Motor City’s signature slice has proliferated to all corners of the U.S. thanks to Detroit natives who wanted a slice of home.
Published on 8/19/2022 at 12:08 PM
Pizzerias throughout Las Vegas, Robby Cunningham noticed, were dishing pizzas doing a good impression of the tall, square pies he grew up eating in the Downriver area of Metro Detroit. “I went and tried a couple places and I was almost offended,” says Cunningham, who lives in Las Vegas now. “[I thought] this isn’t Detroit-style. Nothing about it hit like a Buddy’s pizza or even Little Caesars deep dish.”
Not one to humor subpar pizza, Cunningham started making pizzas at home in 2019. Using a pan he brought on Amazon and a recipe from his friend, who had worked at Jet’s Pizza, a popular chain in Detroit that has hundreds of locations in 19 states, he made his first pizza. It was awful. He tried again, and the second one was worse.
By the third time, it clicked.
“I was just so satisfied with this pizza. I had a friend over, and we made a cheese pizza. And I cried. I was like, ‘Dude, it’s like Buddy’s.’ And he was like, ‘Dude, this is incredible.’ I was like, ‘This is what I'm saying, man, this shit is awesome. This is great pizza.’”
Now Cunningham uses his perfected dough at Guerrilla Pizza, the spot he opened in 2020 and operates out of Hard Hat Lounge in Las Vegas.
“I’m just so fuckingstoked, excuse my language, that I have figured out how to make my favorite pizza,” Cunningham says. “This isn’t my pizza per se. I feel like I am just a prophet of Jet’s and Buddy’s and I’m just sharing the gospel.”
Cunningham isn’t the only Detroit native who, in a city much further afield from Motor City, is slinging square pie reminiscent of home.
The rise of Detroit-style pizza
Detroiters know and love their square pies. “Sauce. Dough. Cheese. If you can’t do those three things well, it’s a wrap,” says Jason Hall, the co-founder of the popular group ride Slow Roll in Detroit who ate pizza every day for a year and does tours of his favorite pizza spots through the company RiDetroit. “If you cannot make a good dough, and your sauce isn’t good, and you don’t have a good quality cheese, wrap it up. Go home.”
The cheese has to be brick (that’s how you get those craveable crispy fried edges) and the sauce, which is on top of the cheese, has to have a signature flavor, whether that’s a little sweeter or more basil forward, Hall explains.
That distinct pie traces its roots to 1946 at Buddy’s Rendezvous on Conant Street in Detroit, where Gus Guerra and his two partners,Gaspar and Joe Genco, created an Americanized version of the Sicilian- style pizza, says journalist Karen Dybis, who is writing the forthcoming book Doughtown., which traces the history of Detroit’s signature pizza and separates myth from fact. Former Buddy’s cooks branched out on their own—Loui’s in Hazel Park, Cloverleaf in Eastpointe.
As much as the regional dish was beloved by locals, it didn’t have the same recognition as New York thin crust or Chicago deep dish. That is, until about 2009.
That’s when Shawn Randazzo, who ran his own business Detroit Style Pizza, entered a pizza competition, where he set himself apart from the pizza pack with his square pizza. Three years later, he was crowned World Champion Pizza Maker. He started a consulting business to teach others the ways of Detroit-style pizza. Randazzo passed away in 2020 after battling brain cancer.
Dybis says in addition to Randazzo, Brandon and Zane Hunt also helped raise Detroit pizza’s profile. The brothers hail from Riverview, Michigan and started a food truck in Austin, Texas, where it was a hit.
“They’re the first physical manifestation of a formal business that did [Detroit-style pizza] outside of Metro Detroit and that was one of the key factors,” Dybis says. “It had to leave the comfort of Metro Detroit to kind of get the credibility that it has now.”
Hall says expats are driving the nationwide trend of Detroit pizza.
“We have a lot of expats that are now taking it to other places because if you want to open a unique restaurant, and you're from Detroit, what is more unique than Detroit-style pizza?”
One of those expats is Ryan Ososky, executive chef of Dtown Pizzeria in Los Angeles, who grew up in suburban Detroit. No one called it Detroit-style pizza.
“It was the square pan pizza, [the kind where] you'd fight for the corner pieces because you wanted the crispy edges,” Ososky says. “For most people in Michigan, it really was just square pan, rectangle pan pizza, but I think that [now] it has a name and people can associate it with something … it’s its own thing and it deserves its own recognition [from other styles of pizza].”
