Lobster Pizza: A Critical Inquiry

Kerry Altiero, chef-owner of Rockland’s Cafe Miranda, on the controversial pizza topping.

A lobster pizza cooking in a wood-fired oven
Photograph by Mark Fleming
By Will Grunewald
From our February 2022 issue

Lobster is great. Pizza is great. In Maine, though, they too often get crossed, and lobster pizza is not great. In fact, it stinks.

Or at least that’s how I’ve always felt about it. Pizza requires textural harmony — the crunch and chew of crust against the sauce and the melty cheese. Classic toppings, from pepperoni to mushrooms to onions, are classic in part because they don’t throw off that balance. Well-cooked lobster, however, is firm and a little springy, and that doesn’t jibe. Plus, lobster’s subtle sweetness is easily obscured, which is why a white-bread bun remains the time-tested vessel for lobster meat and why any more dressing than a little mayo is excessive. On pizza, the flavor is wasted. Why not just throw some tofu on there?


Recently, I made this argument to Kerry Altiero, chef-owner of Rockland’s Cafe Miranda and maker of delicious pizzas and lobster dishes, though he was loathe to serve either when he opened 30 years ago. (Regarding the former: “You say, ‘Oh, a brick oven — must be a pizzeria. I wasn’t about to get pigeonholed.” And the latter: “Everyone else was already serving it.”) Then, in 2012, he entered the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year cook-off on a lark, won it, and figured it was finally time to serve lobster. That was around when he introduced pizzas too, and so his take on lobster pizza came to be, with mozzarella, roasted red pepper, diced tomato, basil, and spinach.

But is he a true believer in lobster pizza? “Actually, I’m probably with you,” Altiero admitted. “I’m not a traditionalist, but there are certain lines that are better not crossed.”

When Cafe Miranda reopened in 2020 after a brief pandemic hiatus, Altiero started selling Sicilian-ish slabs outside. Now, he’s back to doing regular pizzas as well, but he dropped the lobster version. Still, just talking about it gets his cogs spinning. “Skip the tomato sauce,” he suggested. “And you’d have to bake it, like, two-thirds of the way before adding lobster, so you don’t destroy the meat. Or, okay, maybe you top it with chopped fresh lobster that isn’t hot, tossed with some olive oil, parsley, and lemon. Yeah. I could see that.”