Tuesday is National Pizza Day – a day when people from Detroit band together to remind the world of our rightful place in the pantheon of elite ‘za.
What defines the Detroit pie? For starters, shape. Detroit-style pizza is square, allowing for a crispy, buttery crust that crunches under the weight of each bite. Often, you’ll hear Detroiters refer to our pizza as deep-dish. While it is true that our pies exceed the width of a standard pan pizza – and substantially out-thick East Coast preparations – deep dish is generally a term designated to the Chicago style; a different beast entirely.
While Chicago deep-dish presents a pastry-style crust to contain cheese and sauce within – nearly a casserole – the classic Detroit crust supports its toppings. Like a perfectly firm mattress. The porous consistency allows the crust to absorb the cheese’s grease, creating a marriage of ingredients that can’t be replicated with other styles.
It is for this reason that Detroit pizza utterly dominates the cold pizza category. Unlike Brooklyn-style thin-crust – which loses structure between the 2 a.m. post-bar slice and 10 a.m. breakfast slice – Detroit crust actually benefits from time in the fridge as the grease congeals and is redistributed throughout the pizza.
Now let’s hone in on the cheese. Even seasoned pizza vets might assume that mozzarella is used in any form of pizza preparation. However, this assumption does not apply in the case of authentic Detroit pizza. Since the very beginning, Motor City institutions have used Wisconsin-made brick cheese – a close cousin to the classic Wisco cheddar. Unlike milder mozzarella, brick cheese provides a unique saltiness to the pie and accounts for the “buttery” flavor that defines Detroit pizza. Furthermore, it cooks to a crisp, creating a phenomenon at the corners that often manifests as a question: Am I eating cheese or crust?
It’s both. And that’s why we love it.
Buddy’s is the originator. Opened in 1946 – and now with locations throughout Metro Detroit – they’re the pioneers to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. But they aren’t the only one cranking out exceptional Detroit pizza. Loui’s and Green Lantern share DNA with the original Buddy’s and many argue that their pies are equally good, if not better.
In 1978, brothers Eugene and John Jetts opened up a small pizzeria in a vacant Sterling Heights party store. In 1992, they partnered with their cousins Jim and Jeff Galloway to form Jet’s America Inc. Today, Jet’s Pizza has over 390 franchises throughout 19 states. While locals may scoff at big business capitalizing on a homegrown tradition, it is worth noting that as a direct result of Jet’s massive success, the entire nation is becoming increasingly aware of what we have known forever; that Detroit pizza is the best there is.
Go ask the founders of Regenelli’s in New Orleans. Or Via 313 in Austin. Or Lions & Tigers & Squares in Manhattan’s East Village (founded by the owners of NY staple – Artichoke Pizza – after a visit to Buddy’s). All over the country, restaurants are attempting to recreate what we have taken for granted for nearly a century. On this National Pizza Day, take pride in where you come from and celebrate the same way we celebrate everything else: one large pie with pepperoni.