Eating Out: Pizza pop-up rekindles one of the great international debates of our time
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IN THE midst of a few weeks when both James Bond and Batman left us, another cultural heavyweight who left an indelible mark behind him passed away.
But while Sam Panopoulos may not have the name recognition of Roger Moore or Adam West, he managed to cause more arguments than Blofeld and the Riddler combined.
The 83-year-old, who had emigrated to Canada from Greece when he was 20, owned a restaurant in Ontario with his late brother. It was there, on some precipitous night in the early 1960s, that they decided to find out what that tin of Hawaiian brand pineapple sitting on the shelf would taste like with a bit of ham on top of a pizza. The world would never be the same again.
When the president of Iceland (the country) Gudni Johannesson joked in February that he’s “fundamentally opposed” to pineapple on pizza he sparked an internet woodfiredstorm with competing hashtags and everything. Eventually he backed away from his stance, clarifying he liked the tropical fruit – he just doesn’t want it anywhere near a takeaway 12 inch.
“I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad I do not hold such power,” he said, as across the Atlantic Donald Trump wondered if he holds such power. And if not, why not.
“Presidents should not have unlimited power,” he (not Trump, obviously) added.
“I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”
You can get pineapple, seafood and a whole lot of other things on your pizza at Pizza Boutique in Belfast city centre, a pop-up satellite of the original shop in Hillsborough. Chef James Neilly of Belfast Cookery School and Brendan Henry spent 33 days from collecting the keys to their recent opening transforming the space on Castle Street into something you wouldn’t think would sully itself with the mere idea of pineapples where they shouldn’t be.
It’s open and modern, with strings of lights dangling from the cavernous ceiling (they ripped out the old one themselves) and a mural of Belfast in the grip of a Godzilla attack that takes up an entire wall.
It’s very cool, but it’s welcoming too – waitresses were braving Castle Street with free samples that didn’t last long. It’s also very good.
I didn’t try the pineapple one – I’m not that fussed. I don’t feel strongly about it enough to create an international incident, I’d just rather have something else.
I didn’t try the seafood one either – piri piri prawns with Corndale Farm chorizo (from Limavady), roast garlic puree, roast peppers and basil – because if it comes out of the water and isn’t an anchovy it shouldn’t be anywhere near a pizza. Put that in your puffin smoker and smoke it, Mr President.
The emphasis is clearly on quality ingredients. The toppings scraped off would make a good, if messy, dinner.
It would be a shame though. Salty Parma ham and creamy, slightly sharp Fivemiletown goat’s cheese sat with sunblushed tomatoes, pesto and watercress on a base not so thin as to become cream crackery and not so thick that you’re chewing all day. Instead, the chew level, which is what any pizza base lives and dies by, was perfect.
The Tuscan-style lamb sausage was rich and slightly sweet against salty halloumi and olives, with the whole thing freshened up by lemon oil and a fantastic rosemary pesto.
Two pizzas that had appeared imposing when set down were gone in no time, save a couple of slices to take away. If that’s all you want in the first place they also do a lunchtime offer of a generous slice and an interesting salad – pearl cous cous, slightly pickled onions, peppers, rocket, shredded cabbage – not the standard lump of tomato and coleslaw. Thought and care has gone into it, just like everything else.
Sides include Parmesan truffle fries and garlic and mozzarella flatbread, while something sweet is provided by donuts from local supplier – it’s a theme across the entire menu – Doughzy. They looked spectacular, and somehow they stayed behind the glass. Maybe next time, and next time, and the time after that...
Goat’s cheese pizza £10.55
Lamb sausage pizza £10.35
Club Orange £1.20
Pepsi Max £1.20
Double espresso £2