Small (about 10-inch diameter), thin-crust pizzas made in a wood-burning oven. Usually have a puffy "cornicione" (lip or end crust) and marked by use of the freshest ingredients applied sparingly for a careful balance. Perhaps the most popular is the pizza Margherita--topped with fresh sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella or fior di latte, and a little bit of basil. Other traditional variations include the marinara (just sauce and maybe a sprinkling of an aged cheese) or the Napoletana (a marinara pie with anchovies). This style, of course, is known the world over.
Philadelphia Tomato Pie
Not to be confused with its neighboring tomato pie to the north, Philladelphia Tomato Pie is stretched and baked into sheet pans. The thick, bready crust is as thick as a Sicilian—about 1 inch tall. The tomatoes for this sauce are cooked down with lots of seasoning into a thick, heavy, sweet sauce. In his review of Conshohocken Bakery pizza, Philly correspondent Hawk Krall described this style as, “distinct from everyday pizza—the best Tomato Pies come room temperature from old-school neighborhood bakeries rather than hot from a pizzeria. No toppings and no cheese, save for a scant shake of Romano or Parmesan. For many who grew up in the area, this simple bakery style pie says "Philly" more than any other style of pizza." That makes these slices more like Italian bakery-style slices than the round Tomato pies from Trenton.
Roman Pizza al Taglio
Roman pizza al taglio came into existence in the 1960s. These long rectangular pizzas, also called pizza al metro (referring to the one meter length of the pie) are sold out of take away shops by the weight. Pizza al taglio literally means "pizza by the cut," since scissors are used to portion off the desired amount. Toppings play a greater role on this style than on pizza bianca. And these large slabs of pizza are generally thicker and softer than bianca, as they are baked in a pan in an electric oven rather than directly on a stone or the floor of a gas oven.
Schiacciata can be synonymous with focaccia, or pizza without sauce, and literally means "squashed" or "flattened down". One famous version is Schiacciata d'uva, which is made during the Tuscan grape harvest. Other versions consist of the bread baked plain, and then sliced in half, filled, and baked again.
Originating in Palermo, Sfincione is the Sicilian slice that Sicilians eat. The name literally means "sponge", which describes the way the dough behaves when soaking up the oils in the pan. The resulting texture is tall and spongy, never dense or doughy. The crisp olive-oil saturated bottom layer gives way to a moist, tender middle that is crowned with a thick tomato sauce made with anchovies and lots of onions. You won't find any mozzarella on this pan proofed square slice. A light grating of caciocavallo, a hard sheep's cheese, finishes this style, along with a crumbly crunch of breadcrumbs.
Pizza di Sfrigole
Editor Carey Jones encountered this style in Abruzzo, Italy and offers up this analysis of the style: "It's nothing more than lard, flour, and salt kneaded together extensively, then incorporating those luscious little pig bits (orsfrigole) before it's baked. Though different in composition, of course, it's not that far off from prosciutto bread, where the actual meat is apparent but the added animal fat's richness is what really makes it exceptional. The result is super-flaky and almost pastrylike, which makes sense when you consider how lard is so often used in pie crusts and such."
Similar in appearance to focaccia, pizza bianca is an olive oil laden, thin and crisp Italian bread with good chew. In developing a recipe for bianca, Kenji defined it as, "The long, flat, lightly dimpled, flecked-with-coarse salt, crisp-on-the-outside, just barely chewy bread sold by the square in Rome." Unlike focaccia, which is baked in a pan, pizza bianca gets stretched out to lengths of up to six feet and is baked right on the oven floor. When toppings are involved, they are applied sparingly. Typically, bianca comes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Two of the most renowned Roman pizza bianca vendors are Forno Campo de'Fiori and Antico Forno Marco Roscioli in Rome. (Ed put them in a head-to-head here.)
