In North America, the best-known pizzas are without a doubt the pies originating from Chicago and New York.
But in Canada, pizza aficionados have to thank four Greek immigrants for the country’s own unique pizza, known as Regina Pizza.
Regina Pizza was created when four brothers named Kolitsas opened the first “Houston Pizza” in 1970 in Regina, Saskatchewan. They had just immigrated from Greece, bringing with them both a strong work ethic and a love of food.
The Kolitsas’ pizza was once mouth-wateringly described by Allan Pulga, a restaurant critic for the CBC. “The crust is crispy on the outside, chewy and tender on the inside, and a touch sweet. It has a bite similar to a bagel. Homemade pizza sauce is generously applied, meat is stacked high and there is an obscene amount of cheese on top, baked at high heat and browned like the top of a crème brûlée.”
Jim Kolitsas recalled growing up in the pizza business. “I remember making dough with my grandfather. We were panning the dough. He would throw me empty pans like frisbees and I would stack them on the counter. I remember asking why we put a wet cloth on the dough. I thought that was strange as a kid. I was seven.”
So well-known is the Kolitsas’ pizza that they routinely ship their pizzas all the way across Canada.
While Regina Pizza was created by the Kolitsas brothers in the 1970s, it should also never be forgotten that another Canadian pizza which became a household word was also dreamed up by Greek immigrants.
“Hawaiian Pizza,” an unlikely mixture of pineapple, ham and cheese, was created in the 1960s by Greek immigrant Sotirios “Sam” Panopoulos, who arrived in Canada in 1954 from the village of Vourvoura in the Peloponnese.
By the early 1960s, Sam and his brothers had opened a chain of restaurants throughout Ontario. Acting out of curiosity, Panopoulos decided to put canned pineapple on a pizza, just to find out what it would taste like.
“We just put it on, just for the fun of it, to see how it was going to taste,” Sam Panopoulos told the BBC in a 2017 interview he gave shortly before he died.
The result, Hawaiian Pizza, was an instant hit, and is still popular throughout the country and in the US as well. The many detractors of placing pineapple and ham atop pizza are equally vociferous, but no one can say that this unique culinary creation is going away anytime soon.