Pizzerias and chefs who don’t have Motor City roots are getting into the game too. In 2016, Emily Hyland and executive chef Matthew Hyland opened Emmy Squared Pizza in Brooklyn. Shortly after, Howard Greenstone, who had experience growing other concepts like Rosa Mexicano and worked with chefs like Jonathan Waxman and Marcus Samuelsson, came on as a partner.
“Matt Hyland was obsessively particular about the details of putting every pizza together,” says Greenstone. “They had created a concept that had the ability to grow.” Since then, the restaurant group has expanded beyond New York, opening locations in Nashville, Philadelphia, California—even Abu Dhabi. Detroit-style pizza, to Greenstone, has staying power.
Beyond the Detroit pizza trend
For the expats like Cunningham and Ososky, Detroit pizza is more than a trend—it’s a part of who they are.
Ososky grew up in the Detroit suburbs eating square pan pizza (usually from Jet’s) every weekend with his family. After culinary school he took off for Maui to further hone his craft before settling in Los Angeles. He’s worked as executive chef at hot spots like XIV by Michael Mina and Churchkey, where he dreamt of making thesquare pizza of his youth in LA.
Since then, Dtown Pizzeria has been slinging pies inside the modern Vietnamese restaurant Phorage Weho. While Ososky stays within the parameters of what makes a Detroit-style pizza, there is a cheffy spin to his artisanal pies such as the Pho Dip Pizza with aged Gruyère, caramelized onions, and summer truffle beef pho broth and The Resolution Pizza with shaved A5 wagyu beef tenderloin, pickled red onions, truffle, and scallions. The latter was named World Champion in the pan division in the 2021 International Pizza Competition in Las Vegas.
In creating Dtown, he says he’s “doing what I grew up with and selling nostalgia for a lot of the Michigan people.”
Cunningham agrees that the personal connection is what’s putting Detroit pizza in all corners of the country.
“I feel like the trend in Detroit style pizza is being driven by how great the pizza really is,” Cunningham says. “I think it’s redefining people’s perspective of what ‘deep dish’ pizza is and can be. From my experience, I’m probably asked daily what the difference is between Detroit style and Chicago deep dish pizza, and it’s vast. I think there is also a level of nostalgia with pan pizza, and people really feel that connection when eating Detroit-style pizza.”
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Dorothy Hernandez is a contributor for Thrillist. She’s a native Chicagoan living in Detroit who prefers Detroit-style pizza. Find her at dorothylynnhernandez or Instagram at @dorothyh.
Why is Detroit-style pizza so popular? ›
According to Lindell, Detroit-style pizza is particularly well suited for takeout and delivery. "It holds well, it reheats well, and it travels easily," he said. Throughout the past year, as more people have relied upon carry-out, these characteristics propelled the popularity of Detroit-style even further.How Long Will Detroit-style pizza be available? ›
How long will the Detroit-Style Pizza be available? Detroit-Style Pizza will be available for a limited time starting August 29, 2021 while supplies last in participating traditional Pizza Hut locations in the United States. See above for a link to the nearest restaurant.Is Detroit-style pizza coming back? ›
Pizza Hut's Detroit-style pizza has returned to menus at participating locations nationwide. The pizza was first launched in early 2021 and made its reintroduction last summer, according to a press release. The brand has partnered with TikTok star Jon Moss to create a song celebrating the pizza's return.When did Detroit-style pizza become a thing? ›
The Detroit-Style Pizza legacy began at Buddy's Rendezvous Pizzeria on Six Mile and Conant street on Detroit's eastside when in 1946 Gus Guerra and Concetta “Connie” Piccinato made their first square-shaped pizza.What's unique about Detroit pizza? ›
The most notable quality of Detroit-style pizza when comparing it to other pan pizzas is its cheese. A Detroit-style pie has cheese spread everywhere on top, which gives it a distinct crispy layer of burnt cheese around its edges.Does Pizza Hut have Detroit-Style Pizza 2022? ›
PLANO, Texas, Sept. 6, 2022 — Starting today, Detroit-Style Pizza returns to Pizza Hut menus at participating locations nationwide following the success of the initial launch in early 2021 and its reintroduction last summer.How big is the Detroit pizza? ›
The traditional pans generally come in two sizes — an 8-by-10 inch pan which yields four slices and an 10-by-14 inch pan that yields eight slices — and with sides angled outwards so that the area at the top of the pan is greater than at the bottom.How much is the Detroit pizza? ›
Detroit Double Pepperoni – 32 slices of regular pepperoni and 48 slices of the signature Pizza Hut Crispy Cupped Pepperoni, $12.99. Meaty Deluxe – bacon, Italian sausage and Crispy Cupped Pepperoni, $13.99. Supremo – Italian sausage, red onions and green bell peppers, $13.99.What is the best Detroit-style pizza? ›
- Loui's Pizza. ...
