This Scout series maps out Vancouver’s best and most legendary comfort foods. We encourage readers to steer us towards their favourites in the comments or by using the hashtag #ScoutYVR on social media.
There are people out there who believe that certain non-Italian ingredients – pineapple, especially – don’t belong on pizza. Such an argument is based on the ridiculous premise that the rules governing the preparation of pizza are hard and fast. This just isn’t true, and I wonder if those who argue to the contrary know anything about food beyond a few memorized platitudes about authenticity. Remember, pizza as we know it today only came into being when a non-Italian ingredient – the tomato – was embraced by Italians less than a hundred years after the red fruit’s arrival from the New World. Truly, there would be no such thing as Italian gastronomy if it didn’t embrace techniques, methods and ingredients from beyond the peninsula. Pizza is a testament to this fact. It is first and foremost an ingredient delivery system, a stage upon which some acts work and others don’t. ‘Twas ever thus. There are undoubtedly classics, such as the standard Margherita pie, but don’t forget it was a game-changer in its time (1889), a savoury outlier developed when the majority of pizza recipes were sweet. So why fetishize it? And really, what kind of diner puts limits on what is permissible on pizza without ever giving it the respect of a bite? Answer: a very silly one.
I say that as preface to today’s inclusion in our comfort food guide of what I consider to be one of Vancouver’s most delicious pizzas. Does it come from Nicli Antica, Via Tevere, Bufala, Farina or any other of Vancouver’s better pizzerias? No it does not (though I imagine other pies from those shops will eventually find their way into this guide). In actual fact, the pizza in question comes from a very unlikely place indeed, a brewery! Strathcona Beer Company, to be precise. I know, right? Weird.
What makes this pizza so good is what makes it so different. The pimpled thin crust is standard enough (though I think it’s a sourdough starter) and the base sauce is pretty typical — it’s the topping combination that elevates it to the sublime. I’ve enjoyed this “Hawaiian” over a dozen times since I first tried it in 2016, and to be honest it was one of the inspirations for starting the comfort food guide in the first place. I’ve certainly sung its praises before: “This thing is a spicy weirdo — a gas-fired tropical freakshow of sweet pineapple, crumbled pistachios and capicola ham amplified by a neon-intense jalapeno crema.” I mean, just look at it! See that spiral of green, squirt-bottled spice? It’s such a kick in the balls of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana that it makes me giggle a little. Equally glorious middle fingers are those brûléed bursts of pineapple cutting through the salt and spice and the crumbled pistachio studs adding texture and piney nuttiness where one would think none should really belong. Put it all together and it plays the palate like a drum set, Take one ingredient out – pineapple, for example – and the whole construction collapses. I acknowledge that the mere existence of this pie will remain an affront to some, and that my appreciation of it is an admission of my insurmountable mangiacake-ness. Be that as it may, this thing is just so damn good – a ludicrous Tesla among self-important Ferraris – and you should try it. As I’ve said before: If you don’t like it, I’ll eat it.