One of the many, many things we love about pizza: its adaptability. Since modern versions of the pie started popping up in Italy centuries ago, pizza has come a long way—and how it’s prepared varies around the world and coast-to-coast. Here’s what you need to know about nine of the most popular regional pizza styles:
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Origin: Naples, Italy
Defining Characteristics: Neapolitan is the O.G. pizza. It consists of a basic dough topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and fresh basil. Traditionally, there’s more sauce than cheese—this gives the pie an elegant, somewhat bare look. Because of this sauce-to-cheese ratio, however, the middle of the pizza is prone to getting soggy. To be considered a true Neapolitan pizza, it must be baked under 90 seconds in an 800° stone oven with a wood fire. A Neapolitan-style pizza, meanwhile, has a soft, thin crust that is bubbled and charred in places.
Traditional Toppings and Variants:
- Pizza Marinara: tomatoes, garlic, oregano, extra-virgin olive oil
- Pizza Margherita: tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, basil, extra-virgin olive oil
- Pizza Margherita extra: tomatoes, mozzarella from Campania, basil, extra-virgin olive oil
Origin: Sicily, Italy
Defining Characteristics: Sicilian pizza, or sfincione, is a rectangular, thick-crusted pizza. With a soft, spongy crust, its base is similar to focaccia. Unlike its Neapolitan counterpart, Sicilian pizza’s cheese is often placed under the marinara sauce to prevent sogginess. The bottom is crunchy, but the middle is soft and pillowy. Though it’s traditionally rectangular, Sicilian pizza can be round.
Traditional Toppings: onions, olive oil, chopped anchovies, tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper
Origin: New England (invented by an Albanian Greek in Connecticut)
Defining Characteristics: Unlike Italian pizzas, which are stretched to order and baked in a pizza oven, Greek pizzas are baked in a shallow, round pan that has been heavily coated in olive oil. This results in a puffy, chewy crust with an oily feel.
Traditional Toppings: mixed cheeses (can include mozzarella, feta, provolone, or cheddar), black olives, red onions
Origin: New York City, New York
Defining Characteristics: A variation of Neapolitan-style pizza, New York pizza is famous for its thin, hand-tossed crust. Since it’s thin and pliable, New York pizza is often sold in large slices that are easily foldable. Some people claim that minerals in NYC’s tap water are responsible for the dough’s unique texture and flavor.
Traditional Toppings: mozzarella cheese
Origin: Chicago, Illinois
Defining Characteristics: Chicago pizza is the antithesis of New York pizza. Because of its deep height and thick crust, its slices are best eaten with a fork and knife. With its raised edges, Chicago-style looks more like a pie than other pizzas.
The order of ingredients is also reversed: Mozzarella lines the dough, followed by meat and veggies, and a robust sauce of crushed tomatoes tops the whole thing off.
Traditional Toppings: ground beef, pepperoni, sausage, onions, mushrooms, peppers
Origin: Detroit, Michigan
Defining Characteristics: Like Sicilian pizza, Detroit-style pizza is rectangular. It's baked in a square pan (originally, blue steel utility trays were used) and has a very thick, very crispy crust.
The ingredients, like Chicago-style pizza are applied in reverse order: meat (pepperoni), cheese, sauce. The cheese stretches the perimeter of the pie, which results in caramelized, cheesy edges.
Traditional Toppings: pepperoni, mushrooms and olives (optional)
Origin: San Francisco, California
Defining Characteristics: California pizza is basically New York pizza with a creative twist. Ed LaDou invented the style back in the 1970s, when he served Wolfgang Puck a pizza topped with ricotta cheese, red peppers, pâté, and mustard. Puck immediately hired him as his new restaurant’s head pizza chef. A few years later, California Pizza Kitchen opened with LaDou at the helm.
Traditional Toppings: The beauty of this style is that there are no traditional toppings. Anything goes.
Origin: St. Louis, Missouri
Defining Characteristics: Its thin, cracker-like crust is what sets St. Louis pizza apart. Unlike the leavened crusts of Chicago and New York, St. Louis crust is made without yeast. It’s almost always topped with Provel cheese (a processed combo of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, Provel a St. Louis staple) and cut into thin squares instead of wedges.
Traditional toppings: Provel cheese, oregano-heavy tomato sauce, toppings of your choice (the hard crust is able to withstand heavy ingredients).
Origin: New Haven, Connecticut
Defining Characteristics: Known locally as apizza, New Haven-style pizza was invented at a popular Connecticut eatery called Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. This thin-crusted pizza is cooked at very high heat in a coal-fired oven until the bottom is charred. Unlike most types of pizza, New Haven’s take does not include mozzarella.
Traditional Toppings: oregano, grated pecorino romano cheese
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