Page 5 of 7Forbidden Fruit
Some pizza toppings are better left on the produce aisle.
By Alex Springer
In the annals of pizza philosophy, two schools of thought have traditionally locked horns: Those who welcome the inclusion of pineapple on a pizza, and those who do not. I am a staunch adherent of the latter. I like my pizza to be a savory celebration of cured pepperonis and black olives on a bed of salty mozzarella cheese.
One look at the menu of Salt Lake City's famous Este Pizza tells me that I'm in good company. It boasts a variety of creative pizza options, yet nary can a pineapple be found. While that can be said of a few different pizza joints in town, the lack of a Hawaiian-style pizza on Este's menu has given founder Dave Heiblim quite a reputation in the local food community.
Heiblim shed more light on Este's refusal to serve up Hawaiian pizzas—"Este serves New York-style pizza, and pineapple isn't on New York-style pizza," he says, "But anyone who's authentically trying something new and experimenting with a history of food, I support and respect. I want to see more great pizzerias in Salt Lake." With Heiblim's guidance, I set my sights on four different pies from four different local pizza joints.
Pie the First: The Munchy Mango @The Pie Hole
Heiblim's Spin: "The Pie Hole knows their business, and they know their clientele very well. Would I try it? Absolutely not. But it sounds like exactly what people want at 2 a.m."
Verdict: The Munchy Mango at The Pie Hole (344 S. State, 801-359-4653, PieHoleUtah.com) is late-night stoner chow at its finest. It's topped with diced mango, sliced jalapeños roasted in brown sugar, green onions and Thai peanut sauce. My first bite had the right mango-to-jalapeño ratio, igniting my taste buds with a pleasant sweet and spicy combination. Subsequent bites let the peanut sauce in—it's a flavor that's not unwelcome, but it doesn't pack much punch overall. The green onions were the only ingredient that didn't pull their weight. The cooking process left them papery and flavorless, reinforcing my hatred of the weed. Despite the rogue's gallery of toppings, the Munchy Mango is pretty accessible. The Pie Hole always brings it with its thin, foldable crust making it something to try when craving the familiarity of pizza while wanting to try something new.
Pie the Second: The Pera @Pizzeria Limone
Heiblim's Spin: "I like the way pears and melon work with prosciutto, but I personally am not a huge pistachio fan. Sounds like it would make a better sandwich than pizza."
Verdict: Topped with sliced pear, prosciutto, pistachios and onions, the Pera at Pizzeria Limone (several locations, PizzeriaLimone.net) is a bold attempt to merge French and Italian cuisine. Given the variety of toppings, however, the only flavor that really stood out was an ambiguous sweetness. The cooking process reduces the pear's sugars into a nice pop of sweet that is omnipresent throughout the pie, but I was disappointed that the actual pear flavor wasn't more pronounced. Occasionally, the flavors of prosciutto and onion would cast a sidelong glance in my direction, but the nondescript sweetness of this pizza overshadowed its cohorts. The Pera's crust and cheese game was on point—that oven-fired flavor is great—but there was a distinct lack of harmony among this pie's ingredients.
Pie the Third: The Fig and Pig @Eva
Heiblim's Spin: "That's an homage to a very classic pairing. Pork goes really well with sweet things. There's a little more attention to the history of food, and I would absolutely try that."
Verdict: Pairing fig jam with prosciutto and arugula pesto is what I would call using figs correctly, and the pie at Eva (317 Main, 801-359-8447, EvaSLC.com) explores a sophisticated depth of flavor. The best part about the Fig and Pig is the way the deep sweetness of the fig jam melts into the slight bitterness of the arugula pesto. The prosciutto was surprisingly absent from this experience, which was a shame—a nice sliver of saltiness was exactly what the whole package needed. The crust appeared to be rendered from overworked dough, making it chewier than I prefer. The Pig & Fig is a testament to pizza's power to blend flavors together, and it's fun to feel that tapestry unfold on the tongue.
Pie the Fourth:The Hawaii Pie-O @The Pie
Heiblim's Spin: "It's part of the pizza canon, and I never discredit anyone for serving it, but I don't serve it because it's not what I grew up on."
Verdict: This iteration at The Pie (various locations, ThePie.com) was responsible for most of my negative baggage. It's a traditional Hawaiian pizza, topped with pineapple chunks and smoked ham. It arrived as all Pie pizzas do, thick crust, loads of cheese and generously dressed. While other Hawaiian pizzas have turned me off because of the pineapple's acidic sweetness and mealy texture, this one did not disappoint. The pie was nearly obscured by the amount of fruit, but everything worked very well together. The Pie doesn't mess around with its ham—it's sliced in sizable rounds and smoked to perfection. The cheese, crust and sauce always make a satisfying mouthful, and this was what made the Hawaii Pie-O a success. The pineapple was definitely there, but the savory backbone held up, making the citrus flavor reveal itself only when it was needed. This is the Hawaiian pie to end all other Hawaiian pies.
I took many things from this pizza quest, but learning that pizza is not exclusionary by nature—it invites all comers to bask in its warm, melty glow—was most enlightening. The question about whether or not fruit belongs on pizza will likely be debated for centuries to come, but, as Heiblim puts it, "The more people debate pizza, the more people will want to eat it."