The Ultimate Guide to Detroit Style Pizza: Origins, Popularity, and Where to Find the Best Slices

Key Takeaways

  • Detroit style pizza is characterized by its rectangular shape, thick crust, and crispy cheese edges.
  • It originated in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-20th century and was inspired by Sicilian-style pizza.
  • The unique baking method involves a steel pan, originally used in automotive factories.
  • Aside from Michigan, this pizza style has gained popularity nationwide and is served in many gourmet pizza establishments.
  • The key components include a thick, chewy crust, edge-to-edge cheese, traditional toppings like pepperoni, and often a reverse order of ingredient layering with cheese directly on the dough.

There’s a delectable piece of culinary invention in Detroit that goes beyond the conventional concept of pizza. Known as Detroit style pizza, this dish offers a unique take on the traditional Italian pie, and has been gaining popularity across the United States. This article explores the origins, distinct characteristics, and cultural importance of Detroit style pizza, as well as where to find the most authentic and delicious interpretations of this regional specialty.

The Origins and History of Detroit Style Pizza

The story of Detroit style pizza begins in 1946 with Gus Guerra, who along with his wife Anna, owned a neighborhood bar called Buddy’s Rendezvous in Detroit, Michigan. The Guerras decided to add something unique to their menu and opted for a Sicilian-style pizza, inspired by Anna’s mother’s recipes. What made their pizza distinct was the pan in which it was baked—a blue steel industrial utility tray, typically used to hold small parts in factories. This unconventional choice led to the crispy caramelized cheese edges, a hallmark of Detroit style pizza.

Growth in Popularity

From a local secret to a national sensation, the popularity of Detroit style pizza grew as more people discovered its unique texture and flavor. The 1980s and 1990s saw a rise in Detroit pizzerias opening across the city, each adding their own twist to the original formula. As food enthusiasts and chefs across America sought to expand their pizza horizons, Detroit style pizza began appearing in various states, often featured in specialty pizzerias and gourmet food blogs alike.

Characteristics of Detroit Style Pizza

Understanding what sets Detroit style pizza apart is key to appreciating its distinctiveness. Here’s a breakdown of its signature features:

The Crust

The foundation of any pizza is its crust, and in Detroit style pizza, it’s particularly noteworthy. It’s thick and chewy, often compared to focaccia. Unlike other pizza styles, the crust must be airy and light inside while being crispy and firm on the outside.

Cheese and Toppings

Detroit style pizza is notable for its “cheese all the way to the edge” philosophy, which ensures a delightful, crispy caramelization on the sides. Traditionally, Wisconsin brick cheese is used, which is spread along the crust to achieve this effect. Standard toppings include pepperoni that curls up into crispy “cups” that catch the pizza oil as it cooks, adding a further layer of texture and flavor.

The Sauce

Another unique aspect is the application of sauce. Instead of being spread beneath the toppings, dollops of tomato sauce are added on top after baking. This method prevents the crust from becoming soggy during baking and intensifies the flavor of the tomato.

Where to Experience Authentic Detroit Style Pizza

While Detroit is the birthplace of this pizza style, various cities across the United States have pizzerias offering authentic Detroit style pizza. In Detroit itself, Buddy’s Pizza still serves what many consider the gold standard of the style. Other notable establishments include Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park and Detroit Style Pizza Company in St. Clair Shores.

Expansion Across the Country

Outside of Michigan, Detroit style pizza can be found in major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, where pizzerias have embraced this culinary delight, tailoring it to local tastes while maintaining its foundational elements.

Impact on the Culinary World

Detroit style pizza has made a considerable impact on the culinary world, highlighting how regional specialties can become beloved nationwide. It also shows the innovation within American cuisine, particularly how simple adjustments in cooking method and presentation can create an entirely new dining experience.

From its modest beginnings in a Detroit bar to its current status as a pivotal player in the American pizza scene, Detroit style pizza embodies creativity and community. Its hearty, comforting, and distinctive qualities offer more than just food; they provide a taste of Detroit’s rich, enterprising spirit. Whether you’re enjoying it in a downtown Detroit eatery or a trendy bistro on the West Coast, Detroit style pizza is a treat that transcends regional boundaries, delivering an irresistibly delicious experience.

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