Move over New Haven, Chicago, and New York.
A new city’s specialized style is on the rise in the United States: Detroit.
Ahead of National Pizza Day on February 9, here’s a little history of Detroit-style pizza and why it’s becoming increasingly popular.
For those unaware, Detroit-style pizza is square with a crunchier dough than its New York equivalents.
“Influenced by square Sicilian-style pizza, Detroit-style pizza consistently impresses pizza lovers due to its unique layering structure and stunning presentation,” according to the website of Buddy’s Pizza, which claims to have invented Detroit-style pizza.
Detroit-style pizza differs from traditional pizza in that the sauce is coated by cheese before any extra toppings are added.
“The pepperoni is placed directly on the dough, allowing the rich flavors of the meat to be absorbed into the crust,” the company adds.
Instead of mozzarella, parmesan, or a combination of the two, Detroit-style pizza features Wisconsin brick cheese on top of the pepperoni.
“First crafted in the late 1800s and named for the bricks used to press the curds, brick cheese is derived from white American cheddar, but cultured at a higher temperature to produce more fat content and a different protein structure,” according to the website of the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin brick cheese has a “somewhat softer taste with a deliciously sharper finish,” according to the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
According to Buddy’s pie, the sauce is placed on top in three wide stripes before baking the pie.
While this type of pizza may appear uncommon, it has gained popularity in the nearly 80 years since its inception.
“It’s probably the crispy, crunchy edges and bottom, along with the pillowy soft inside dough. It’s such a tremendous vehicle for bringing pizza to the people,” said Jeremy Damaske, proprietor of Pie Sci Pizza in Detroit, which sells 700 to 1,000 Detroit-style pies every week, according to the website Wealth of Geeks.
“We have a lot of out-of-town customers who come in particularly for the Detroit-style pizza. “I would say the vast majority of responses are very positive,” Damaske stated.
While the pizza presently known as “Detroit-style” was invented in the 1940s, the moniker did not originate until the 1980s, according to Wealth of Geeks.
“First described as such in industry trade magazines during the 1980s, the term became more widespread when a Texas pizza business operated by former Metro Detroiters called its product Detroit-style pizza to stand out,” they went on to say.
In 2024, Detroit-style pizza is available across the country, far beyond its origins in Michigan’s largest city.
“When people think of pizza, many places come to mind, such as Chicago or New York,” says Emily Daunt, vice president of Communications and Brand Strategy for the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, to Wealth of Geeks.
She went on to say, “However, with Michigan being home to some of the most nationally famous franchises like Little Caesar’s, Dominos, Hungry Howie’s and Jet’s Pizza and nearly 3,000 other pizza places across that state, that’s a pretty big piece of the pie.”
Detroit has leaned into the popularity of its trademark pizza.
In October, Visit Detroit unveiled the “Detroit Pizza Pass,” which can be signed up for using a telephone.