It has fueled countless wars and debates. It has divided entire families -- nay, NATIONS. We're talking, of course, about the timeless pizza question: which topping is the best? Everyone has their opinion, but what about those of us who actually craft the pies over which we pontificate? For too long their scientific expertise has gone untapped, so we decided to give them a forum to lay it all on the line and let the world know what the real hierarchy of pizza toppings is.
We asked New York rising star Nino Coniglio of Best Pizza and undisputed lord of all (pizza) creation Domenico DeMarco of Di Fara to weigh in, and this is how they ranked 'em, from worst to best.
Poor, misunderstood pineapple. It unanimously scored the bottom spot due to its inherent wateriness muddling the texture of the pizza -- not to mention the fact that you just couldn't find the stuff in Italy back in the day. Many people may have a soft spot for it, but our pizzaiolos think it's just taboo.
Curiously, the least popular meat of the bunch, ham was deemed too thick and gummy to top a traditional pie. Nobody tell Hawaii.
Despite the fact that they already appear on pizza in the form of sauce, additional tomatoes struck out due to being too watery and turning the top of the pie into a kind of red mush. Keep tomatoes in the sauce, our pizza brains say -- otherwise it just gets too saturated with moisture.
Peppers probably would've fared better if they weren't so bland, since our guys say they really only add a textural element to a pizza when they're on top of it. They provide a nice snappiness, but other than that, there isn't much to them.
Getting into the solid center of the pack, we've got mushrooms -- which crisp up when cooked to a nice earthiness, but don't quite make it out into the glory of the better spots due to their high water content and relative blandness without the addition of garlic or onions. They're just better when they're together, folks.
5 (TIE). Olives
Olives are a divisive topping; They can be subtly salty, or they can be overpoweringly chemical-y. In the case of the smaller, canned black olives (with delicious ferrous sulfate!), olives fall short of expectations. But when substituted with briny, natural kalamata olives, the pizza will rejoice. Ditch the can, man!
4 (TIE). Spinach
Our pizzaiolos were in disagreement about the place of spinach on pizza. Traditionally, spinach definitely has a place in the pantheon of pizza toppings according to Nino Coniglio, but it does lack a certain je ne sais quoi in the texture department, and Domenico can't bring himself to endorse it fully. You may malign us, Popeye, since we're dogging on spinach and olives, but there are definitely toppings that add more to the overall profile of the pizza than spinach. Good for vegetarians, though.
4 (TIE). Onions
The other veggie that scored the highest on our list was the humble onion, which, when put on top of a pizza, lends it a salty sweetness that's unparalleled. The natural sugars in onions caramelize when cooked, but they still can't beat the meaty allure of what's to come.
Even though it's not traditionally a pizza topping, bacon earns the number three spot because of its smokiness, its crunch, and the fact that -- well, it's bacon?! This is probably the only topping on this list that placed where it did on merit alone (Nino Coniglio just plain loves the stuff on everything -- pizza included). Bacon always wins when taken on its own. But there are still meats that better lend themselves to pizza.
A nice spicy or sweet Italian sausage is just what the doctor ordered... on his pizza, because it's delicious that way and he's hungry (typically, doctors are reluctant to prescribe it otherwise). The history of putting sausage on pizza goes way, way back, so it's got a precedent that can't be beat. Also, a good sausage is a mix of a bunch of different flavors, including fennel and spicy red pepper, so it elevates the profile to a level of spicy complexity that no other ingredient can boast, opines Mr. DeMarco. A little texturally lacking, though, and that's why the top spot goes to...
Ah, pepperoni. Where would we be without you? The piquant taste, the melt-in-your-mouth texture -- and, in the case of natural-casing pepperoni, the meaty, charred bite of the curled-up edges. Our pizza experts were in absolute agreement that pepperoni is the perfect pizza topping, so there can be no further debate. All the other ones are just imitating.
Obviously there's a reason pepperoni was the favorite of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although we don't advise pairing it with marshmallow. Maybe ice cream, though.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and was totally the person who introduced Pizza to Bagels back in the day. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.