In the Kitchen // Pizza
Detroit-style pizza a class unto its own
By Pasquale "Pat" Bruno Jr.
Photo by Rick Daugherty

When it comes to pizza, what do three major Midwest cities — Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis –– have in common? They each have a unique and especially delicious style of pizza. While Chicago’s deep-dish and St. Louis’s Provel cheese-topped pizzas need no introduction, what exactly is Detroit-Style pizza? Let me explain in as simple a way as possible: It is deep-dish pizza baked in a square pan — actually a hybrid of deep-dish pizza and Sicilian or Italian bakery pizza. Some might suggest that deep- dish pizza is more of a “pie,” but in the dawn of the pizza age, what we now call pizza (in whatever shape or style) went by the moniker “tomato pie.”

Detroit-style pizza got started at Buddy’s Rendevous around 1946, three years after deep-dish pizza made its debut in Chicago at Uno’s. The house in which I grew up in Upstate New York was smack next to an Italian bakery. A sideline of the bakery was Sicilian-style pizza –– pizza baked in square or rectangular pans. The pans were seasoned to the point of being black, and that allowed for a crispy crust with each pizza. The toppings were as simple as a tomato puree, oregano and a shower of grated Romano cheese. I have to tell you that this was one great pizza — a pizza memory that I treasure to this day. Detroit-style pizza is created in the same vein.

If you like chewy, cheesy pizza you will love Detroit-style pizza. The step that makes Detroit-style pizza so crunchy-tasty is that it is twice-baked. Not every pizzeria has the time or ability to go through that process, however. And what works in Detroit may not work in, say, California. Regional differences aside, there is no greater food than pizza.

With a Detroit-style pizza, the sauce is put on top of the cheese. But that is nothing new. In fact, in one of my cookbooks I show pictures of how a deep-dish pizza is assembled: crust, slices of mozzarella cheese, then tomatoes on top. u


Makes one 12-by15-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)

About 20 ounces of proofed dough

8 -10 ounces shredded mozzarella

11/2 cups tomato or pizza sauce

½ cup grated Romano cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

Rub a 12-by15-inch seasoned rectangular pan lightly with olive oil.

Put the dough in the center of the pan. Push and spread the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides a bit. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.

Spread the sauce evenly over the mozzarella. Sprinkle on the Romano cheese. Give the pizza a quick, short 5-10 minute bake in a preheated 500 F oven to set the crust. Pull the pizza out of the oven, and set aside. Then, when you’re ready to serve, put it back in for a second bake (about 10 minutes) to get that Detroit-style crunch. Drizzle on the olive oil. Cut the pizza into squares and serve.

Note: add toppings—sausage, pepperoni, et al. on top of the tomato or pizza sauce.

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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