- Belle Isle Pizza. ...
- Jet's Pizza. ...
- Niki's Pizza. ...
- Primo's Pizza. ...
- Hungry Howie's. Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian. ...
- Shield's Restaurant Bar Pizzeria. Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian, American, $$$ ...
- Alex's Pizzeria. Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian, American, $$$
|1. Neapolitan Pizza||2. Chicago Pizza||3. New York-Style Pizza|
|4. Sicilian Pizza||5. Greek Pizza||6. California Pizza|
|7. Detroit Pizza||8. St. Louis Pizza||9. Types of Pizza Crust|
Where was the world's most expensive pizza made? ›
Louis XIII – Salerno, Italy – $12,000
The most expensive pizza in the world was created by Renato Viola for a select crowd in Salerno, a coastal city in Italy.
Pizza Hut Detroit-Style recipes are available now at locations nationwide for contactless delivery, carryout or curbside pickup starting at $10.99.Which pizza chain has Detroit-Style Pizza? ›
“Detroit-style was a hit from the moment it launched,” Pizza Hut general manager David Graves said in a statement. “Once it sold out, our customers have been asking for it back. This is actually the fastest we've brought back a pizza in over 10 years.”How much is Pizza Hut's Detroit pizza? ›
Sep 6, 2022
The pizza is available in four different varieties: - Double Pepperoni for a suggested price of $12.99 - Topped with Classic Pepperoni and Crispy Cupped Pepperoni. - Meaty Deluxe for a suggested price of $12.99 - Topped with Crispy Cupped Pepperoni, Italian sausage, and bacon.
The key ingredient in a proper Detroit-style pizza isn't something you eat – it's the pan. The characteristics of the pizza – the soft and airy square crust, the crunchy exterior, the caramelized cheese that edges the pizza – are all due to the deep pans in which the pizzas are baked.What is the difference between Detroit and Chicago style pizza? ›
A Chicago-style slice is built upon a flaky, thin, deep crust similar to a traditional pie. On the other hand, Detroit-style pizza relies on a thick and fluffy crust reminiscent of focaccia. A Detroit-style crust stands out among other crusts thanks to its airier texture and cheesy, crispy underside.What makes Jet's pizza so good? ›
But what characterizes Jet's Detroit-Style pizza is a light airy center, loaded with toppings, surrounded by caramelized cheese and a crispy, square, golden crust that is baked to perfection. The magic comes from our signature steel Pizza pans.How popular is Detroit? ›
|Detroit, Michigan Détroit (French)|
|• Estimate (2021)||632,464|
|• Rank||27th in the United States 1st in Michigan|
National headlines have proclaimed Detroit a hot food destination. Certainly, Motor City natives can list a lifetime of favorites, many dating back generations. The latest restaurant breed tends toward new American cuisine, dedicated to local sourcing with a splash of Michigan-made beer or Detroit-distilled spirits.What snack is Michigan known for? ›
Better Made Potato Chips – Better Made Potato Chips is Michigan's beloved chip brand. Not only do they serve chips, but they also have popcorn, pretzels, and even tortilla chips.
Does Little Caesars have Detroit-Style Pizza? ›
Detroit-Style pizza with crispy, crunchy caramelized cheese edges.What style pizza is Domino's? ›
hand tossed pizza is their size and crunchiness. While the Brooklyn style pizza is thinner and crunchier, the hand tossed pizza is thicker with a chewy crust. Also, the Domino's pizza outlet introduced the Brooklyn-style to give customers the authenticity and experience New Yorkers usually get.What is Brooklyn style pizza? ›
Brooklyn-style pizzas tend to be cut into 6 slices. This is in contrast to other thick-dough pizzas, such as the New York which are cut into 8 or 16 triangular pieces. Moreover, Brooklyn-style pizzas are cut into squares, not triangles. This is because of the thin crust which can break more easily.How many people does a Detroit pizza feed? ›
Detroit Style Pizza
Our Detroit style pizzas come baked with caramelized cheddar cheese edges and feeds about 4-6 people.
