizza Kitchen] era. That may seem a little odd considering we'd eat some of these ingredients, like Thai chicken or Japanese eggplant, in various ethnic restaurants. We just like them more with rice than on a pizza crust.

So the go-to pizzas are usually a basic pepperoni-sausage combination pizza, or a vegetarian pizza. No one is averse to a teriyaki or barbecue chicken pizza, for instance. We love barbecue chicken. But anecdotally, whenever we have office pizza parties, the Italians and combinations go first, followed by the vegetarians, and the chicken pizza is left standing.

So there you have it: Hawaiians don't like Hawaiian pizza any more than the rest of us, and in fact they skew conservative when it comes to pie toppings.

But then I started to wonder where Hawaiian pizza came from in the first place. Wikipedia, that font of reliable information, says that in 1960, Sam Panopoulos, owner of the Family Circle Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, was the first to make it.

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