Pizza is an original Italian dish that has become an intrinsic part of American cuisine. It was introduced to the American shores during the late 1800s, but it went virtually unnoticed until the post-World War II years. Well, you can blame the soldiers for spurring this craze. Returning from the war, these soldiers began craving Italian food. And the rest, they say, is history.
However, many believe that the pizza’s then-emerging popularity was attributed to the significant improvements in oven technology and mass-produced pizza kits that allowed people to make their own pizza at home. Others insist that celebrities of Italian descent – such as Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, and Dean Martin, to name a few – promoted Italian food to the masses.
Whatever the reason for pizza’s popularity in the United States, there’s one thing for sure: the Americans’ love for pizza will endure. Americans will continue going to their favorite pizza places, ordering boxes of them for a Netflix night munch, or popping a frozen pizza into the microwave or air fryer for a quick snack.
Like barbecue, pizza has different regional styles. It may have originated in Italy, but the Americans modified and diversified this beloved dish. The number of American regional pizza styles has come far and wide. Compared to their Italian counterparts (check out the different types of Italian pizza), American pizzas are usually generously sized and heavy in toppings.
While there are many regional pizza styles and flavors across the US, we feature the most iconic ones:
New York-style pizza
The state of New York, known for having the largest population of Italian-Americans (among other famous things), is home to pizzas with a thin, wide, and pliable crust. New York-style pizza is probably the most reminiscent of the Southern Italian style. Italian immigrants, most of whom originated from Naples, brought pizza in the late 19th or early 20th century. Thus, this pizza is served in the Neapolitan style.
In making the New York-style pizza, the dough is hand-tossed until thin. Then it is moderately topped with tomato sauce and generously covered with cheese, usually mozzarella. As New York-style pizza is thin and flexible, you can fold or roll a slice of it before taking a bite. This pizza style is also popular in other northeastern states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut.
Chicago deep-dish pizza
The Chicago style may be the most non-traditional of the bunch. This pizza is characterized by its thick, tall, and buttery crust that’s formed up the sides of a deep pan or tray (which is about one to two inches tall).
What makes this pizza even more unique is the order of the toppings. Usually, cheese is in the topmost layer of almost all pizzas. But in the Chicago deep-dish pizza, the cheese goes in first and the sauce last. There’s a rational explanation for that: baking this thick pie (and it is a pie) takes longer than what you usually find in most pizzas. The cheese goes in first, so that it doesn’t burn during the long cooking process.
As expected, dining on this pizza won’t be an easy undertaking. A Chicago deep-pan pizza is always served whole and rarely by the slice. It is probably the only pizza in the world where the use of a fork and knife is required.
If you want to order one at a restaurant, do it so in advance so that you won’t have to sit down and wait 45 minutes for your pizza to be done.
Detroit-style pizza is also deep-dish, like Chicago’s, but that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike its round Midwest brethren, the Detroit style is served in a square or rectangle shape. It has a super thick and chewy crust due to its light and porous dough, similar to the Sicilian pizza dough. When baked, the crust is crispy on the bottom but light, soft, and chewy on the inside. It’s not unusual that the crust is sometimes baked twice to get that perfect crispy-chewy texture.
It is then loaded with sauce, mozzarella, and other toppings like pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms. Detroit-style pizza is truly a must for all pizza lovers.
From the East Coast to the Midwest, let’s now go to the West Coast for yet another entirely unique pizza experience. In a California-style pizza, toppings are the star. It is also less on the dough or tomato sauce.
The crust is also made of hand-tossed dough, like in other pizzas. However, it is dressed with wildly different toppings, resulting in various flavor profiles. You may have arugula, goat cheese, capers, smoked salmon, lobster, scallops, zucchini flowers, or even quail eggs – whatever ingredients you have on hand or fancy.
So, now you know – the more exotic the toppings, the more certain you can be of identifying a pizza as California style. One thing’s for sure about California-style pizzas – they will be anything but mundane. While pizza purists may balk at the idea of non-traditional ingredients on the pizza dough, adventurous diners are likely ready to try this pizza style.
New Haven-style pizza (aka “Apizza”)
The New Haven-style pizza is a delicacy on its own. Also known as “Apizza” (pronounced “ah-beets” by the locals), this pizza is one of the things you should try when you’re in New Haven, Connecticut.
This specialty pizza puts a slightly different spin on the original Italian Neapolitan style. It consists of a thin and chewy crust with charred flecks. This pizza is cooked in a coal-fired oven instead of the wood-fired oven. These usually misshapen pies are lightly topped with tomatoes, cheese, oregano, and sometimes clams. If you are lactose intolerant, there’s another version of Apizza, called the “tomato pie,” which skips the cheese.