Detroit style pizza

What is Detroit Style Pizza?

The city of Detroit is famous for its automobile industry, being coined the “Motor City.” But Detroit is famous for more than that. The sports, the music, and of course the pizza make this city truly special! But the pizza that reigns from the city of Detroit is far from your average pizza… 

Detroit style pizza is a delicious take on pizza with its square shape, light dough, and crispy cheese edge. Discover what makes Detroit style pizza truly unique below!

Detroit style pizza

Detroit Pizza

Detroit style pizza is a traditional type of pizza that was originally made at a restaurant called Buddy’s Pizza. It’s been around for almost 75 years now, and the popularity of this pizza keeps on growing! 

Detroit style pizza has three unique elements: the sauce, the dough, and the cheese. Although these are normal ingredients found on every pizza, the way the specific types of ingredients are put together creates an unforgettable experience for whoever gets to try it!

The focaccia-type dough with an airy, light texture allows the rich, Wisconsin brick cheddar that is famous to the midwest to crisp up and caramelize on the edges.

The delicious sauce is then ladled on top, sometimes in just two solid “racing stripe” types of formation. You can’t forget the pepperoni on this pizza, as it is a crucial element to what makes Detroit style pizza so flavorful. 

Want to take a bite? Detroit style pizza is mouthwateringly good and will remind you of its Midwest roots with the sharp, Wisconsin brick cheddar that makes this pizza exceptional. 

History and Origin of Detroit Style Pizza

cheesy Detroit style pizza

According to Pure Michigan’s page, Detroit style pizza began back in 1946 at a pizza restaurant called Buddy’s. The owner of Buddy’s pizza was Gus Guerra, who is credited as the first man to make Detroit style pizza.

The pizza that Gus Guerra made was truly unique. His wife, Anna, gave him a recipe from her Sicilian mother for a Sicilian pizza dough and he used this as the crust. He then went on to add cheese, sauce, and pepperoni and the rest is history!

This style of pizza made with Sicilian dough, a special sauce and cheese ratio, and pepperoni would go on to become the blueprint for all Detroit style pizza.

The sauce that Gus Guerra used at Buddy’s Pizza is special, bright, and herb-y and goes perfectly with the salty pepperoni. But that isn’t the only special characteristic of Detroit style pizza… 

What Makes Up a Detroit Style Pizza?

Detroit style pizza is typically created with the same ingredients as a normal pizza: dough, sauce, and cheese. But the way these ingredients are put together is what makes Detroit style pizza truly special.

Typically the pizza is cooked in a deep dish pan that is rectangular. This allows the crust to stand up on the edges and the cheese to come through to create that iconic crispy cheese perimeter. 

Detroit Style Pizza Dough

The dough that is used for Detroit style pizza is actually a Sicilian pizza dough.

This recipe for the original Sicilian pizza dough used in Detroit style pizza comes from Gus Guerra, the first man to create Detroit style pizza. His wife, Anna, borrowed a Sicilian pizza dough recipe from her mother and gave it to Gus for him to try.

In Detroit style pizza, this Sicilian style pizza dough is placed in the pan. The pan is traditionally a square blue steel pan that is about three-quarters to an inch thick.

It is rumored that Gus Guerra used an automobile “drip tray” to cook the first Detroit style pizza in. The square shape of the pan results in a pizza that’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.  

As stated before, Detroit style pizza uses a Sicilian style pizza dough. This pizza dough is unique because it has a light and airy texture. The dough is similar to a focaccia dough, which is an olive oil-heavy Italian bread that has a light texture. 

This dough was used so that the pepperoni topping would reach the maximum level of flavor when pressed into the dough. It has a high hydration level, which gives the pizza dough a porous, chewy crust with a crisp exterior. 

Cheese

Typically what makes a Detroit style pizza really stand out is the cheese that they use. Wisconsin brick cheddar cheese is usually layered underneath layers of sauce on top. This type of cheese is unique to the area surrounding Detroit in the Great Lakes region. 

Wisconsin is known for its dairy and cheese, and this pizza makes that cheese the star. The cheese is placed down on top of the dough before the sauce to create a super crispy and lace-y edge that gives this pizza a unique touch.  

Toppings

The most common topping for Detroit style pizza is pepperoni. Pepperoni is usually layered on top of the cheese that is spread to the edges. It soaks into the Sicilian style dough and contrasts nicely with the soft, airy dough. 

