Cloverleaf Defines What Detroit-Style Pizza Really Is

By: Karen Dybis | October 30, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Cloverleaf.

Detroit-style pizza has risen to something of legendary status in Metro Detroit – its ingredients, method of cooking and taste is as much a part of Motown as music, automotive manufacturing and neighborhood pride. 

That is why the pizza at Cloverleaf – why, in fact, all of its food when you come right down to it – is such a part of the community and spirit of Detroit. Its signature pizza is truly Detroit-style pizza: decadent, hearty, full of flavor and made with a kind of humble humanity that epitomizes the immigrant-rich landscape that is truly Michigan. 

If you’re going to talk about Cloverleaf in any capacity, you first start with the pizza. Of the major pizza chains, they are among the few that only be called Detroit-style or Detroit pizza. They came from the original sources of this kind of spicy goodness. You have to have a connection to Buddy’s, to Loui’s, to Shield’s and to the man himself, Gus Guerra. 

Gus Guerra is the founder of Cloverleaf, and he is universally considered by those in the know as the man who created Detroit pizza. It wasn’t a style to him. It was a way of a life, a truth, a culinary masterpiece that defined him. It was the taste of home, of family and of Detroit.

As the Cloverleaf family and website tells it, Detroit pizza and Gus’s story started with his first bar and restaurant. Known back then as Buddy’s Rendezvous, Gus and his wife Anna Passalacqua created their own version of her family’s thick-crust pizza. It had a thick layer of cheese, tons of meaty ingredients and a spicy tomato sauce. 

They would pop that monster pie into the stone oven and out would come this huge pizza that seemed different not only to the naked eye but to the tastebuds. It was a whole meal in one slice. It had soul with those crispy corners full of crunchy, melted cheese that had caramelized inside. Everything from the pan to the sauce to the way the pepperoni was placed onto the pie was different – and that is what made it legendary. 

Gus and Anna went out on their own, and they bought a little place in what was East Detroit. Now known as Eastpointe, Cloverleaf was that neighborhood bar and restaurant where little kids and families felt as comfortable eating as the millionaires in Grosse Pointe. Well, most of the families in Grosse Pointe aren’t that, but they were there just as much as the people from back in the day, coming from all across Detroit to have Gus’s best pizza. 

Today, that standard remains at the main location as well as the other Cloverleaf take-out spots, such as the new one in St. Clair Shores. The pizza is like no other in the world – it is Detroit made and part of the history of this food-focused town. People celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, good times and bad times all at Cloverleaf, and the food is always filling. 

Gus Guerra left behind a square pizza and a style that is often copied but can never be replicated. He left behind a name that still speaks of quality and family. But, most importantly, he helped build a restaurant and a culinary world that has fed generations, something that his ancestors can truly be proud of as pizza icons.