A deep divide exists in the United States, caused by a hotly debated question: does pineapple belong on pizza?
Yes, says Palace Pizza Bar & Grill in Whitehall Township, which recommends its ham and pineapple pizza, known in the pizza world as a “Hawaiian.” It’s one of their best sellers.
Rosie Galluzzo’s father Dominick opened Palace Pizza on Lehigh Street 35 years ago. Now, she is mostly running the family operation with her brother, Vinny.
Galluzzo says she loves pineapple on pizza and that her restaurant offers several variations, including buffalo chicken and pineapple, and grilled chicken with pineapple.
“I think it’s good!” she says, with cheery approval. Galluzo’s kids, however, are split on the issue.
Palace Pizza is known for its unique specialty pizzas, but regardless of the topping, pizza sales plummeted when the pandemic began.
“In the beginning of the pandemic business wasn’t too great,” Galluzzo says.
While business has picked up, challenges remain. Galluzzo’s restaurant is not permitted to sell alcohol at their bar, only drinks to customers who dine in, as per statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Regulars used to stop in for a couple of beers and to watch a game on TV, but that source of income is gone for the moment.
The number of customers dining in is also reduced, as booths in the restaurant were arranged to adhere to social distancing guidelines and maximum occupancy ordinances, currently set at 50% capacity for restaurants. Palace Pizza takes these restrictions seriously.
“You’ve got to follow your guidelines,” Galluzzo says. “It’s a lot of takeout still. We don’t get a lot of in-house.”
Before the pandemic, Palace Pizza was dine-in and takeout only, but has since joined GrubHub and DoorDash, third-party companies that offer contact-free delivery.
“That helped us out tremendously,” she says.
Palace Pizza is a family-run “mom and pop shop,” although they do have a few valued employees, Galluzzo says. Early in the pandemic, when business was slow, some employees were temporarily laid off.
“It was scary for us,” she says. “These people have families. These people have bills.”
Once Palace was permitted to reopen their dining area, Galluzzo says they were able to bring back some employees.
Despite setbacks and obstacles, Galluzzo says she is thankful for the support of loyal customers throughout the pandemic.
“It’s nice to see that in the community.” she says. “We’re lucky to have that.”
One of those regulars is Tom Evans, a general contractor from Whitehall Township, who echoes the sentiment that Palace Pizza is a place where the community comes together.
“It was the best spot in the world. They had really cheap beer and great pizza,” Evans says of his pre-pandemic, after-work haunt.
“They have these crazy toppings,” he enthuses. “They put pasta on a deep dish pizza.”
The pierogi pizza, which comes with piergoies, a white cream sauce, mozzarella cheese and sautéed onions, is his favorite. “You can only eat one slice and you’re good,” he says.
Evans also loves pineapple on pizza, but says that’s a topping he usually only gets when he orders Pizza Hut after a rough night. At Palace Pizza, Evans opts for the specialty pies.
Out of caution, Evans hasn’t dined in at Palace during the pandemic, but does order takeout via curbside pickup. He orders a pizza once or twice a week, but says he’s eating a little less pizza, as he’s been less active during the pandemic and so he is more mindful of his diet.
Evan’s girlfriend is on a ketogenic diet, which avoids flour and calls for a low-carbohydrate intake. She makes an almond-flour pizza that Evans says is pretty good, but eventually he needs a traditional pie and returns to Palace.
The appreciation Galluzzo has for her customers is mutual.
“Rosie is my favorite,” Evans says. “She’s the best. Whenever she comes in, she lights the place up.”
Galluzzo says she grew up at her parent’s restaurant and began helping out when she was 12. Her father still works at his restaurant, but soon she’ll be officially taking over the business with her brother.
On occasion, Galluzzo’s son, Evan, helps out at the family restaurant, but she says shes not rushing her kids into the working lifestyle.
“When you figure things out and you need to start working, there’s no more break after that,” Galluzzo says with a laugh. It’s not uncommon for Galluzzo to work 13-hour shifts.
Pizza.com reports that the U.S. eats 100 acres of pizza daily or about 350 slices per second. Ninety-four percent of Americans say they eat pizza regularly.
Toppings aside, it seems that a love for pizza may be one of the few things almost all Americans can agree on. Perhaps unity is not a pie in the sky idea after all.
Palace Pizza is located at 3690 Lehigh St. in Whitehall Township, PA