The sauce for the pizza is also very important. In authentic Detroit style pizzas, the sauce isn’t hidden under a pile of cheese but instead it is ladled on top. Some people may refer to this pizza by its nickname of upside-down pizza, since the pizza is traditionally built with dough, then pepperoni, then cheese, and finally sauce. 

Detroit style pizza

Variations of Detroit Style Pizza 

In the last 10 years, Detroit style pizza has been a huge trend in the food world. Since its popularity, Detroit style pizza has spread outside the state of Michigan and to other parts of the country. 

While some pizza joints like Buddy’s pizza still serve up the normal, classic Detroit style pie, other new restaurants have emerged. Artisanal Detroit style pizza restaurants are opening that have more organic products and unprocessed ingredients. These pizzas are a new take on the classic Detroit style pizza, but they lack the character (and calories!) of the original. 

What Makes Detroit Style Pizza Different from Other Pizzas?

detroit pizza on rack

Detroit style pizza may seem to be similar to other pizza styles like Chicago-style pizza. This is because Detroit style pizza is also cooked in a deep dish pan.

Another similarity between these two styles is that they both are inverted compared to normal pizza, with cheese on the bottom and sauce on top. Both of these pizzas have a huge, crispy crust from the edges of the deep dish pan.

There are some major differences between these two deep dish pizzas though. Although they both have their origins in the Midwest, one major difference is the Detroit style pizza uses Wisconsin brick cheddar cheese.

Chicago-style pizza usually uses mozzarella cheese, which is more commonly found on pizzas. The Wisconsin brick cheddar gives Detroit style pizza a unique and delicious flavor. 

Another difference between the two pizzas is the dough. Detroit style pizza uses a Sicilian dough that is similar to a focaccia dough, which is an olive oil heavy Italian bread that has a light texture. This dough allows the cheese, sauce, and pepperoni topping to soak into the crust and give it even more flavor. 

Finally, the major difference between Chicago-style pizza and Detroit style pizza is the topping of pepperoni on top. Usually in Chicago-style pizza, the toppings are filled inside the cake-like layers of the pizza. In the Detroit style pizza, this topping goes on top and marks a unique characteristic of this style of pizza. 

Famous Detroit Style Pizza Restaurants

With its origins at Buddy’s Pizza restaurant, Detroit style pizza has expanded to many other pizza places throughout the years. Here is a list of some great places you can find Detroit style pizza!

Detroit style pizza

Buddy’s Pizza

This original pizza restaurant serves up some of the most authentic Detroit style pizza because it started here! For the ultimate experience, visit this pizza restaurant. Luckily, Buddy’s Pizza has received an investment from a restaurant industry firm to assist the restaurant group in expanding its galaxy of locations “across the Midwest and beyond.”

This means that possibly in the near future a Buddy’s Pizza chain will open outside of Michigan and in other locations across the U.S.

Detroit Style Pizza Company

Detroit Style Pizza Company is a newer restaurant that specializes in Detroit style pizza. Chef and World Pizza Champion, Shawn Randazzo, started this company after working at a pizza restaurant with his mother. This restaurant puts a new twist on the old classic of Detroit style pizza. 

He offers many other types of pizza that follow similar rules to the classic Detroit style, but offer many different toppings that new customers might try. His “Margherita in the D” pizza, is very popular and combines Detroit style pizza with Margherita pizza flavors.

Loui’s Pizza

A long-time chef at the original Detroit style pizza restaurant Buddy’s Pizza decided to open up his own pizza restaurant, Loui’s Pizza. Louis Tourtois, a former Buddy’s chef, kept it classic and serves up his twist on Detroit style pizza that is just as good as the original! 

Try out this pizza chain if you want the authentic flavors that Buddy’s Pizza has with a newer twist. 

Blue Pan Pizza

Taking inspiration from the pan that Detroit style pizza is usually cooked in, a blue pan, this pizza restaurant opened far from Detroit all the way in Denver. Chef Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch runs two Blue Pan Pizza restaurants specializing in Detroit style pizza. Rectangular pizzas built on the traditional Sicilian crust, Wisconsin brick cheese, and thick tomato sauce is exactly what Chef Smokevitch is serving up at this Detroit style pizza restaurant. 

Best Detroit Style Pizza Recipes

Check out our favorite Detroit pizza recipes to try this famous pizza at home!

Share your favorite Detroit style pizza recipes, tips, toppings, and more in the comments!

Caroline Kinsley

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