You say pizza isn’t pizza without pepperoni? We’ve all got our favorite toppings, and we all know we’re right when we say they’re the best. That goes for professional chefs, too, as Business Insider recently reported.
The news site rounded up a passel of chefs and culinary experts to comment on the best pizza toppings, and they all gave different—and sometimes surprising—answers.
Mindy Oh, executive chef of Mora Italiano in Encino, California, recommends piling kimchi on a plain cheese pie. “I grew up with my sister making this for me before Saturday morning cartoons,” Oh said. “The slight funk and crisp nature of kimchi combined with cheese and tomato sauce is unlike anything else.”
We don’t doubt that for a minute, Mindy.
The Food Network’s Harrison Bader has more conventional tastes—he says there’s “nothing better” than fresh mozz and basil, the traditional toppings for a classic Margherita pizza. Alejandro Benes, culinary director of California chain Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill, prefers spicy cupped pepperoni, while Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss” fame, owner of Buddy V’s Ristorante in Las Vegas, digs meatballs and Italian sausage.
But Pasquale Cozzolino of the legendary Ribalta in New York City says you can’t go wrong with shiitake mushrooms. “The savory, brothy flavor [emphasizes the] tomato sauce and mozzarella, making [the] pizza taste more balanced,” he told Business Insider. Meanwhile, Los Angeles chef Michael Reed of H Cafes gives the nod to guanciale, better known as pig cheeks, which he describes as “basically bacon on steroids.”
These are mostly good, safe choices, but, of course, there’s a troublemaker in every bunch: In this case, social media influencer Luisa Ruocco of the Hungry Traveller. “I’m just going to come out and say it,” she told Business Insider. “My favorite pizza topping is pineapple! Often the topic of much heated debate, I actually love how the sweetness and tartness cuts through the fatty ham meat it’s often paired with. My Italian grandmother would kill me for saying this!”
Don’t worry, Luisa—we won’t rat you out to Nonna.