This type of pizza is similar to Chicago deep-dish because it's incredibly thick and has tomato sauce on top.
Pizza Hut® DETROIT STYLE PIZZA SUPREMO 2022 Review Peep ...How many slices are in a Detroit-style pizza from Pizza Hut? ›
"We wanted people to understand what makes a Detroit-style pizza special," Graves said. The double pepperoni has regular sliced pepperoni and the crispy cupped pepperoni. And there's a lot of them — a total of 80 slices. There are 48 of the crispy cupped and 32 regular pepperoni slices.How many pieces are in a Detroit-style pizza? ›
The Detroit Double Pepperoni in particular is a work of pizza art. It's topped with 32 slices of regular pepperoni and another 48 slices of Crispy Cupped Pepperoni, which crisp up in the oven and provide a crunchy texture and zesty flavor.How many carbs are in a Detroit-style pizza from Pizza Hut? ›
Once slice of Meaty Deluxe Detroit-style pizza contains 320 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16g of fat, 7g of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 35mg of cholesterol, 650mg of sodium, 31g of carbohydrates, 2g of fiber, 2g of sugar, and 14g of protein.
Detroit-style pizza is a rectangular pizza with a thick crust that is crispy and chewy. It is traditionally topped with Wisconsin brick cheese that goes all the way to the edges and caramelizes against the high-sided heavyweight rectangular pan.
Is Detroit Pizza the best? ›
Detroit ranked as the best pizza city in the U.S., as the city with the most independent pizza restaurants per capita (6 per 100,000 residents) out of any city on the list. Detroit ranks No. 1 in “pizza passion” — in other words, locals are searching Google for an extra large variety of pizza styles.Who owns Detroit Pizzaworks? ›
Uno Pizzeria and Grill, the inventor of deep dish pizza in Chicago in 1943, has introduced a Virtual Brand called Detroit Pizza Works which features Detroit-style pizza.What is the most popular pizza in USA? ›
This may not come as a surprise, but pepperoni is by far the most popular pizza topping in the United States. It's added to 36% of all pies, and Americans consume more than 250 MILLION pounds of pepperoni annually.
The popularity of pepperoni pizza had only started to rise in the 1950s. Nowadays, beef pepperoni pizza is the most popular pizza variety, but there are also versions such as fish pepperoni pizza and port pepperoni pizza.Who eats more pizza? ›
Each day, approximately 1 million pizzas are consumed in Italy. Pizza here is popular both among locals and tourists who want to try a taste of authentic Italian cuisine. There are around 63,000 pizzerias in Italy, employing about 100,000 pizza makers.Which state sells the most pizza? ›
California had the most pizza restaurants in 2019 with 7,281 units. The state with the lowest number of pizza restaurants was Wyoming, with a total of 138 in the same year.Is the pizza healthy? ›
Depending on the type of crust, the amount of cheese and the toppings used, pizza can rank anywhere from nutritionally decent to a diet disaster. Even healthy pizzas deliver a good amount of sodium from tomato sauce and cheese, so if you are watching your salt intake, you should eat with caution.What is the difference between New York and Detroit-style pizza? ›
Detroit-style pizza is defined by that crisp crust, those leftover bits of charred cheese, and its pudgy size. New York-style pizza, on the other hand, feels foreign in comparison. It's flat for one, with a doughy crust, slick with grease, and eaten without silverware.What is the difference between Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza? ›
According to the pizza makers interviewed, Detroit-style features the rectangular shape and thick dough of Sicilian pizza, but with a Motor City twist: it's baked in a blue steel pan like the ones that used to hold nuts and bolts in auto manufacturing plants.How did Detroit-style pizza originate? ›
“Detroit-style pizza was created in 1946 at Buddy's, a neighborhood tavern at the corner of Conant and Six Mile Roads in Detroit. The then owner Gus Guerra, working with his wife Anna, whose mother was Sicilian, brought visionary thinking to his search for a high-sided pizza pan.
Does Detroit-style pizza have sauce under the cheese? ›
Instead of using the "sauce, cheese, toppings" order of a typical pizza, Detroit pizzas are built in reverse. Creamy, tangy Brick cheese from Wisconsin is cubed and applied directly to the top of the dough, where it bakes up gooey, buttery, and thick in the middle, crispy and dark brown around the edges.