Canadian Pizza Magazine

Aloha, pizza!

Colleen Cross   

Features Business and Operations In the Kitchen Ingredients Trends editor pick hawaiian pizza pineapple

Pizzerias in Canada celebrate the Hawaiian, a Canadian invention

The Hawaiian from Acropole Pizza and Donair features a signature brown sauce that is special to Pictou County. Some customers make special requests for half pineapple and half pickles on their garlic fingers. Photo: ACROPOLE PIZZA

Canada loves pizza and the Hawaiian is one of its gifts to the world.

Sam Panopoulos, who made pizza at his Satellite Family Restaurant in Chatham, Ont., in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is widely credited as the inventor of Hawaiian pizza. The entrepreneur, known as a great storyteller, died in 2017. Panopoulos described the historic moment in an interview with Atlas Obscura in 2015: “People said ‘you are crazy to do this,’” Panopoulos remembers. But he liked it immediately and starting advertising his crazy new pizza topping. Amazingly, it caught on. The classic union of ham and pineapple was an accident, a result of only having a few different toppings to work with.”

Today the Tsirimbis family carries on Panopoulos’ legacy with a popular Hawaiian pizza featuring pineapple, mozzarella and ham with a red sauce on the menu. 

Rocco Agostino, Executive Chef/ Partner at Libretto Restaurant Group in Toronto, says their version has a smoky flavour: “We roast our pineapple to give it a bit of a smoky flavour. We did do a collaboration with Craig Wong from Patois. It was a jerk mortadella pizza, and one of the components was a pineapple syrup.


“I think it’s always good to pair something sweet with something hot to give that contrast.”

Agostino says pineapple on pizza is a matter of personal taste. “To each their own, more pineapple for us – but I would definitely tell people to try it.”

Jo Soto is general manager of The Good Son’s Don Mills location. She says Raj Sivasothy, whom they call “Pizza Man,” was the pioneer starting out at their Queen West location. “The management sent Raj to Italy to learn to make things the Italian way,” she adds. “He spent four months there training and learning.”

The Mauna Loa is a bestseller on their menu of classic Napoletana pizzas. Sivasothy describes three elements that set their version apart: “Traditionally Canadians are so used to having a tomato base. Our version calls for a fior di latte base. Instead of bacon crumble or ham, we use pork cheek (jowl). Finally, we used scotch bonnet peppers.”

Sivasothy’s ideas about Hawaiian are closely connected with his dedication to the Napoletana style. He says they would never put pineapple on a traditional classic pizza. “It’s really difficult to create one that would balance.”

His advice: “If you’re going to use prosciutto, you should definitely always use white sauce.”

Customers sometimes request red sauce, but the chef steers them away from that choice. However, to those who insist pineapple isn’t compatible with pizza in Italy he says, “I don’t understand that because they use a lot of figs and pears on pizzas in Italy. It can be light. Maybe it’s not loved the same way, but why limit yourself to just those two types of pizzas?” 

In 2022 Salar Madadi, owner of Maipai pizzeria and tiki bar, Hamilton, Ont., earned second place at the Chef of the Year East competition with his playful Pumpkin Spice not a Latte. The Detroit-style pizza featured slow-roasted pumpkin purée seasoned with sage brown butter and maple syrup, crumbled goat cheese and smoked pineapple.

The idea of pineapple on pizza sets the creative chef’s imagination on fire.

Salar Madadi, owner of Maipai pizzeria and tiki bar in Hamilton, Ont., loves to experiment with pineapple on his Detroit-style pies. Photo: Maipai

“At the moment we don’t have a pineapple pizza on our regular menu. We did have one previously but took it off to rework it as it had three components that were unique to it and wasn’t an efficient use of prep time. That one we called the 808 (the area code for Hawaii) and made it as a Hawaiian pizza with island flavours. Ours had fresh pineapple, bamboo leaf-roasted kalua pork, crispy spam chips, red sauce and pineapple teriyaki sauce.”

They get requests to put a Hawaiian back on the menu. “We’re testing out a few different versions to put a pineapple pizza back on our regular menu as it feels like a bit of a travesty that we’re a tiki bar without a pineapple pizza.”

Ever experimental, Madadi says, “We’ve done a lot of playing around with pineapple flavours on different feature pizzas here. Some of the different ways we’ve used it include fresh pineapple, roasted pineapple, fermented pineapple, rum-macerated pineapple, pineapple jam, and also playing with different ways of cutting it for texture.”

Like Agostino, the chef says, “I think when introducing something sweet like pineapple that it’s always good to pair it with something spicy or something acidic to provide some contrast.”

For him there are no limits. “We’ll try any combo once!”

Six ways to incorporate pineapple:

  • fresh
  • roasted
  • fermented
  • rum-macerated
  • pineapple jam
  • cutting it different ways to create texture

– Salar Madadi, Maipai

The Hawaiian from Acropole Pizza and Donair features a signature brown sauce that is special to Pictou County. To be more precises, it’s an orange sauce. Tommy Cougias, who runs the Truro shop, one of four family-run locations in northern Nova Scotia, describes the process: “We start with fresh vegetables, seasonings are imported, it cooks, and we simmer it for three hours in 80-quart batches that last for two to three days. As the vegetables boil, the sauce thickens.”

Pineapple and brown sauce are an appealing combination and it’s a popular pizza on the menu. “Our sauce already has a smoky flavour to it,” Cougias says. “So they complement each other very well. Pineapple is getting so popular. As well as the latest fad of dill pickles. Some customers make special requests for half pineapple and half pickles on their garlic fingers. We have even had a customer ask for pineapple on their donair. I posted the pineapple question on Facebook a couple years ago. I got over 260 comments. And our group only has 5,000 members.”

Canada is a country of regional pizzas, but if we all took a vote on what this country’s official pizza should be, it’s a safe bet the Hawaiian would be a contender. Sweet and sour, smoky, full of heat and, most of all, balanced – the combination of pork (in all its forms) and pineapple is sure to inspire pizza chefs and pizza lovers for years to come.

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