While Italians may have invented the pizza, the Americans have diversified the art. The number of American regional pizza styles is far and wide, and compared to their Italian brethren are often bigger, heavier, and more packed with toppings. From deep-dish Chicago-style pizza with a thick crust and filled with an inch of cheese, to Omaha-style pizza with a biscuit crust, the bases vary greatly. Pepperoni slices are a common addition, a type of spicy red sausage that shapes into cups when baked. There’s 'Sicilian-style' pizza made by the tray and served in square slices in New Jersey, and charred-crust pizzas in Connecticut topped with clams. And of course, we couldn’t forget the classic New York pizza - where large pies nearly two feet in diameter and usually dripping with greasy cheese that you need to blot with a napkin are served by the slice, 24/7. Here’s a more in depth look at some of the iconic American pizzas, from the classics to the new.
New York-Style Pizza
New York pizza is perhaps one of the most reminiscent of the original Southern Italian styles. Brought to the city by immigrants from Naples and adapted along the way, New York pizza is large and round, with a thinner crust than its Midwestern alternatives (although still rather thick compared to Naples). The crust is made with a high gluten flour which contributes to its chewy crust, while it’s said that the minerals in New York City tap water are what contribute to the characteristic flavour of the dough. It’s sold by the slice and has a distinctive droop of the tip, which has led to the typical way of eating slices folded in half.
These 'pizza pies,' or just 'pies', are sauced with a well-seasoned tomato base, heavy on the cheese (typically low-moisture mozzarella), and toppings vary from the classic pepperoni and sausage to ziti pizza (that’s with a topping of baked, cheesy penne pasta). Dried oregano, garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese are common condiments as well. Old-school joints like Lombardi’s and Totonno’s are touted as the original New York pizza shops, while modern newcomers like Roberta’s bring the New York pie game up a notch with quality ingredients. And of course, there’s the hundreds of whole-in-the-wall pizza spots that serve satisfying dollar-slice in the best and in the worst of times.
Brooklyn may be part of New York City, but it’s evolved a different pizza style from which a few generalities can be identified. Domino’s was the first to market a 'Brooklyn-style pizza' in 2006 that had a thinner crust, with cornmeal baked into it for a crispier base. Now, Brooklyn pizza has turned into something slightly different from the rest of New York’s. Fans tout the thin and bubbly crust (compared to a slightly thicker and doughier version in the other boroughs), typically charred edges and crispy texture, and generous sauce and cheese- arguing it’s the best in the entirety of the States.
Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
Chicago-style pizza is perhaps the most nontraditional of the bunch. Deep-dish is the name it goes by, a round pie with tall edges filled with a good inch or two of toppings. But even more different is the order of the toppings; cheese goes in first, and sauce is the finishing element. This is so the cheese doesn’t burn during the longer-than-average baking time, which also allows the crust to get crisp and almost fried. The dough is often made with cornmeal or semolina, making for a flaky texture, and is pressed into the pan rather than hand-tossed or rolled. There are even variations with a stuffed crust, which just means the whole thing is enclosed in more crust (leading many to refer to deep-dish pizza as a sort of pizza-flavoured pie or casserole rather than a flatbread).
Detroit-style is yet another midwestern variation that diverges from the Italian norm. These pies are served square, similar to the east-coast Sicilian slice, with a deep crust and sauce added as the final item on top. It’s said that the square shape is due to folks using metal automobile drip trays from auto factories to bake the pizzas in. And, the pies are generally cooked until the cheese (usually a Wisconsin brick cheese) is charred on the edges and the base is very, very crusty. Compared to deep-dish pizza, Detroit pizza tends to have a dough base that is more focaccia-like, and it isn’t served in a round pie-like form. But the topping-heavy principle remains, and cheese still goes directly on top of dough - and gets a final blanket of sauce - for both.
California pizza is exemplary of California cuisine in general, that is, fresh and vegetable-forward with things like arugula pestos and goat’s cheese, and a bit lighter on the dough. Said to have originated in the Bay Area (and specifically the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley) before spreading to the rest of the state, California pizza tends to have a soft and thin base similar to the Neapolitan style, is cooked in a wood-fired oven, and gets topped with fresh produce like kale or artichokes, or more gourmet ingredients like bone marrow and paté. Today, California Pizza Kitchen is one of the most well-known chains serving innovative variations like bbq chicken pizzas. These are also single-serving pies, closer to the Italian original than their east coast counterparts. Today, pizza aficionados claim that this west coast style has paved the way for a pizza scene that’s noticeably more 'cheffy' and experimental, and that has spread across the country.