The Great (Lake) Pizza Chronicles
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
For years Deep Dish was the coolest kid at Mid-West High. Class president, prom king and voted nicest smile in eighth grade. His sturdy, buttery frame made him the envy of his peers while layers of gooey mozzarella, chunky tomatoes and Chi-Town Charcuterie proved he had a complex sensibility. He was the life of the party and there was no one else you wanted by your side at every ball game. Then one day Detroit Style strolled into class. The new kid in town with his porous rectangular crust swagger, pretty boy charred edges and well-coiffed Wisconsin Brick Cheese garb made people take notice.
Did anyone else just imagine Luke Perry starring as Detroit in this brief teen pizza drama? But I digress. The moral of this episode is that Deep Dish pizza was the “it” pizza from the Midwest for years but nowadays I doubt that anyone even considers Deep Dish as a foodigenous. Sure, when you throw the word Chicago in front, it sounds regional specific, but because of chain restaurants like Uno Pizzeria & Grill and Giordanos, Americans across the country have been eating this “pie of pizza” for generations. While it continues to be a great change of pace from traditional round pizza, accessibility has lessened the food’s sex appeal. Right now however, Detroit Style is 🔥🍕💦! Thanks to the popularity of Instagram and our obsession to photograph all things consumed, mouthwatering pics of thick cheesy squares and #pepperoni hashtags have secured a space in our collective culinary spank banks.
Chicago Deep Dish pizza has a dubious origin story. It is generally agreed upon that the pizza style was invented at The Pizzeria (now known as The Original Pizzeria Uno) in 1943. The debate is whether it was Uno’s owner Ike Sewell or one of the two chefs Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati Sr. or Alice May Redmond that
pioneered the recipe. No matter the truth, both chefs continued to make their imprint on Chicago Deep Dish Culture. Alice May was recruited by Gino’s East and Rudy’s kids went on to open Lou Malnati’s and Paisanos respectively. For those of you not familiar with the style, a traditional Deep Dish pizza is baked in a well-oiled round pan. A buttery crust is form fitted then layered first with mozzarella, various meats and finally a thick tomato sauce. The pie is baked for up to forty minutes and served piping hot.
Surprisingly, Detroit Style pizza is just three years younger than its Chicago cousin. Unlike Deep Dish, this style’s beginnings are crystal clear. In 1946, when Gus Guerra was searching for a new item to include on his restaurant Buddy’s Rendezvou’s menu, his wife Anna borrowed her Sicilian mother’s pizza recipe. They substituted a Wisconsin Brick, a semi-soft cheese with an unctuous melting point. The soul of Detroit Style however comes from the rectangle steel pan from which it is baked in. A Motor City legend suggests that Gus borrowed parts pans from the local auto factory to bake his initial batches. The outcome was better than expected. The thick steel makeup of the pan resulted in a Deep Dish pizza with an airy crust and crispy edges that have been fought over ever since. In 1953, the Guerra’s sold Buddy’s and opened Cloverleaf Bar & Restaurant. Eventually a few Buddy’s expats and Guerra disciples found individual success selling the photogenic pizza; Loui’s Pizza and Detroit Style Pizza Company to name a few. In 2018, Francis Garcia and Sal Basille, of Artichoke Basille fame, opened Lions & Tigers & Squares in NYC advertising "Detroit Pizza in a New York Minute". The pizzeria quickly hit the best pizza lists of NYC.
Pizza found its way to the United States at the end of the 19th century as droves of Italian immigrants prepared their ancestral recipes at home. The first recorded pizzeria is believed to be Lombardi’s in 1905. Within a few years, pizzerias spread to other cities, but the real pizza explosion occurred when GIs returned home from World War II. As pizza recipes spread throughout the country, regional preferences often influenced preparation making for new pizza varieties. Deep Dish and Detroit Style are just a few of the indigenous specialties sprinkled throughout the country. Keep reading as we attempt to explore them all.