Sorry, Rudolph: Reindeer pizza is real, and it’s one of the Nordic Region’s most popular pies.
It’s true. Reindeer pizza is beloved in Finland. (And, yes, reindeers are real.)
It all started in 2005, when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took an unwarranted jab at Finnish cuisine. After the European Food Safety Authority moved its annual conference from Finland to Parma, Berlusconi boasted about his delight in being able to eat his favorite Italian dishes, rather than having to “endure” Finnish foods.
“There is absolutely no comparison between culatello (a slightly smoky specialty ham) from Parma and smoked reindeer,” Berlusconi said.
Berlusconi tried to brush the backlash under the rug, explaining that it was simply “a way of showing friendliness at a festive occasion.” Meanwhile, Finland’s Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, took a diplomatic approach.
“The matter is closed,” Vanhanen said. “I have nothing against Italian food; I love spaghetti, as long as it’s not too spicy.”
The countries’ leaders moved on from the situation quickly, but the people Finland did not forget – pizza juggernaut Kotipizza bit back with the launch of the Pizza Berlusconi, a thin-crust rye dough pizza topped with tomato sauce, red onions, chanterelle mushrooms, and, of course, smoked reindeer.
Finland, ultimately, had the last laugh. In 2008, Kotipizza won America’s Plate international pizza competition in New York, with an Italian-American pie coming in second place. The PR stunt had staying power, too – it remains a menu mainstay at Kotipizza and other Finnish shops to this day.
“Once you open the cardboard lid, the smell of smoked reindeer and onion say hello to you,” wrote one food blogger after trying the pie for the first time. “The flavor itself is absolutely wonderful…[I] have to say, this is a Holy Grail of pizza!”
The Pizza Berlusconi has yet to catch on stateside, but you can get any other pre-Christmas pizza you’re craving on the Slice app.