- Although pizza originated in Italy, you can find numerous variations of it throughout the US.
- California-style pizza is characterised by gourmet toppings.
- Chicago, Illinois, is known for its deep-dish pizza and New York is known for its thin-crust pizza.
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Pizza has roots in Naples, Italy and it began gaining popularity in the US about a century ago. Today, Americans can’t get enough of it, eating an estimated 100 yards of pizza daily. Because it’s so widely enjoyed in the states, traditional pizza has morphed and changed over time and depending on the area in which it’s made.
For such a simple food,pizza can take on many shapes and forms. From topping-heavy California pizza to charred New-Haven pies, the combination of dough, cheese, and sauce can look immensely different depending on where you live.
Here are some regional pizza styles from around the US you should try. It’s worth noting that some of these styles have such roots that several places claim its origin. We tried to be as inclusive as possible, but these styles can often be found in different places around the country and world.
California-style pizza is characterised by its gourmet toppings.
Toppings dominate California-style pizza, a dish said to be created by chefs Ed LaDou and Alice Waters.
The gourmet pies featuring ingredients such as barbecue chicken, roasted artichokes, and spinach were popularised by California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), a restaurant chain with over 200 locations in the US and other countries.
Thin, square-shaped Detroit pizza is baked in a steel pan.
Crisp and square-shaped, Detroit-style pizza is said to date back to the 1940s, when it was invented by Gus Guerra, a local bar owner, and his wife, Anna.
What sets this Motor-City pizza apart is how it is baked. Cooked in a sturdy steel pan, the dough gets layered with cheese (typically the brick variety from Wisconsin, according to Serious Eats) and topped with a thick tomato sauce.
Although it was created in Michigan, the original recipe for this pizza’s dough has Sicilian roots.
In New York, pizza has a thin crust.
New York City is known for its pizza. From dollar slices to more upscale fare, the secret is in the crust, as pizza historian Scott Wiener explained in a 2017 interview with The New York Times.
“New York pizza is all relatively thin crust without being crackery,” Wiener said. “It has a risen edge – a little bit of a handlebar, not a thin, flat edge – baked at about 550 degrees in a deck oven.”
Sicilian slices are thick and rectangular.
Thick and rectangular, the Sicilian slice is typically just topped with tomato sauce and cheese and it can be found in pizza parlors and local eateries throughout the US.
Per The Spruce Eats, Sicilian immigrants brought this style of pizza to America. And in Palermo, Sicily, where this style originates, the pies are aptly known as “sfincione,” which roughly translates to “thick sponges.”
A crunchier, thinner version of Sicilian pizza is called a grandma slice.
Chicago, Illinois, is known for deep-dish and stuffed pizza.
Although Chicago, Illinois, is most strongly associated with deep-dish pizza, the Windy City is also known for its stuffed iteration.
Deep-dish pizza is known for having a thick crust, pie-like appearance, and meaty toppings. The pizza’s roots can be traced to the ’40s when it was popularised by the founders of Uno Pizzeria.
Per the Kitchn, Chicago-style pizza was created during World War II when most of the ingredients needed for dough weren’t rationed. Plus, cooks could be resourceful by loading the pizzas with leftover meat and vegetables.
Stuffed pizza is like deep dish’s souped-up cousin. It’s distinguished by a flakier texture and a thin layer of crust that separates the sauce from the cheese.
Omaha-style pizza has a biscuit-like crust.
At some locations in Omaha, Nebraska, particularly at La Casa, pizza comes with a flaky, biscuit-like crust, savoury sauce, and loads of meaty topics.
In St. Louis, Missouri, some pizza is made with a cheese blend called Provel.
Made with unleavened dough that imbues it with a cracker-like consistency, St. Louis pizza is decked out with a cheese blend called Provel (a processed dairy product combining Swiss, provolone, and cheddar) and a hearty heap of toppings.
When it’s divvied up, the pie is typically “party cut,” divided into small squares rather than wedges. But pizza isn’t the only carb-heavy dish that St. Louis slices up in a unique way.
Square-cut, tavern-style pizza is a specialty in the Midwest.
In the broader Midwest, it’s common for pizzas to come “tavern style.” Said to have roots in Midwestern bars, tavern-style pizzas are thin and cut into square pieces.
Pizza sold on the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore features a swirl of sauce.
Local to the coast of New Jersey, boardwalk-style pizza is notable for its sauce. The sweet, tangy stuff is applied on top of the cheese in a swirl pattern.
A small town in Pennsylvania offers a lighter riff on Sicilian pizza.
Old Forge, Pennsylvania, a small town a few miles outside Scranton, is known for its lighter riff on Sicilian-style pizza.
Old-Forge-style pizza is known for its crust, which is crispy on the bottom but chewy in the center. When ordering a pizza in Old Forge, never call it a “pie.” Instead, you’d order a “tray,” since the pizzas are baked in rectangular, metal pans.
In the Ohio Valley and other areas in the US, warm pizzas are sometimes topped with cold, shredded cheese.
Unlike most pizzas, this dish doesn’t have melted cheese on top. Instead, this style of pizza is served with warm sauce and a cooked crust but finished off with cold, shredded cheese.
Although you can get a slice of this around the US, the origins of this pizza are a bit unclear – it’s been attributed to both Steubenville, Ohio, and Oneata, New York. It’s also popularly served in places like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
For larger-than-life slices, head to Washington, District of Columbia, or Las Vegas, Nevada.
In Washington, DC, jumbo slices are quite possibly the most iconic variety of pizza – to handle it, you’ll need two paper plates. Tracing its origins to the late ’90s, these slices are famous for being a late-night fix for bargoers.
But DC isn’t the only place you can score an extra-large piece of pizza. Places like Pin-Up Pizza, located on the Las Vegas strip in Nevada, also serve these jumbo slices until the early hours of the morning.
Colorado mountain pies are loaded with a towering heap of toppings.
For a type of pizza you can’t get anywhere else, visit one of the Beau Jo’s locations in Colorado.
In the ’70s, this restaurant chain became the original purveyor of the mountain pie, which is made with a braided crust and loaded with a towering heap of toppings.
New-Haven-style pizzas are notable for their charred crusts.
In New Haven, Connecticut, pies are called “apizza” as a nod to the Italian dialect spoken in Naples. Made with long-fermented dough, apizza is cooked in a piping-hot brick oven until the crust becomes charred.
Another local, Connecticut specialty is the white clam pie, which features clams, garlic, and grated aged cheese.
Tomato pies can be square or round.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey, each offer a distinct take on the tomato pie.
In Philly, it’s thick, rectangular, and cheese-free. A staple of Italian bakeries, these slices are often sold as grab-and-go quick bites.
Trenton-style tomato pies, however, are round and thin-crusted. And contrary to their name, they don’t forgo dairy. Instead, the crust is topped with cheese and crushed tomato.
French-bread pizza has roots in Ithaca, New York.
French-bread pizza, also called “poor man’s pizza” or “PMP,” has roots in Ithaca, New York.
In the ’60s, it was created by Bob Petrillose, who sold it from his Hot Truck food truck on Cornell University’s campus. He later licensed the recipe to Stouffer’s, which is why you can oftentimes find frozen varieties of this pizza at grocery stores.
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