As food debates go, there are few more divisive. It has fractured families, rocked long-term relationships and even sparked an international incident.
Simply put: to pineapple or not to pineapple a pizza? Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous pineapple … or simply stay put with pepperoni and more conventional toppings. That, in essence, is the question.
This is even more inflammatory an issue than to ketchup or not to ketchup a hot dog.
Montreal chef Angelo Mercuri would like to settle the issue for good. Mercuri, co-founder of the Bàcaro Pizzeria chain, has concocted the Hawaii Five-O — consisting of pineapple, bacon, ricotta, jalapeno peppers and tomato sauce — which will be available at the 10 Bàcaro restos throughout February.
He is then asking diners to vote whether or not they approve of the pineapple. Whatever the majority rules, Mercuri will either keep it on the menu or kill it off permanently. One voter’s name will also be drawn at the end of February and, regardless of their feelings for pineapple, they will win a month’s supply of any pizza.
“I want to put this debate to bed permanently,” Mercuri says, while prepping a pineapple pizza at his Westmount Bàcaro. “If customers want it off, it will never be spoken of again.”
Mercuri feels that a Canadian has to be the one to end this debate, since the creator of the pineapple-adorned pizza, best known as the Hawaiian, was a Greek-Canadian, Sam Panopoulos, who had risen it to life at his Chatham, Ont. Satellite Restaurant in 1962.
(In addition to the pineapple as well as the cheese and tomato sauce, the Hawaiian generally includes ham and/or bacon.)
Pizza purists have long disdained the notion of pineapple, but few have been as outraged as Iceland’s president, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, who had, perhaps jokingly, even proposed banning it in 2017. To which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rallied to the defence of Team Pineapple in a Feb. 24, 2017 tweet: “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation.” Take that, Guðni!
Mercuri, for his part, considers himself a traditionalist:
“But I have to say that I enjoy the sweet and salty of the pineapple with the bacon on this pie. With the ricotta and jalapenos, there is a lot of flavour going on.
“But a lot of Italians favouring pineapple on pizza are now living in exile and aren’t allowed to return to their hometowns. Pizza is very personal. People all have their favourites and won’t tolerate any other,” says Mercuri, 38, who, along with Bàcaro partner Tommaso Mulé, is also the co-owner of the popular 20-year-old Vago restaurant.
The Mercuri cooking clan is well known around town, owning and operating 20 restaurants. Angelo began at 13, working at his uncle’s Natalino in Dorval, where he learned to make pizza.
“I resisted trying the Hawaiian pizza until I was 28, when I catered an event where they requested it. Secretly I liked it, but felt guilty and was scared to confess this to others.”
The Bàcaro chain was started five years ago, after Mercuri and Mulé started researching pizza ideas in Venice. Bàcaro, according to Mercuri, is a Venetian word, “meaning a place where good young wines and simple foods” are sold.
Mercuri has finished garnishing the Hawaii Five-O and is about to pop it into his hybrid gas/wood-burning oven.
“The trick to the pie is the Caputo OO pizza flour,” Mercuri explains. “It’s like what they use in Italy, with 20 per cent less gluten, resulting in a crunchy yet tasty crust. It took us two years to master this dough, spending every night cultivating the yeast and trying different batches.”
Into the oven goes the Hawaii Five-O. Mercuri is feeling anxious.
“I just hope my family in the old country isn’t watching or I’m cooked,” cracks Mercuri, who ‘fesses up to ketchup-ing his hotdogs.
Two minutes later, the Hawaii Five-O is ready for tasting.
Mercuri digs in and gives it two thumbs up.
My turn. Interesting, like a little tango taking place in my mouth. Must admit the ricotta, bacon and jalapenos make for an interesting taste sensation. And the crust is absolutely scrumptious.
As for the pineapple? Meh. Hold it. Forever.
“I’m not offended,” Mercuri says. “That’s what this is all about.”
Adds Mulé, also a fan of the Hawaii Five-O: “Forget what they think about pineapple in the old country. You know what kind of pizza is all the rage with Italian kids now … pizza with cut-up hotdogs and fries! Really!”
“Oh, yeah, I eat pizza with a knife and fork, but others say folding it and using just their hands is the only way,” Mercuri notes. “Ready to start another hot pizza debate?”
To partake in the Bàcaro pineapple pizza poll, visit