Pick a pizza


Italian immigrants to the United States brought their foods with them, including various styles of pizza. To say that pizza became popular is an understatement: it is now a $30 billion dollar industry worldwide, and the styles of pizza available are as varied as the people who eat them.

Since there are at least 21 different regional pizza styles in the U.S. alone, we'll limit ourselves to the most popular varieties. (We will in no way attempt to name a "best" pizza, as this could lead to fisticuffs.) We'll start the list with the city through which many Italian immigrants first passed, New York City. New York style pizza is characterized by its thin crust, on which you'll find a thin tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella cheese. This pizza style is probably the closest to the Neapolitan pizza recipe brought by immigrants from that region. The most popular way to eat New York Style pizza is to fold the slice in half.

Near New York we encounter tomato pies, popular in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Whereas the New York-style pizzas are modeled on the Neapolitan style, tomato pies are based on Sicilian pizzas, featuring thicker crusts and baked in rectangular pans. One variety of tomato pie is built with cheese and other toppings are on the bottom and the tomato sauce on top. In Philadelphia, it is usually served at room temperature in rectangular sheets with little to no cheese.

Next we move to the Midwest and Chicago. While there is more than one Chicago-style pizza, the most well-known is the Chicago deep dish. This pizza differs from Sicilian-style in that the crust isn't what makes it deep, it's the loads of toppings on an average crust, which often features cornmeal. The pizza takes so long to bake that it must be assembled upside down, with the sauce on the top so the cheese won't burn. You probably either love or hate deep-dish Chicago pizza.

Zipping back to the east and north a bit we find Detroit-style pizzas. Yes, Detroit has its own pizza style, also a deep dish. While Chicago's deep-dish pizza quite resembles a pie, Detroit's more closely resembles a Sicilian-style pizza. It is rectangular, with a thick crust that is often twice baked in an oiled pan to develop a pleasing crunch. The marinara sauce is served on top of the cheese and other ingredients.

Staying in the Midwest but traveling a bit farther south we encounter the St. Louis-style pizza. What sets St. Louis-style pizza apart is the cheese. Instead of mozzarella, it's processed cheesed called Provel, a blend of provolone, Swiss, and cheddar plus a touch of smoke seasoning. The crust is unleavened and therefore cracker-thin and the sauce is frequently laced with oregano. Traditionally the pie features strips of red and green pepper and disks of Italian sausage. St. Louis pizza usually gets cut "party-style," which means in squares rather than triangles.

Continuing west all the way to the Pacific coast we encounter California-style pizza. Using a crust similar to New York-style pies, California pizza differs in the toppings. Eschewing traditional red sauce and pepperoni, these pies feature ingredients like fresh greens, fried eggs, and duck sausage. The invention of California-style pizza is generally attributed to chef Ed LaDou and Chez Panisse, although its popularity can be credited to Wolfgang Puck.

Which pizza style is your favorite?

Photos, left to right: Chicago-style deep-dish pizza from Annie's Eats and Basic New York-style pizza dough from Serious Eats



  • Rinshin  on  1/10/2015 at 8:07 PM

    Pizza is my husband's favorite food. If I say I'm making pizza for dinner in the morning, his mind is filled with pizza dreams. I've made many styles of pizzas and our favorites are Neapolitan (but not with perimeter crust black - yuck - tastes too feral and burnt to me), bar pizza, and original style NY pizza that I've been making for the last 30 or so years. We normally do not like store bought or restaurant pizzas but sometimes we end up buying restaurant pizzas when time is short for me to make and of those, we still prefer Neapolitan style that we can get close by.

  • ellabee  on  1/10/2015 at 8:49 PM

    Nothing as good as a nice slice -- the others are all too heavy.

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