New York Style
The quintessential New York pie features big, wide slices that encourage folding and often result in grease-stained clothing for the uninitiated. Ordered by the slice or whole, these hand-tossed beauties are most often light on the sauce and heavy on the cheese. Baked in coal or deck ovens, the New York version boasts a crunchy, yet pliable crust.
Over the past decade, Neapolitan-style pizza (authentic Italian and Americanized versions of it) has spread quickly across the country. Doughs that are allowed to ferment anywhere from a few hours to several days result in soft, digestible crusts with beautiful airy pockets that add a delightful crunch when they exit wood-burning ovens. Handled carefully and topped sparingly with fresh tomatoes, herbs and imported cheeses, this style has inspired many trips to Italy.
Neo-Neapolitan is a fairly new term that was introduced by master baker and author Peter Reinhart a few years ago. He suggests that using American unbleached bread flour instead of Italian flour in a Neapolitan pizza recipe will create the Neo-Neapolitan pizza. Furthermore, adding a bit of honey, sugar or agave nectar into the mix will produce a pie reminiscent of those you’ll find at historic pizzerias such as Frank Pepe’s, Sally’s, Totonno’s, and Lombardi’s.
On tomato pies, the sauce is the star of the show. Depending on the region, there are different types of pizza referred to as tomato pie. There’s the “reverse” pizza, which is your basic pizza (round or square), but with the placement of sauce and cheese reversed; a Philly tomato pie, which is a thick, square, room-temperature pizza topped with a thick sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano cheese; and the hand-tossed Neo-Neapolitan style topped with tomato sauce, oregano, olive oil and just a dusting of cheese.
Assisted by oil or coal-fueled ovens reaching temperatures topping 600 degrees, New Haven-style apizza (pronounced ah-beets by locals) delivers a charred crust reminiscent of a backyard grill. The typically misshapen pies are lightly topped with ingredients such as tomatoes, cheese, and sometimes clams, delivered on wax-covered sheet pans that offer a rewarding crunchy and chewy texture.
Sicilian pizza is best recognized by its rectangular shape, one-to-two-inch crust, pillowy interior, and thick, crunchy base. Sicilian toppings are minimal, with tomato sauce placed above the cheese to hold it all together and ensure a well-cooked crust. Very similar to the Sicilian (but not as common to find), is the elusive Grandma, which presents itself as a thinner, crunchier version of the Sicilian.
Diving into a deep dish pizza is not an easy undertaking. These one-to-two-inch thick giants of the pizza world are not available by the slice and often require a fork and knife to handle. It’s important to accept a few key facts when facing down a deep-dish pizza: 1) In most cases, you won’t be able to eat a whole one by yourself. 2) It’s best to order some veggies and meat to break up all the cheese. 3) Order ahead so you won’t have to wait 45 minutes for your pie (and it is a pie). Once you have the hang of it, you’ll appreciate the nuances of the flaky, buttery crust, hearty toppings and historic significance of this Chicago mainstay.
Not to be confused with deep-dish pizza, stuffed pizza sports a thin crowning layer of pizza dough used to seal all of the delectable ingredients in (think pot pie) and ensure extra structural support of the pizza. The final pie is then topped with a layer of rich tomato sauce and a light dusting of Parmesan.
What do you get when you take a Sicilian-style pizza recipe and bake it in blue steel pans originally designed for the auto industry? Detroit-Style pizza, that’s what. The square pans act like a cast iron skillet to create a super crisp crunch on the crust, and bakers deliberately push the blend of mozzarella and Brick cheese up the deep interior sides of the pans to form an awesome caramelization. The result is a pan pizza on steroids. Traditionalists bake the pizza twice and put the sauce on last to ensure a perfectly crisp crust.
The St. Louis-style pizza is cracker thin all the way around, cut into squares (referred to as a party cut), with toppings that stretch all the way to the edge, a sweet sauce, and a regional cheese called Provel (a combination of cheddar, Swiss, provolone and liquid smoke). It’s easy eating—almost like a big plate of cheese and crackers.