The first known mention of pizza is in a 10th-century document from Lazio in Italy, with the modern version of the ever-popular dish coming from Naples. The international pizza market brings in around $128 billion annually, and a third of it takes place in the United States alone. These eateries differentiate themselves the best way they know how: laying on the toppings.
The first pizzeria in the United States opened in 1905—Lombardi’s in New York City. Since then, Americans haven’t stopped experimenting. Experimenting with things more extreme than the controversial pineapple on pizza debate. Here are ten of the weirdest pizza toppings out on the market.
10 Banana and Cheese
If you’re a sweet and savory kind of person, boy, do I have the pizza for you. A popular favorite offered by various chains in Brazil is the banana and cheese pizza. Generally, the cheese is standard mozzarella with banana slices sprinkled on top. Adding chocolate cream and cinnamon gives the dish some extra tang and stickiness.
I suppose you could also ask for pineapple if you want to start a furious argument among purists. I prefer having my pizza followed by dessert, but having both together saves time.
9 Prawns, Trout, Caviar, Oh My!
Steveston Pizza Co in Richmond, British Colombia, has a website that proudly states:
“Our vision is to disrupt what people think about what a pizza should be and transform eating pizza into a true culinary experience. We want every experience you have eating our pies to be a memorable one.”
The experience will certainly be memorable if you fork out $850 for the See Nay pizza. This is a 12-inch pie, so not for sharing! The topping combines tiger prawns, smoked steelhead trout, lobster ratatouille, Russian caviar, and Italian white truffles. This last ingredient bumps up the price; these truffles cost thousands of dollars a kilo.
Don’t worry. If you’ve had a couple of beers, you can’t order the See Nay on impulse—you need to order a day in advance so that the kitchen has time to prep. But the restaurant has much cheaper options. Pizza is an affordable staple for most people, but $850 might stretch the family budget just a hair.
8 Chili Cheese Fritos
Beer made Milwaukee famous, but the city also deserves recognition for the Chili Cheese Frito pizza served by Ian’s Pizza by the Slice. This crunchy topping is not one that comes to the top of my mind, but now it’s something I want to try after a wild Friday night.
At Ian’s, they liberally spread beef chili over the base, then top it off with onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Fritos. Nothing says American quite like combining two dishes that have nothing to do with the other, but if the glazed doughnut and cheeseburger can make it work, so can Ian’s pizza. Just be sure to have a few napkins handy.
7 Call of the Wild
Alaska. Beautiful. Untamed. Wild. It’s the largest state in the country but has a population of under 750,000. Around 40% of these people live in Anchorage. An Alaskan tends to be a person who values independence and relishes the often harsh conditions of the land. And there’s no question about this belief transferring to their food.
Anchorage’s motto is “Big Wild Life” and describes Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria well. This restaurant has a varied and hearty menu and serves various dishes, including their pizza. Not least among these is the Call of the Wild pizza.
Perhaps the topping on this pie would only seem exotic to non-Alaskans, but it certainly is filling. The crust is piled with bacon, steak, portobello and crimini mushrooms, a garlic cream sauce, and reindeer sausage. Not for the faint-hearted or those having recently eaten. Still, reindeer is a common meat in northern latitudes, so perhaps it’s not that weird.
6 Italian Mix
Pizzanista! in Los Angeles has been up and running since 2010. Founded by a famous skateboarder (this is Los Angeles, after all), the popular restaurant is adding more locations. Its website indicates what makes Pizzanista! stand out:
“Family-owned and operated, Pizzanista! Features traditional hand-tossed pizza dough made fresh daily using 200-year-old sourdough cultures from Naples…”
This will certainly reassure an Italian that the proper culinary traditions are alive and well in California. But they might raise an elegant eyebrow upon hearing that customers flock to Pizzanista! on Sundays to sample the infamous Macaroni and Cheese pizza. After all, nothing says Italia like taking time-honored traditional meals and simplifying them to American standards.
