A field guide to American pizza

636089408800521548-LouMalnati.JPGPizza was born in Naples but has become far more widespread in America than Italy. Consistently among the nation’s most popular foods, it can be found in nearly every town and city with restaurants from coast to coast. The United States also rules in variety, with so many geographic takes it boggles the mind: Website SeriousEats.com identified 30 distinct regional variants, some very obscure — and they missed several, like Buffalo, Rocky Mountain, California and Pot Pie-style. A few are dramatically different, like Chicago-style deep dish, while other regional differences are subtle. Some regions even claim nearly identical pizzas as their own distinct creations: Pennsylvania’s Old Forge style sounds hyper-local, but is very close to both Buffalo and Detroit style. On top of all this, there are offbeat regional ways to eat pizza: On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it is normal to dip slices in Catalina (creamy French) dressing, with bottles at every pizzeria, while in many pockets of the nation, locals do the same with ranch. In Colorado it is not only normal but expected to pour honey on the crust when eating Rocky Mountain-style “Ugly Pizza.”

While most regions fiercely defend a particular style, at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, former World Pizza Champion Tony Gemingnani embraces the differences. His restaurant features seven different ovens burning coal, wood, gas and electricity, from 550° to 1000°, all so he can offer truly authentic versions of nine regional styles: New Haven, California, New York, NYC Sicilian, “Grandma” (Long Island, N.Y.), Detroit, St. Louis, New Haven and Trenton (N.J.) tomato pies. He correctly predicted the rise of Detroit style, and told me that the traditional New York style I grew up on was getting harder to find. If you love pizza, there are myriad options to try something new, but these are the major American styles.

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