From casual family affairs to Friday nights dining-in with friends to the moments just after being broken-up with (wine bottle in hand), pizza touches the hearts (and bellies) of nearly us all. But what each of us have a hard time agreeing on is the kind of pizza we enjoy most. In fact, those loyal to one style can become quite stodgy in their approach to others, begging the question: “Pizza party, anyone?”
A list of pizza styles wouldn’t be worth one shake of Parmesan if it didn’t start with Neapolitan, the style of pizza that inspired all others in America. The Neapolitan originated in Naples, Italy and at its heart, it’s a simple dish made from a dough of refined flour, a layer of sauce, dabs of either cow or buffalo milk mozzarella, and a shower of basil. It’s then cooked in a 900 F oven for a mere 60 to 90 seconds, resulting in a crust that’s lightly charred and bubbled—delicious!
The New York style of pizza was hatched from the very same shops that brought the Neapolitan to town in the early 1900s. It’s hand-tossed from a high-gluten dough and stretched thin before receiving a light treatment of sauce, grated mozzarella, and any toppings. Customers who order it are obliged (both by tradition and necessity) to fold these hefty slices in half, making them perfect for an on-the-go lunch for the city that never sleeps.
When a Sicilian makes a pizza, they don’t mimic the round, thin-crust style of their mainland neighbors—oh no, to do so would be blasphemous. Instead, they cut their slices in squares and dub their pies sfincione, which translates to “thick sponge”. Take your pick between either the original Sicilian, which eschews the mozzarella, or the newfangled Sicilian, which adds it back in.
Chicago deep-dish pizza certainly incites strong feelings (take Jon Stewart’s famous pizza rant, for example). But those who withstand the winters here can certainly withstand controversy and besides, a Chicago style slice is bloody good. Its crispy, golden-hued crust is achieved by adding either corn oil or butter to the dough, where it’s then provided a coat of cheese and chunky sauce.
The Quad City pizza is named after the family of cities that founded it, located between the Iowa and Illinois border. Its crust has a deep flavor and color, thanks to the malt syrup that’s added to the dough. Its sauce is slightly spicy and between this and its mozzarella topping lives a generous layer of ground fennel sausage, spread all the way to the edges of the crust. The end result is a whole rigmarole of flavors that may cause you to consider relocating to the Midwest.
Just when you thought you memorized the script on making pizza, the St. Louis style comes on screen and changes the whole plot. It’s made from an unleavened, whisper-thin crust, a layer of sauce, and Provel cheese. What’s Provel? Good question, since its recipe is trademarked and it’s rarely available outside of St. Louis, but generally, it's a blend of provolone, Swiss, white cheddar, and a tinge of liquid smoke. Once you take a bite of this style of pie, you’ll be witness to the melodrama between its soft, melty cheese and crunchy crust.
New England is arguably more renowned for its seafood than its pizza, but the New Haven style draws both surf and turf fans alike. As Italian immigrants ventured further afield from New York City, they set up shop in New Haven, Connecticut and began slinging pies of apizza, a term derived from the way they pronounced “pizza” in their Italian dialect. Its crust is chewy and intentionally charred and it’s traditionally given a simple dusting of pecorino Romano cheese on top.
The auto industry is so ground into the very fiber of Detroit, Michigan that it reflects in their pizza. The first pies of its kind were made in rectangular steel pans, recently retired from auto part factories. After the dough has been set, it’s smothered in cheese all the way up to its brim so that any rendered fat may soak into and sizzle the crust. Genius.
The Californians do pizza the only way they know how: using fresh, seasonal ingredients, with a liberal dose of creativity. Originally developed by chef Ed LaDou, the California pizza uses a Neapolitan style dough as a bed for a near endless list of gourmet toppings, like the smoked salmon and crème fraiche on the popular “Jewish pizza” that graced the menu of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Spago.
Although Old Forge, Pennsylvania flies under the radar of most foodies, its citizens describe it as the “pizza capital of the world.” Its main thoroughfare is dotted with parlors, all serving up the original style of pizza once ordered by the coal miners of this region. It has a spongy crust and you can choose between either a white stuffed pizza or a classic red sauce variety. Order it using the lingo of the locals, who ask for either a whole “tray” or just a “cut.”
DC Jumbo Slice
The DC Jumbo slice stretches up to a foot long and comes your way on no fewer than two paper plates, so don’t approach the counter with anything less than an appetite of a top predator. Need further convincing of that last bit? The DC Jumbo Slice is particularly popular with college crews and the late-night party scene.
Colorado Mountain Pie
Idaho Springs, Colorado sits at about 7,000 feet in the air and the pizza that hails from its interior is equally as mountainous. The Colorado Mountain pie is sold by the pound and customers can choose between no fewer than 50 toppings. It dons a thick, braided crust that’s commonly dunked in honey after customers are finished their slice.