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Is There Really a Debate? New York vs. Chicago vs. Detroit Style Pizza

Brigitte Xu

August 9, 2023


Pizza, in its many forms, has conquered palates across the globe. Yet, within the U.S., a friendly rivalry simmers about which city truly makes the best pie. Out of the many kinds of pizza that exist around the country, three stand out as being critical to the food scene of the city they originate from. Is it the thin, foldable slices from New York? The deep, hearty pies of Chicago? Or the crispy-edged squares emerging from Detroit? Ask anyone who lives in either city and they’re sure to have their own opinions on Chicago vs. New York pizza, or Detroit vs. Chicago pizza debate. Join us as we delve deep into the histories, characteristics, and cultures of these three iconic American pizza styles and attempt to settle the great pizza debate, slice by delicious slice.

New York Style Pizza

Born out of the Italian-American community in New York in the early 20th century, New York-style pizza has grown to define American pizza culture. Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in the United States, opened in New York in 1905 and was the first to serve what we now know as the New York style slice. Its thin, crispy crust, topped with a light layer of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and various toppings, has become an icon worldwide. One of its standout features is its size – often requiring a ‘fold’ for easier eating. 

The positives of New York-style pizza lie in its versatility and portability (it’s the only one a pizza rat can comfortably carry while scurrying across a packed street). It is pizza that you can grab on the go, epitomizing the fast-paced lifestyle of its city of origin. However, its detractors point out that its thinness can lead to a lack of robust flavor compared to other styles. 

Chicago Style Pizza

Known for its deep-dish variety, Chicago-style pizza was developed during the mid-20th century in – you guessed it – Chicago. Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno, founded in 1943, is generally accepted as the birthplace of the original deep-dish pizza. Chicago vs New York Pizza may be a hotly debated topic, but they are very different types of pizza. Unlike the thin-crust New York-style, Chicago’s pizza is more of a robust pie, with its high edges holding chunky tomato sauce, a generous amount of cheese, and various toppings. 

The depth of Chicago-style pizza provides a hearty, rich taste, a complete meal in itself. However, it also means longer baking times, leading to a wait that can test one’s patience. 

Detroit Style Pizza

Before we dive in, you may be asking, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Detroit-style pizza, lesser-known but no less tasty, emerged in the mid-20th century. The pizza style originated from a local bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous, using blue steel pans from the local automotive industry! Its signature features include a rectangular shape, thick, crispy crust, and a reverse order of ingredients, with toppings under the cheese, all smothered by tomato sauce. 

Detroit-style pizza’s upside is its textural contrast between the light, airy interior and crispy, almost fried edges. On the flip side, its heavier nature might deter those looking for a light meal. In a Chicago vs. Detroit pizza debate, it comes down to preference as both have thicker crusts with more toppings. 

Each of these kinds of pizza reflects the spirit of the city they originated from – the hustle and bustle of New York, the hearty spirit of Chicago, and the industrial ingenuity of Detroit. While they each bring something unique to the table, there’s a special place in our hearts for the classic New York-style pizza. Its versatility, coupled with a taste that strikes a delicate balance between crust, sauce, and cheese, cements its position as a favorite. And who can argue with a delicious slice for just a dollar (and a half)?

Despite our preference, Chicago’s deep-dish and Detroit’s crispy square pizzas offer hearty and flavorful alternatives that are worth exploring. Each slice, regardless of its origin, tells a tale of cultural heritage, culinary innovation, and the power of a simple dish to bring people together. Perhaps a better question is which pizza did you grow up with, or do you find yourself ordering the most often? 



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