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Pizza styles


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13 replies to this topic

#1 BrentKulman

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 08:02 AM

Over the years, I have noted three major styles of pizza:

New York style thin crust
Sicilian style thick crust
Chicago style deep dish

I'm not sure where to categorize the Dominos/Papa John's/Pizza Hut varient which is a thicker crust and, to my palate a poor facsimile of the real thing.

In any case, I have not spent a lot of time exploring this topic in great depth, but I suspect that you might be able to categorize the styles (and their sub-varients) more effectively.

So how do you divide up the world of American pizza? What are the major styles and who are the top practitioners of each style?

#2 Peter Reinhart

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 07:57 PM

Let me tackle this on Tuesday. It's a good question, which I addressed in "American Pie," but I'll recap tomorow.
Till then...

#3 lovebenton0

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 11:24 PM

To those categories I would add that Chicago style pizza is not all deep dish. Since the early 60s -- at least that is the earliest of my personal experience -- some Chicago area pizza makers have made a fabulous very thin and crispy crust pie. Definitely my preference and the style I make at home.

Looking forward to your discourse on this subject, Peter.
Judith Love

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One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

#4 chefdavidrusso

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 07:26 AM

I find it an interesting trait of Chicago thin crust pizza that it is often cut into little squares rather than slices. I've still yet to understand that one.
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#5 lgrass

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 02:47 PM

http://www.monicals.com/

God I miss this stuff, I moved south years ago and I can't get my beloved little squares anymore


I find it an interesting trait of Chicago thin crust pizza that it is often cut into little squares rather than slices.  I've still yet to understand that one.

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#6 chile_peppa

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 03:06 PM

I remember being shocked, shocked I tell you, when I moved from Chicago to New York for school and was presented with a huge floppy wedge of pizza during a night on the town. How was one to eat this monstrosity? I was accustomed to neat little squares with crisp cracker-like crusts that one could nibble quite daintily or devour in one huge mouth-stuffing bite (I especially like the little corner triangles). Luckily, my friends took pity upon me and showed me how to fold the thing to eat it.
"It is a fact that he once made a tray of spanakopita using Pam rather than melted butter. Still, though, at least he tries." -- David Sedaris

#7 Peter Reinhart

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 04:06 PM

Over the years, I have noted three major styles of pizza:

New York style thin crust
Sicilian style thick crust
Chicago style deep dish

I'm not sure where to categorize the Dominos/Papa John's/Pizza Hut varient which is a thicker crust and, to my palate a poor facsimile of the real thing.

In any case, I have not spent a lot of time exploring this topic in great depth, but I suspect that you might be able to categorize the styles (and their sub-varients) more effectively.

So how do you divide up the world of American pizza?  What are the major styles and who are the top practitioners of each style?

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Okay, it's a big subject, as you've already seen. The thin square style is also quite popular in St. Louis where they have the famous (or infamous) Imo's Provel cheese concept. So in the thin crust realm I use the term Roman-style, not because this is the only kind of pizza in Rome but I think it's there that the super-thin crusted pizza has its modern roots.
The generic chain pizzeria's I call Pizza Americana, meaning that I think it's here, in this country, that this style was established and then exported back to Europe.
NY street pizza (or just New York Style) is like those big slices described by Chile-Peppa, but the better NY pizza is the coal-fired thin crust of Lombardi's, Totonno's, Patsy's, Johns, etc. Who does it best? Well, I value my life too much to say, but so far the most consistent versions of this style seem to be in New Haven at Frank Pepe's, Sally's, and Modern. The key point here, and I made it in my book, is "Who is making the pizza?" Is it a dedicated pizaiolo or an employee working the pizza line. Usually, it's the places that still have family members and family pride involved, ad long term pizza makers who really care about it as a craft, that keep up. All these places have good and bad days but the great places are consistently great while some have too many off days to earn my full confidence.
An important category that has great potential is grilled pizza. NYC has it via Vincent Scotto and his restaurants and Providence has it best at Al Forno. I hope some other places are following the Al Forno model because, when done well, grilled pizza is as good as it gets (it can also be lousy when done without attention to the details, and too many places think calling it "grilled pizza" somehow qualifies it as Al Forno quality, but they don't even flip the dough properly on the grill. Its like saying, "Brick Oven Pizza," and expecting people to fall in line when you don't even know how to make good dough.
Finally, don't forget the frozen pizzas, none of which are as good as pizzeria quality but certainly the quality has vastly improved. Amy's Kitchen (the brand I developed for) has a great product, because they don't take shortcuts and use great fermentation technique, and so does American Flat Breads. I'm not a big fan of the self-rising crusts but they sure do sell.
Deep dish is its own world and I defer to those who already chimed in. There's a funny story in "American Pie" about a man I met in Rome who flies to Chicago from LA twice a year with his wife (who's a flight attendent and gets free airfare), and then flies home that night. They love Pizzeria Due' so much that they consider this a cheap date.
David Rosengarten has a nice breakdown of categories in his wonderful newsletter (The Rosengarten Report), so you might want to get his write-up on this category issue.

