What Makes Detroit-Style Pizza So Unique?

Pizza — America's quintessential food arrived and prospered via Italian heritage. From 1880 to 1920, one-fifth of immigrants were Italian, and they brought a knack for dough-making alongside them. Although pizza is deemed as Italian as pasta, its spread in the U.S. predated ubiquity in Italy. Primarily, that popularity is due to the pizza slice, notes Britannica.

As urban growth exploded in America, a quintessential pie emerged for every city. The styles became increasingly distinct, from deeply charred New Haven to cracker-thin St. Louis pies. Cue Motor City's addition to the mix — Detroit style. A cousin to Foccacia-like Sicilian and hearty, perhaps not-even-pizza Chicago deep-dish, Detroit pies are now a renowned culinary landmark of their own. This corner of Michigan boasts quite a bit of pizza influence — Little Caesars and Dominos were birthed near Detroit, per Patch. However, there's delicious magic in the homegrown square slice. Let's dig in to uncover what makes it so unique.

Detroit-style pizza is prepared with an airy dough and topped with abundant cheese in a specialized steel pan

Detroit-style emerged in 1946 at Buddy's Pizza, a tavern experimenting with pizza preparation as a business expansion. A nod to Motor City's heritage, chef and owner August "Gus" Guerra kneaded Sicilian-style dough onto a repurposed steel automobile pan. He sprinkled Wisconsin brick cheese on top and doused the sauce as the finish, rather than the base, per Buddy's Pizza. Such a rearrangement of components created a delectable result. The airy Sicilian-influenced dough developed the infamous crust since the Wisconsin cheese's high-fat content seeped throughout the pie. Due to the thick pan, the inside remained chewy, and without being meddled with other ingredients, the topped sauce could shine via Thrillist.

The pizza style stood out immediately and remained interlinked with Buddy's for decades. Although a few other restaurants also started to bake similar square pies, even the name Detroit-style didn't appear until trade magazines in the 1980s. Only in the 2010s, with openings of infamous pizza joints like Emmy's and Via 313, did the Detroit-style trend popularize on a national level, reports Eater. While replicable at home, Buddy's continues to be the spot to try a square slice — a forever engrained cornerstone of Detroit history.