Perhaps this headline should read:
The Most Controversial Man of the Last Century Passed Away...
After all, whenever the subject of Hawaiian Pizza comes up, people either go into a rage or rave about the stuff---they are rarely ambivalent on the subject. Mention this recipe to an Italian and they will more than likely offer some choice hand-gestures, facial expressions and perhaps some choice words to show their contempt for this disgustoso breech of pizza etiquette.
The Hawaiian Pizza idea was invented by Sam Panopoulos---yes, he was a Greek-Canadian, not Italian. But then again, neither is Hawaiian Pizza. Panopoulos came up with the idea in his restaurant back in 1962.
"Along the way, we threw some pineapples on it and nobody liked it at first, but after that, they went crazy about it. Because in those days nobody was mixing sweets and sours and all that. It was plain, plain food."
Personally, I love Hawaiian Pizza. I think the first time I ever had some was in the just-opened Pier 17 food court down at South Street Seaport in Manhattan back in 1983. I loved the way the salty ham, sweet pineapple and tomato sauce married well with each other. The acidity in both the pineapple and tomato sauce make them compatible cousins. And mozzarella on top of pineapple? Well, not exactly... it goes under them, allowing the pineapples to caramelize, bringing out their sweetness a bit further. The bits of ham (sliced or chunks, I've had it both ways) also go above the cheese to bring out a smokey flavor.
The Recipe is Still Pizza After All...
Prepare the dough, form your pizza round, top with sauce, then mozzarella, and finally with the pineapple and ham. Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin olive oil and a dusting of dried basil.
Bake in a 515 F oven for 5-7 minutes, preferably on a pizza stone or baking steel. Your oven may vary... keep an eye on this, ensuring that the crust bottom is done along with the toppings. If your crust is done before the toppings, put the oven on broil for an extra 1/2 minutes.
Panopoulos arrived in Canada with his brothers in 1954, opening several restaurants. He passed away in an Ontario hospital on June 8, not long after he had celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary with his wife Christina. He was said to have an "unforgettable" personality and was known to be up-front and full of humor. He leaves behind his family, friends, former employees and loyal customers. He was 83.