According to the dictionary, pizza is defined as a dish consisting of a flat, round base of dough baked with a topping of tomato sauce and cheese, typically with added meat or vegetables. So the question is, if the dough, tomato sauce, cheese and preparation method are substituted, is it still a pizza? What toppings belong on a pizza? Who has the final say? It’s National Pizza Month, so get ready for a deep(dish) dive into some of the most controversial pizzas that people either love or loathe.
One of the earliest pizza toppings in Italy were anchovies. Italians have been putting fish on bread for over 2,000 years, but the original anchovy pie was not made with cheese. When anchovies made their way to the US, they weren’t warmly received, and Americans decided to add a thick layer of mozzarella cheese to the pie. To this day, anchovies are one of the most feared toppings to put on pizza, and when it comes to other seafood toppings like clams, shrimp, tuna, etc., it is widely believed that seafood should not be paired with cheese. This idea appears to have originated in Italy according to Italian cuisine expert Julia della Croce who says, “Italians are very religious about mixing cheese and fish or seafood, it just isn’t done.” Why this repugnance is applied to pizzas and not to bagels with lox and cream cheese is baffling to say the least.
Pineapple (Hawaiian) Pizza
Originating in Ontario, Canada in 1962 as an experiment, the pineapple (aka Hawaiian) pizza quickly became a hit because people loved the combination of savory ham paired with the sweetness of pineapple. It became so popular that virtually every pizza chain now has their own version of one. The President of Iceland once declared his opposition to the fruit as a topping, stating that pineapple should be banned from pizza which raised controversy around the world. Celebrities, world leaders, and pizza purists weighed in on the topic and the debate divided countries. Though sweet and salty is a proven flavor combo, those who are offended by pineapple on pizza usually attribute their disdain to its sweetness and moisture that infiltrates other toppings and doesn’t pair well with mozzarella.
Is deep dish pizza actually a pizza, or is it a lasagna with a crust? Or is it a tomato soup in a bread bowl? This controversy was sparked by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show in the fall of 2013 and initiated a nationwide discussion on whether or not this Chicago style pizza is actually a pizza. Chefs across the US were taking sides on social media. Some might argue that if you can’t hold it in your hand and eat it without a fork, then it’s not considered pizza at all.
California Pizza Kitchen created the BBQ chicken pizza in 1985 in an effort to test the limits of traditional pizza toppings. Pizza purists will say it’s no longer a pizza if you swap out the tomato sauce with barbeque sauce. They also argue that BBQ sauce is both sweet and vinegary at the same time which overpowers the rest of the ingredients, where tomato sauce allows the toppings to shine.
Pizza, by its definition, is a savory mixture of dough, tomato sauce and cheese. There’s a lot of discussion on whether or not fruit should be a topping on a pizza. Do fruit jams, caramel, or even nutella have their place on a pizza? If dessert pizza is not a pizza, what is it? Pizza expert Mark Iacono of Brooklyn’s Lucali Pizzeria says “It is not a pizza. It’s a dessert pizza.” But is it really, dough?