Pizzanista! is not the only place that offers this unlikely combination, but surely this is taking fusion a little too far. Macaroni and cheese is not a topping—it’s a separate meal. But if it sells, then why not?
5 Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli
New Haven in Connecticut boasts many fine pizza restaurants. Among them is BAR, a nightclub offering freshly brewed beer and dancing. Knowing full well that people like to eat something while they’re downing a few ales and bouncing around on the dance floor, BAR has a pizza oven to cater to its guests’ needs. Now, this is a brilliant idea that I’d love to see more of!
One of the options that wouldn’t tempt me, though, is the Mashed Potato and Bacon Pie. I can see the logic behind it—mashed potato lines the stomach and absorbs excess beer. But I can’t see it as a pizza topping. BAR also offers a breakfast-themed pizza of bacon, egg, and hot peppers. And this is the truly weirdest topping; BAR boasts of a chicken and broccoli pizza. I can’t think of anything worse to taint such a glorious meal.
4 Cheese ‘n’ Chickpeas
While Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country, it has a strong Italian heritage too. Many Italians flocked to Argentina to escape wars and economic turmoil, bringing their culture, language, and meals. Originating in Genoa, Italy, fainá is a chickpea pancake popular with Argentinians. Güerrin in Buenos Aires honors their connected roots to Italy and provides this as an option on their pizza.
You can order a regular pizza and have a fainá on top, or you can cover your whole pizza with fainá. Fans say the pancake’s creamy texture cuts the tomato sauce’s acidity and blends well with cheese. It seems odd, but the restaurant regularly sells over 600 portions of its pancake daily to pizza lovers. People obviously like the combination. I wonder if it’s available in the States?
3 Lemon Yogurt and Mango Chutney
Greenville, Delaware, is the home of Pizza by Elizabeth, a refined dining experience featuring artichoke and crab dip, curried pecan salads, and… tandoori pizza? Tandoori is an Indian dish of chicken marinated in yogurt. The blend of spices in tandoori cuisine – cumin, coriander, and turmeric – makes for a strong flavor. Here, the pizza dough is acting like a typical Indian bread.
Pizza by Elizabeth kicks it up a notch by serving up a lemon tahini yogurt and mango chutney. Some of their other weird toppings include sauces like pesto, rosemary onion, and green olive. Before stopping by, make sure your palette is up to their standards of elegance, or be prepared to hit Little Caesars on the way home.
2 Breakfast in Chicago
In Dimo’s Pizza in the Windy City, you can order the Breakfast of Champions pizza. It lives up to its name as the topping consists of scrambled eggs, chorizo, and fries on a base of white sauce and is finished with green onions and spicy mayonnaise. A fine breakfast indeed, but why slosh it on top of a pizza crust?
A large city like Chicago also has a strong Italian heritage and is full of pizza restaurants. Somehow, a restaurant has to attract new customers, and innovation with the toppings is one way to do it. To be successful, such restaurants have to offer old favorites as well. Dimo’s manages to do this with a wide range of pizzas. One wonders if things such as the Breakfast of Champions are publicity stunts that are not meant to be taken seriously.
1 Oh, My Omaha
The Pitch Pizzeria in Omaha, Nebraska, is well-reviewed on Tripadvisor and offers a wide variety of innovative food. Its website makes a special point of this:
“Each week, our chef crafts new, never-before-seen culinary wonders as the current special.”
The problem with a constant demand for innovation is that you can’t always hit the mark. One pizza Pitch offered includes a topping of pistachios, shrimp, and plum sauce. Plums. That is a culinary wonder, along with marsala fig sauce, pears, and truffle oil.
These combinations sound so bizarre; it has me scratching my head, asking, does such a combination belong on a pizza, or is it just innovation for innovation’s sake? We’ve come a long way from the basic Margherita. For now, I’m sticking with marinara and mozzarella, but eat away, my pizza connoisseurs.