A Guide to the 6 Types of Pizza
While there are many things that unite us in this country—freedom, rock 'n' roll, very large cars—perhaps none brings more Americans together than pizza. Sure, you could say that it's technically an Italian food, but along with burgers and hot dogs, pizza has become an unequivocally American meal. And for as much as we all love it, the various types of pizza in the US can also create massive divides. Ever seen a Chicagoan and a New Yorker agree on which city has a better pizza? Didn't think so.
But before we can take sides in the great debate over which pie is the best, we owe it to pizza to at least learn the basics of some of the most popular types of pizza in the country. Along with doing just that and providing our editors' picks on places to get each style, this guide will also rate each pie's key metrics—portability, messiness, and customization factor—on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).
1. New York
What It Is: A thin triangle cut to nearly an obtuse angle from a round pie, New York style pizza is arguably the most iconic American pizza style out there. It usually sports a thin layer of tomato sauce beneath a generous helping of cheese and DIY oregano and red-pepper flakes, and its pliable dough all but asks for you to fold it together during bites.
Our Editors' Picks: In Williamsburg, head to Vinnie's Pizzeria for a traditional paper-plate slice. A couple miles down the street, Roberta's Neapolitan pizzas are also favored by our editors.
Portability: 5—Since it's usually served by the slice and on paper plates that can catch any stray grease drips, it doesn't get more mobile-friendly than this.
Messiness: 2—You're unlikely to run into gobs of sauce or chunky toppings with a New York slice.
Customization Factor: 2—Sure, you can get all kinds of toppings on your slice, but it's best to stick to the traditional accoutrements: plain cheese or pepperoni.
What It Is: Set into pans, filled with an unholy amount of cheese and toppings—which can be stuffed into a pie-like form in some styles—topped with ladles of chunky sauce, and anchored by a hefty crust base, the Chicago deep-dish pizza is as iconic as it is excessive (in a good way).
Portability: 1—Slices of deep dish demand a knife-and-fork approach, stretchy pants, and a post-meal nap.
Messiness: 4—Along with the chunks of sausage, peppers, and onions hiding in its interior, the deep dish's lasagna-like sauce topping makes multiple napkins a necessity.
Customization Factor: 5—While you should try the standby—sausage, green peppers, and onions—you won't get any sideways glances for adding whichever toppings you want. Meatballs, banana peppers, pepperoni, olives, anything's fair game in a deep dish.
3. New Haven
What It Is: Perhaps the most old-school pizza style in the country, New Haven pies are known for their misshapen, oblong form that's cooked inside a coal-burning oven. This gives the pizza its signature thin, charred crust. The original is usually attributed to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, where you can also try the wildly popular white clam variety.
Our Editors' Picks: Aside from checking out the original at Frank Pepe's, our editors recommend Piece Brewery and Pizzeria in Chicago, where you can get a New Haven-style pie topped with sausage from the sausage king behind the former Chicago food landmark Hot Doug's.
Portability: 3—They're typically not made for on-the-go eating, but New Haven slices don't demand the stationary eating experience of a Chicago pizza, either.
Messiness: 3—This really depends on the kind of New Haven pizza you're eating; a classic margherita might not be cause for a bib, but the olive oil and multiple types of cheese on other varieties can make them a little unwieldy.
Customization Factor: 5—Since the New Haven style is defined more by its cooking method than anything else, it's easy to find lots of takes on it, including barbecue, four cheese, white, margherita, and the straightforward tomato pie.
What It Is: When you think of Detroit, you probably also think of the auto industry, so it makes sense that the Motor City literally uses car parts to construct its take on pizza. Square, steel pans that were originally used in the auto-making process are filled with a thick, bread-like dough and topped with heaps of cheese before being baked. Like a Chicago style pizza, the sauce is placed on top, but after the pizza's been baked; this ensures the crust stays deliciously crispy and laced with caramelized cheese.
Our Editors' Pick: Jet's Pizza has locations across 20 states, which makes it easy to try Detroit-style pizza even if you don't live near Michigan.
Portability: 4—That doughy, crispy crust makes these Sicilian-style squares pretty easy to carry.
Messiness: 2—Since it's not drowning in sauce, the Detroit pizza makes for a relatively tidy eat.
Customization Factor: 4—There aren't any no-nos in terms of what you should get on a Detroit pizza, but the sauce-only-on-the-top flourish is a hard-and-fast rule.
5. St. Louis
What It Is: At first glance, the St. Louis-style pizza might look like your everyday tavern-style, party-cut thin crust. But a closer look reveals how unique this midwest pizza actually is: its unleavened crust makes it taste and feel like a cracker, and it's topped with Provel cheese—a St. Louis specialty blend of provolone, Swiss, and white cheddar.
Our Editors' Pick: Head to Imo's Pizza in St. Louis, which is widely recognized as this pizza style's birthplace.
Portability: 4—The party-cut squares on a St. Louis pizza are practically made for toting around parties and gatherings.
Messiness: 2—Despite combining three kinds of cheese, Provel gets just about as melty as the provolone or mozzarella you get on other pizzas, so it's easy to handle. And again, those little squares make it easy to handle one with a single napkin.
Customization Factor: 4—Like the Chicago deep dish, the go-to combo includes sausage, green peppers, and onions, but you should feel free to explore beyond those boundaries. The fact that it needs Provel cheese takes it down a notch here, though.
6. Quad Cities
What It Is: Start with a thick, doughy crust made with brewer's malt. Add a thin layer of sauce that's spiced with chili flakes and cayenne pepper. Cover the whole thing with fennel-heavy sausage and a layer of cheese, bake it, cut it into strips with a pair of scissors, and bam—you've got Quad Cities (a region comprising parts of eastern Iowa and western Illinois) pizza.
Our Editors' Pick: Roots Handmade Pizza in Chicago stays true to the style despite being a couple hours' drive away from its namesake region.
Portability: 3—The long strips are easier to eat on the go than a traditional slice, but a little trickier to handle than the more compact party-cut squares on a St. Louis pie.
Messiness: 3—There's a lot going on with toppings—most places don't hold back on the sausage and cheese—but the crust's thick ends and crispy bottom help keep things manageable.
Customization Factor: 3—A Quad Cities pizza is still a Quad Cities pizza without that fennel-packed sausage, but that, along with its signature spicy sauce, are too unique to get a slice without either.
Want to dive further into the beautiful, beautiful world of pizza? Check out some of the Guide's other pizza articles.
- What Makes a St. Louis Pizza? More details about the St. Louis pie and its signature provel cheese.
- The Ultimate Chicago Pizza, Built from Four Different Pies: We built the perfect deep-dish pie with the best parts from four pizzas around Chicago.
- The Rules for Deep-Dish Pizza: A Groupon editor lays out her rules for what really constitutes a true deep-dish pie.
- Party Cut vs. Pie Cut: A Groupon Debate: Two Groupon editors make their arguments for which pizza cut reigns supreme.
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