If you ask your average New Yorker, all pizza falls into two basic categories: New York-style (i.e. real pizza) and everything else. But coming from Detroit – secretly one of the best pizza cities in the country – I know better.
Moving to New York in the late aughts was exciting. It meant 4 am last call, not having to worry about driving ever again, and – arguably most importantly – being able to get a decent slice 24 hours a day.
New York is – and I don’t say this lightly – the greatest pizza city on earth. Italy included. But until recently, it was missing one very important thing from its pizza landscape: Detroit-style pizza
Emmy Squared changed all that when it opened in 2016, serving up as good – if not, gasp, better – of Detroit pizza as I could get back home. Emmy came in with an already highly regarded pizza pedigree, thanks to its wood-fired, thin-crust predecessor Emily. So right off the bat, New Yorkers began discovering Detroit pizza, even if they didn’t know that that’s what they were eating.
Similarly, ‘za lovers all over the country have started getting in on the same secret, with Austin’s Via 313 (three locations and counting) Denver’s Blue Pan, Chicago’s Union Squared and at Jet’s Pizza locations across the country.
And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll seek out Detroit pizza in your hometown. But first, you may be wondering, what is it?
Well, for the most part, Detroit pizza has a few key elements: it’s square (or rectangle), thanks to cooking in a steel pan; it has a burnt-cheese crust; the sauce is on top of the pie, and the dough is airy in the middle – and if the pizzeria knows what it’s doing, it will be crispy on the bottom.
The pizza may hail from Detroit, but it has roots in Sicily, where bakeries in Palermo would sling trays of sfincione, focaccia-like bread topped with tomatoes, onions and occasionally a bit of cheese and/or anchovies. Sfincione is likely also where New-York style Sicilian pizza has roots, but while New York pizzerias started cranking out thick, dense, rectangular slices and called it Sicilian, Detroit stuck with a lighter, airier dough that lies somewhere between its focaccia-like ancestor and New York Sicilian.