French Bread Pizza
While most people know French bread pizza as something boxed and placed in the freezer aisle by Stouffer's, the original version was sold out of a food truck in Ithaca, NY. Invented by Bob Petrillose, this half pizza/half sandwich creation was coined Poor Man's Pizza (PMP) but is also known as "Hot Truck" after the wagon from which it was vended. The original version, still sold today by both Hot Truck and Shortstop Deli, was summed up in this review as follows: "A third of a loaf of light, airy Ithaca Bakery French bread is halved horizontally, spread with a generous amount of pizza sauce and mozzarella, baked open-face until the bread is satisfyingly crisp, and then folded over to make the whole thing easily portable." Whether created at home, reheated out of a box, or bought off a truck, this crusty, sauce and cheese topped loaf is ever popular with the audience of cash poor students that it was created for.
The montanara is a type of pizza fritta. Specifically, it is a Neapolitan-style dough that gets stretched and then deep-fried. The golden crust, once extracted from its oil bath, is then topped. According to master pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio, his mentor Antonio Starita introduced the idea of finishing the montanara in a wood-fired oven in order to dry the oil; a technique that has since been emulated by other pizzaioli. Starita was the first pizza maker to bring the montanara stateside, where it premiered in 2007 at A Mano in Rdigewood, NJ. Traditionally, this fried pizza is finished with a hard cheese, like Parmesean or Romano, but restaurants like Don Antonio and Forcella are using smoked mozzarella and fior di latte. In his review of Forcella, Adam Kuban has this to say of his first taste of the montanara: "Imagine a very good Margherita pizza... but with a foundation reminiscent of one of those fried-dough wonders you only see at the state fair—at once crisp, chewy, moist, and puffy in only that way fried breads get."
New York–Neapolitan (aka 'Neapolitan-American')
Once the Italian immigrants brought their Naples-style pies to the States, it evolved a bit in the Italian neighborhoods of New York to something I've seen referred to as "New York-Neapolitan." This is basically what all the coal-oven pizzerias of New York serve. It follows the tenets of Neapolitan style in that it's thin-crusted, cooked in an ultra-hot oven, and uses a judicious amount of cheese and sauce (sauce which is typically fresh San Marzano tomatoes, as in Naples). It deviates from Naples-style in that it's typically larger, a tad thinner, and more crisp. New York–Neapolitan is rarely found outside New York City. However, I believe this style eventually evolved into ...
New York Style
The round, thin-crust stuff that most people in the U.S. think of as "pizza." And don't anyone give me guff on this. Go ahead and think of a pizza. Nine out of ten of you thought of something round and more on the thin side than the thick side, right? Even the major chain stuff, with all their variations in crust style, I'd say that their default pizza is closer to regular NY-style than, say, deep dish or Sicilian or what not. A true New York-style pizza ideally has a crust that's at once crisp and chewy. Can be topped with whatever you want but is best with only one or two toppings applied (so crust remains crisp). New Yorkers generally fold it while eating. Also referred to in New York as a "regular" pie or a "regular" slice. The default regular slice is a "plain" slice, i.e., no toppings, only cheese.
A rectangular pizza with a thick crust. Cheese may or may not appear under the sauce, though it's my understanding that Sicilian traditionally used to feature the cheese under the sauce. Often marked by the strong presence of garlic. Also known as a "square slice," because it's cut into squares (or rectangular shapes close enough to square to merit the name). Usually the same price or a quarter more than a regular slice, so get this if you're broke and hungry. Doesn't seem to be as popular in New York as the regular slices and pies, primarily because only a few places really do square pies right. Those places are treasures and should be appreciated.
Grandma Style (aka 'Nonna Pizza')
Essentially a thin-crust Sicilian. I've gotten guff for saying that in the past, so if any of you out there want to correct me and argue for a workable definition of this style, please comment. It was sort of a Long Island thing until the past couple of years, when it started making inroads into the boroughs of New York City. Typically has a fresh, lightly seasoned sauce.
New Haven Style
Cooked in a coal oven, has a very crisp crust that is typically thinner than New York pizzas. Marked by a characteristic oblong shape, often served on a sheet of waxed paper atop a plastic cafeteria tray. Thought to be the place where clam pizza was developed (Frank Pepe's). The two biggies here are Sally's and Pepe's, but there are others (notably Modern) with their adherents. New Haven partisans often argue that pizza was invented here, but I believe NYC has them beat on this claim.
