There’s a funny meme called “how to torture an Italian”. Sadistic people hold down a desperate man who is forced to watch a horrible scene: a pineapple is added to a pizza.
Yes, I find the meme exhilarating, although it lies on what is one of the most established stereotypes in the world: Italians burst out in rage if anyone even dares to touch their traditional recipes. And putting pineapple on pizza is to us the worst crime of all!
Is it, though? Well, I thought it was time to give a voice to my people who usually are not involved in the discussion. Do Italians really hate pineapple pizza so much? Short answer: no. But with some context.
Let me first stress that it is true that the majority of Italians are so protective towards our traditions, culinary culture, and yadda yadda yadda. Stereotypes are born for a reason.
But, surprisingly, pineapple on pizza is not such a controversial topic in Italy, if compared to other food-related issues. Like, as to say, using cream to make a carbonara sauce (that really drives us crazy).
I’ve seen more flaming debates and hilarious jokes regarding pineapple on pizza in other countries of the Western world. For example:
- Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay declared on tv “You don’t f… put pineapple on pizza”.
- Icelandic president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said if he could, he would ban pineapple on pizza. A lot of people hailed him as a hero.
- In the Polish game Cyberpunk 2077 putting pineapple on pizza is literally a crime, under the “Pizza Desecration Act”
- A Spanish guerrilla street artist has an Instagram profile called Pizza_Activism all dedicated to the spreading of a message: “Say no to Pineapple on pizza”
- US tv host Jimmy Kimmel ended the debate with only one sentence “Pineapple doesn’t go on pizza”.
Speaking of the US, it seems that the very Land of the Free regularly debates on whether or not to ban pineapple on pizza. Not legally, of course, but the amount of discussions you can find online makes you think there are a lot of Americans ready to follow in Jóhannesson’s footsteps.
The joke reached its extreme in 2019 when the CISA, the US federal agency dedicated to cybersecurity, published a document called: “The War on Pineapple: Understanding the Foreign Interference in 5 steps”.
The infographic aimed at showing what happens when foreign powers try to pollute the American debate starting controversial topics online. They did it using a metaphor: Russians trying to convince Americans that pineapple on pizza is actually good! And not the way around!
See where I’m going with that? There’s a great part of this planet that despises pineapple on pizza even more than us Italians.
But what about Italians indeed? Well, I divide our people into two different groups:
- those who think there’s nothing to discuss: pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, period. No need to get mad, let’s move on;
- those who don’t really care, are quite open-minded and, if there’s the chance, they would try it.
Sure, this is not to say there aren’t Italians who don’t get furious when someone is hinting at using pineapple as a topping for pizza. But they represent a minority in the conversations, and they’re usually not that heated. You could have an idea of what I’m talking about from this thread on Quora.
We might even have had some famous pizza makers like Gino Sorbillo or Enzo Coccia declaring they would never use it. But they are part of the “old guard”. Modern pizza chefs in Italy have already listed pizzas topped with pineapple on their menus, and they all proved successful. One notable example is Franco Pepe, but he’s not the only one. Check out this pizza made with roasted pineapple, ventricina salami, onion and coriander at the pizzeria Crosta in Milan.
As a people, Italians carry this stigma to have a backward mentality on many levels. But, despite appearances, food is really the field where we experiment the most. Especially in regards to pizza, the last decade saw a rise of pizza makers who pushed the game to the next level.
This is the subject for a whole other article. But let me summarize with one keyword: innovation. Every ingredient is worth consideration, to be tested, analyzed, challenged. And pineapple is no exception.
I published an Italian version of this article on web magazine Garage Pizza: there, I give a deeper analysis on the history of pineapple pizza and the international consideration to the benefit of the Italian audience.
This article is part of an upcoming series: The controversy on pizza toppings in Italy. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to read more on this topic.