Sam Panopoulos, Canadian inventor of Hawaiian pizza, dies at 83

"An unforgettable personality, Sam was respected by many for providing strong and dependable advice, and for his exceedingly generous nature", reads the obituary.

Panopoulos emigrated to Canada from Greece in 1954 when he was 20, eventually going on to own and operate several successful restaurants with his two brothers.

The Greek-Canadian restaurateur died in a London, Ontario, hospital on Thursday, multiple outlets reported.

He ran a number of restaurants over the years with his brothers Elias and Nikitas in different Ontario cities Ontario - always serving his "Hawaiian" pizza.

His creation, the Hawaiian pizza, topped with ham and pineapple, recently became a contentious issue on social media, but the pizza has been around since the 60s.

Panopoulos told CBC earlier this year he put pizza on the menu because nobody in the country was serving it yet.

"We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments".

Panopoulos and his two brothers ran several successful restaurants together in Canada including the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham Ontario

After a public uproar, he clarified that he gladly does not have "the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapple on their pizza".

'We tried it first, [then] passed it to some customers.

"Pizza wasn't known at all, actually", Panopoulos told the Atlas Obscura.

"But after that, they went insane about it, because [in] those days nobody was mixing sweet and sour and all that. He was a protector and his candid sense of humour, laughter and blunt honesty will be missed by all his friends, customers & former employees".

Others soon began experimenting, Panopoulos said, going beyond the traditional pepperoni, bacon and mushroom toppings to include salmon, green peppers, onions or "whatever you wanted". "For pizzas, I recommend seafood".

Among those coming to the defence of Hawaiian pizza was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who pledged his support in a tweet. He had just celebrated his 50th anniversary with his wife Christina.

His funeral will be held on Monday in London.

  • Leroy Wright