A Guide to Regional Pizza Styles
From Detroit to New York, pizza comes in many different styles
Pizza is such a ubiquitous fast food option in the United States that you could be forgiven for not realizing its origins are in Italy. There are so many kinds of pizza available here, ranging from the pies at chains like Domino's, Papa John's, and Pizza Hut to high-end Neopolitan-style pies at sit-down joints. Sure, you can make pizza at home, but if you happen to be in a pizza-heavy region, there are so many styles and flavors to try, even if you never venture beyond a slice of plain cheese. Here, a quick guide to all the different regional styles of pizza you should check out.
New York-Style Pizza
The New York slice is predominant in New York, New Jersey, and much of the Northeast. It typically has large, wide slices and a crust that's thin and crispy at the edges, but soft enough to fold. The crust is hand-tossed and covered in a thin layer of tomato sauce and other toppings, though there are variations that include omitting tomato sauce. Because the slices are large and flat, the traditional method of eating them is to fold them lengthwise and eat the slice doubled over that way. The origin of the classic New York City slice is in the Neopolitan style of pizza making, but they differ in texture and in size. New York pies were also originally made in coal-fired ovens, some of which are still in use today, but tighter city regulations mean that many are also made in gas-powered ovens.
Though Chicago has a variety of pizza styles, its most famous is a deep-dish pizza. Chicago deep dish pizza has, as you might have guessed, a very deep, thick crust. The crust is baked in a deeper pan, and the toppings are assembled in an order that is the reverse of a New York-style slice: First the cheese, then the vegetable or meat toppings, and then a layer of sauce and more cheese. One popular variation of the deep dish pizza is the stuffed pizza, which is built like a traditional deep dish but also features a thin layer of dough over the toppings and an additional layer of sauce.
New Haven-Style Pizza
Like New York-style pizza, New Haven-style pizza has its origins in the Neopolitan pie. The crust is often even thinner and crispier than a New York slice, and a regional variation includes the white clam pie, which omits a tomato sauce and includes fresh clams.
Unlike Chicago, New York, or New Haven pizza, Detroit-style pizza is typically square. The crust is thick and deep, but shallower than a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and crispier on the bottom. The pizza is baked in a rectangular pan with high sides, and somettimes baked twice for a crispier texture.
Quad Cities-Style Pizza
If you're ever in Rock Island, Illinnois, Moline, Illinois, Davenport, Iowa, or Bettendorf, Iowa, you should make a stop off for Quad Cities-style pizza. Pies in this region have a nuttier-tasting crust, thanks to the inclusion of molasses and malt, and a spicy tomato sauce. The pizza is also cut into strips, rather than wedge or rectangular slices.
Though this style of pizza did originate in Sicily, Italy, in the United States, it can refer to a number of pies that have a thicker crust. Typically the pie is rectangular, and the crust is thick but still crispy on the bottom, similar to a Detroit-style pizza.
Though New York and New Haven pizza riff off this classic Italian style, a true Neapolitan-style pizza has to have certain characteristics that these lack. The tomatoes must be San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, and the cheese is Mozzarella di Bufala. The dough should be kneaded and stretched by hand, and the pie is typically smaller than an American delivery pie—a pizza is a meal for one, often eaten with a knife and fork.
Like a Sicilian-style pizza, a Grandma pie is stretched into a rectangular pan. But the dough for a Grandma pie isn't allowed to proof for as long as a Sicilian pie, which means that the crust is a different texture and flavor. For a Grandma-style crust, you want something that's thinner than a Sicilian but thicker than the average New York-style crust. Originally from Long Island, the Grandma Pie is growing in popularity around the Northeast.