Grilled pizza was invented in Providence, Rhode Island, by George Germon at Al Forno. Grilled pizza has a thin crust and is cooked quickly—directly on the grate of a grill. Contrary to what you'd think, it does not fall through the grate, instead setting up quickly over the intense heat before being flipped and topped with sauce and thinly sliced toppings. (Toppings must be thin so they heat through in the short time—typically a minute a side. Sausage or anything needing thorough cooking need to be prepped beforehand.)
Grilled pizza has since moved beyond Providence--there are at least five such pizzerias in New York City, and the in the last three or so years we've seen this dish move from obscurity to backyard grills nationwide, thanks to the annual grilling coverage in magazines and newspaper food sections that crops up around Memorial Day.
Ed Levine goes into this in his book, and you can read an excerpt about bar pizza on Slice. Ed says, "It's usually very thin-crusted to (I'm guessing) leave plenty of room in the eater's stomach for beer. It's baked in a gas oven that may have replaced a coal oven if the bar is old enough. Bar pizza is made with decent, commercial, aged mozzarella and comes topped with canned mushrooms, standard pepperoni and, if you're lucky, house-made sausage." The bar pizza Ed describes and that I've had is very similar to something I call "Midwest-style pizza."
Trenton Tomato Pies
In the capital city of New Jersey, pizza does not exist. Here, they're known as "tomato pies." As Slice correspondent Rich DeFabritus wrote in his review of the two dueling DeLorenzo's there, "There is a body of myth and lore attempting to distinguish tomato pie from pizza. The generally accepted explanation is that a tomato pie is built as follows: dough, cheese, toppings, and then sauce." Trenton tomato pies would then seem to have much in common with a sauce-last grandma pie or a Detroit-style pizza, but tomato pies are round.
Old Forge Style
I know the least about Old Forge-style pizza but am including it here in the interest of providing a wide range of styles. On Pizzamaking.com, user IlPizzaiolo describes it thusly: "My friend studied a type of pizza from Pennsylvania that sounds close to what they are talking about. It is like a medium-thin Sicilian dough, the pan oiled with peanut oil, so the dough sort of got a fried consistancy like pan pizza from Pizza Hut. The cheese [was 100% Wisconsin white cheddar.]" I think I need to take a three-day weekend and investigate Old Forge pizza.
I don't think I was even aware of a "Detroit-style" pizza until digging in and doing some research on this topic, but Wikipedia has an entry on it, where it is so described: "... very close to the Sicilian-style pizzas, or is also known in other places as 'Italian bakery style pizza'. It is a square pizza, with a thick deep-dish crust (sometimes twice baked), and with sauce put on the pizza last."
I don't know if I need to elaborate much on deep dish, since, like New York–style, you already know what it's about. And I'm not trying to knock it here, but it is more like a casserole—a really tasty one. That's because it's cooked in a deep pan, with the main ingredients acting as "fillings" rather than "toppings." It's got a buttery crust, a chunky tomato sauce, lots of cheese, lots of (and/or copious amounts of) toppings.
Deep dish is usually layered from bottom up with sliced mozzarella, followed by meats and veggies, then sauce, then grated cheese. Unlike New York–style pizza, it's eaten with a knife and fork. For more background on its origin, there's this July 20, 1997, story from the Chicago Tribune.
Like Neapolitan-style and New York-style, deep dish has traveled far from its birthplace. Although, with a few notable exceptions, good deep dish is still hard to find outside Chicago.
Another Chicago specialty that is often confused with deep dish because of its similarity. It's assembled and cooked in a similar manner to deep dish, but it has a top layer of crust and is usually taller and more densely packed with toppings.
Chicago Thin Crust
Another form of pizza prevalent in Chicago, though it seems that folks outside the Windy City mostly overlook this style when talking about Chicago pizza. It's thinner than New York-style and crunchier, though it's also more tender and flaky. Almost pastry-like. I think this crust style of this pizza has much in common with the bar pizza or tavern pizza I've had in New York City and also with the independent pizzeria pizzas I've had in Milwaukee. The Chicago thin-crust has a smooth, highly seasoned sauce. Toppings are added under the cheese, which is typically mozzarella. Often cut into a grid of square pieces (instead of pie-shaped wedges) in what's known as the "party cut" or "tavern cut." (See also "Midwest-style," below.)
