Being the Pizza connoisseur that I am, I regularly get asked what my favorite pizza is. This is an absolutely ridiculous question because there are so many types of pizza out there – none of which are comparable. People that naively ask this question typically have a style of pizza that sticks out in their head as “pizza.” From what I have found, this varies depending primarily on where that person is from. Don’t worry, though, Jeff is here to educate you in pizza, so you too can become a connoisseur.
Types of Pizza
There are an infinite number of styles of pizza. Really, one could mix crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings in any combination to make something new. I am here to talk about the major styles that you can reasonably expect to find in most cities. These styles can be categorized into the following major categories: Deep Dish, Hand-tossed, and Thin Crust. There are subsets within each category for different regions – these will also be explored.
DEEP DISH PIZZA
Chicago Style Deep
Being from Chicago, I’m going to start with the Holy Grail of all pizza styles – Chicago Deep Dish. This category is actually divided into two different types. There is regular deep dish, and then there is stuffed. Regular deep dish is cooked in a pan, has a thick crust (occasionally buttered), then has cheese and toppings, with the sauce on top. The most famous example of this style is Lou Malnati’s.
Jeff’s Pick: Buddyz: A Chicago Pizzeria – Queen Creek, AZ
Chicago Style Stuffed
The other Chicago deep is stuffed. It has a thick crust (never buttered), then has a layer of cheese and toppings, which has another, thinner layer of crust on top, which is followed up by the sauce on top. Some places stuff only the meat toppings inside, and put the veggies on top with the sauce; some places stuff it all inside. The most famous example of this is Giordano’s.
Jeff’s Pick: Nancy’s Pizza – Lakeview East, Chicago, IL
The above types are generally eaten with a fork. I think eating pizza with a fork is un-American, so I bare hand it like a man.
Sicilian style deep dish is also known in some places as “Detroit Style”. This is more like a traditional style – crust comes first, then sauce, then cheese and toppings. The deep crust isn’t as thick as Chicago style, but it is still pretty thick. The whole pie is rectangular in shape and the slices are also cut into rectangles. A common example of this would be Little Caesars Deep! Deep! line of pizzas.
Jeff’s Pick: Rocky Rococo’s – Kenosha, WI
Pan is the most common style of deep dish. It is styled like a traditional pizza – crust first, then sauce, then cheese and toppings. It is cooked in a pan, and is not quite as thick as a Chicago Style thick. The crust is occasionally buttered, depending on the location. This is a circle style pizza and the slices are cut into triangles. The most common place that has this style would be either Pizza Hut or Domino’s.
Jeff’s Pick: Oregano’s – Chandler, AZ
HAND TOSSED PIZZA
This is the most common type of pie in the world. It is a generic description of crust that is tossed into the air when making the shape. This action leads it to be thinner at the center, and have a thick ring of crust around the outside. The hand tossed style has a medium amount of thickness, which the majority of it coming at the end. Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Hungry Howies, etc. all have hand tossed as their primary style of pizza.
Jeff’s Pick: Domino’s Pizza – Literally Everywhere, USA.
New York Style
New York style is a subset of hand tossed. This style takes the traditional hand tossed and stretches it out so its very thin. This makes the slices larger in overall shape, but can make the crust paper thin in the center. This pizza is cut into very large triangles and is typically served in slices rather than whole pies. Any place that has “New York Pizza” in the title will have this style pizza. A good example of this garbage, err pizza, would be Sbarro.
Jeff’s Pick: Wise Guys – Carbondale, IL
Double dough is the Chicago style equivalent of hand tossed. Its based on their tavern style pizza, they just double the amount of dough it is made with. The edge crust is fluffed up and out to give something to hold onto. This is mostly done for places that want to sell slices and maintain the Chicago Style of pizza.
Jeff’s Pick: Bacci’s Pizza – Portage Park, Chicago, IL
THIN CRUST PIZZA
Thin crust is modeled in the same way as a traditional – crust, then sauce, then cheese and toppings. The crust is rolled out so it is very thin, but it stays thin all the way to the edges. It typically is baked so it is very crispy. The cheese and toppings often go all the way to the edge, so there is not much of a crust at the ends. This style is what dominates the frozen market.
Jeff’s Pick: Bob and Tony’s Pizza – Estes Park, CO
Tavern style is a subset of thin crust. It is served primarily in the mid-west areas of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri (perhaps more?) Each city has a small variation (St. Louis puts provel cheese on theirs), but in general they are all modeled the same. The crust is thin by Chicago standards, but its baked so it’s crispy like a cracker.
It is modeled like a traditional – crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. It is round in shape and is cut into squares. This is the type of pizza where lots of toppings shine. While the above styles are tagged as “Chicago Style” pizzas, tavern style is what the locals actually eat. All of the deep dish places also serve this type of pizza, but it is not what they are famous for. A popular example of this style is Rosati’s.
Jeff’s Pick: Emil’s Pizza – Mundelein, IL
New Haven Style
New Haven style is a style of that came out of New Haven, CT. It is it’s own unique style, but I believe that it fits within the thin crust category. The major difference is that this is coal fired in a brick oven instead of baked. This gives it a crispy, almost burnt, taste but still retains a degree of softness in the crust. This is what is supposed to be modeled most like the traditional Italian pizzas from Naples. There are people in this world who think this is the best variation. Those people are wrong. A popular example of this style would be Blaze pizza.
Jeff’s Pick: Grimaldi’s Pizza – Sugar Land, TX
Of course, this is impossible to answer. They are all different and each has their own pros and cons. While one type might be my favorite at some times, it may be unpractical at other times. The purpose of this article is to highlight the differences, so that you understand on all future articles, that you can’t argue that a New York pizza should be ranked higher than a Chicago Deep Dish since they are not comparable.