As It Happens

'The people have spoken': Hawaiian pizza off the menu at Montreal chain after vote

Quebecers are reeling the face of another contentious and almost evenly split referendum — on the fate of pineapple pizza.

53% of customers at Bàcaro Pizzeria voted to ban pineapple as a topping

Hawaiian pizza is, in fact, a Canadian creation. (El Nariz/Shutterstock)

Transcript

Quebecers are reeling in the aftermath of a contentious and almost evenly split referendum — on the fate of pineapple pizza.

Montreal's Bàcaro Pizzeria chain was receiving such mixed messages about a Hawaiian pizza it had on special that it decided to poll its customers on whether the contentious topping should remain on the menu.

The results were close, but ultimately the pineapple naysayers took the day with 53 per cent, and the tropical fruit has been banned from Bàcaro.

"The people have spoken," Tommaso Mulé, co-founder of Bàcaro, told As It Happens host Carol Off. "So we have to take it off the menu. And then, you know, maybe there'll be another referendum in four years."

A brief history of Hawaiian pizza

Despite what its name suggests, Hawaiian pizza is a Canadian invention.

The late Sam Panopoulos, an Ontario restaurateur of Greek heritage, is believed to be the first person to throw pineapple slices on a pizza pie in 1962 alongside bits of ham and bacon.

"Nobody liked it at first," Panopoulos told As It Happens in February 2017. "But after that, they went crazy about it."

Panopoulos, who ran several restaurants across southern Ontario, died in June 2017 at the age of 82.

His dish took off in popularity, spreading around the world and popping up on the menus of popular pizza chains. But it's always been divisive.

Sam Panopoulos, who died in 2017, is the Canadian restaurateur credited with inventing the Hawaiian pizza. (Yourlifemoments.ca)

Gudni Johannesson, the president of Iceland, has even weighed in on the debate.

In 2017, he told a group of high school students that he was fundamentally opposed to pineapple on pizza, and he would like to ban it — drawing the ire of Panoupolos himself.

He later expressed his regret for the comment during a tongue-in-cheek interview with As It Happens for the show's 50th anniversary.

"I went a step too far," he said. "As much as I do not like pineapple on pizza, the individual freedom of having the topping of your choice overrides that."

The short-lived Hawaii 50 

But Bàcaro's customers will no longer have that choice. 

Briefly, they had access to chef Angelo Mercuri's take on the Canadian classic. Called Hawaii 50, it featured pineapple, bacon, ricotta, jalapeno peppers and tomato sauce.

"I am not going to say that I would order it, but when you taste it, it's actually delicious," Mulé said.

It's a bold statement for someone from a traditional Italian family.

"Our parents would never do such a thing. Let's just put it that way," he said.

To pineapple or not to pineapple? That is the Hawaiian pizza question

4 years ago
Duration 1:06
Artist Hyein Lee animates the Hawaiian Pizza origin story as told by its Canadian creator 1:06

The vote about whether to banish the topping got extremely heated, Mulé said, and has left some fresh wounds among his clientele.

"When people would walk in the restaurant they would take a look at me and they would see either ell, 'No!' then just walked to the table or, 'Yes, I love pineapple,'" he said. "It's still a hot debate even after the poll."

Mercuri stands by his creation, but it was his idea to put the pineapple to a vote, and he has vowed to stand by the results. 

"Democracy rules, and pineapple will never again show up on our menu," he told Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein.

"Certainly, my family in Italy would never have approved. At least now I won't have to hide my head in shame when I go back to Italy."

Those who participated in the poll were entered into a draw to win a month's supply of free pizza. The winner was Carole Thiesen, a pineapple pizza proponent.


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Tommaso Mulé produced by Sarah Jackson.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now