Variations, I believe, are found throughout the Midwest--from Ohio to Milwaukee to Chicago to wherever. I'd even go so far as to say that the "Chicago-style" pizza just above is really a variation of "Midwest-style." The Midwest style is round (but not always; see Maria's), thin, very crisp yet tender-flaky, and is party- or tavern-cut into the grid. Sauces and topping preference may differ from city to city and region to region, but this style seems to crop up often in the heartland.
St. Louis Style
Might be mistaken for a Chicago thin crust at first, just on looks--and maybe for the fact that Saint Louis and Chicago are only a few hundred miles apart. But this style's very thin, crackerlike crust is unleavened. And it's topped with a special three-cheese blend (provolone, Swiss, white cheddar) called Provel that's used in place of mozzarella (and sometimes, but not often, in addition to mozzarella). Like Chicago thin crust, it's usually done party cut. Imo's Pizza is thought to be the originator.
The crust is more a vehicle for unique toppings and striking flavor combinations not typically found in Italian cuisine—say goat cheese, or avocado, or egg. Given California's access to produce, fresh vegetables often make an appearance. Ed LaDou, who made California pizza famous at Spago in Los Angeles and then later developed the original menu at California Pizza Kitchen, is typically thought of as its inventor.
And even though I think this might be a variation of the Midwest-style, I like the description of the following ...
Ohio Valley Style
If Trenton can have a style based on a couple places why can't the Ohio Valley? Here, the blog Mine Road describes it: "The first thing that you'll notice that is odd about our favorite pizza is that it's square. Square as in it's made in a square pan and then cut into square pieces. Then you'll notice that the cheese isn't melted all the way. The uncooked toppings are put on after the sauce, base cheese (minimal), and dough are cooked. You always have to make sure to have a slice ASAP before everything melts on the drive/walk back to your place. You'll also notice that our pizza sauce isn't really much of a sauce at all as much as it is just stewed tomatoes. Also the crust is a mix between a deep dish and thin crust. It is very much focaccia bread, if you've ever had that. Oh, and the best part is that you buy it by the slice."
New England Greek Style
I had either never heard of this one or had heard of it at one point and pushed it to the back of my mind because I rarely visit New England, but K2kid commented about its absence in the original version of this list. Luckily, Serafina chimes in with some hallmarks of the style:
D.C. Jumbo Slices
While I'm not sure it's going to be a widely recognized style, It's in the interest of Slice readers to know about it, even if it, so ...
Yes, the jumbo slice of D.C. is mainly known for its size. There are many competing places offering this style. The link to the article below tells about the development of the jumbo slice, the competing claims of who has the "First Oldest Original Jumbo Slice," a laboratory-based nutritional analysis, and the fact that people only eat it when they are drunk. ["Jumbo Slice Lore of D.C.," Washington City Paper]
Pizza Parlor Pizza
This one is not so much regional as it is contextual, circumstantial, or philosophical. It's not striving for sustainorganica toppings or Neapartisanal perfection. These places are just making pizza the way they've always done it—passed on from generation to generation.
I'm not going to try to define "pizza parlor pizza" too narrowly, but I keep thinking of something Mike Gebert (Sky Ful of Bacon) wrote in a really great blog post:
I had my heart set on pizza, because I saw a box which said "Since 1957," and one of my rules is, always try a pizza that dates back to the 1950s. There is always a small possibility that in the intervening 35+ years, they have NOT screwed it up by trying to make it more like Domino's or something.
And, so, I think that any place that has been opened since the '50s, still has the same family running it, and hasn't really changed much since then pretty much qualifies as serving "pizza parlor pizza" in my book. (Of course, I can think of some newer places with similar vibe.)
Maria's Pizza, Milwaukee, is pictured.
Italian Bakery Style
You'll sometimes find pizza being made in longtime Italian bakeries. It happens enough that it's been recognized — elsewhere and on Slice — as a legit style, even though it blends elements of grandma and Sicilian pizzas. Italian Bakery Style pizza is square and cooked in large sheet pans and cut into rectangular pieces. Apart from that, it can vary from bakery to bakery. If you see it, grab a slice. You might be pleasantly surprised.