#8 lovebenton0

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 02:02 PM

I remember being shocked, shocked I tell you, when I moved from Chicago to New York for school and was presented with a huge floppy wedge of pizza during a night on the town. How was one to eat this monstrosity? I was accustomed to neat little squares with crisp cracker-like crusts that one could nibble quite daintily or devour in one huge mouth-stuffing bite (I especially like the little corner triangles). Luckily, my friends took pity upon me and showed me how to fold the thing to eat it.

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Too true! The Chicago squares are it! They allow for a super thin and crispy crust without losing the goodies on top when you pick it up. I still cut my Chicago style pizza in squares! Was taught by one who knows the crust -- he worked in small family pizza joint in Mundelein for three years, learning at the elbow of the master.
Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

#9 chow guy

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Posted 07 October 2004 - 08:47 AM

  Who does it best? Well, I value my life too much to say, but so far the most consistent versions of this style seem to be in New Haven at Frank Pepe's, Sally's, and Modern.

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I went on a pizza pilgrimage last January to New Haven. We risked our lives driving from New Haven to Derby in an ice storm (maybe 30 minutes away) to get to Roseland Apizza. We had their very simple rosemary/ garlic and homemade sausage pizzas. It was well worth the trip. Roseland gave all the contenders in New Haven a run for the money.

#10 Peter Reinhart

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Posted 07 October 2004 - 10:29 AM

I went on a pizza pilgrimage last January to New Haven. We risked our lives driving from New Haven to Derby in an ice storm (maybe 30 minutes away) to get to Roseland Apizza.  We had their very simple rosemary/ garlic and homemade sausage pizzas. It was well worth the trip. Roseland gave all the contenders in New Haven a run for the money.

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Good one!! Now I've got to get up there again and track it down. How did you hear about it?

#11 chow guy

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Posted 07 October 2004 - 06:02 PM

Good one!!  Now I've got to get up there again and track it down. How did you hear about it?

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My publisher, who lives in Branford was researching a dining guide for Connecticut and was very pleased to take me there. It' been there for several generations. The grandaughter of the original owner waited on us and pointed out pictures of her family on the walls of the restaurant. I hope you get a chance to try it.

#12 formerly grueldelux

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 10:57 AM

Where do you think Greek pizza fits in? I don't mean pizza with feta, but rather the dominant style in New England sub shops, often run by Greeks (and often pretty horrible, unfortunately).

It's non-deep pan pizza which, at it's best, has a crust that is sort of doughy but with a crunchy/oily exterior. Sort of like what Pizza Hut is up to with it's original pies. Is this pizza worthy of mention or would you say it's just a regional variant of Pizza Americana?
"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."
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#13 Peter Reinhart

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 11:57 AM

Where do you think Greek pizza fits in? I don't mean pizza with feta, but rather the dominant style in New England sub shops, often run by Greeks (and often pretty horrible, unfortunately).

It's non-deep pan pizza which, at it's best, has a crust that is sort of doughy but with a crunchy/oily exterior. Sort of like what Pizza Hut is up to with it's original pies. Is this pizza worthy of mention or would you say it's just a regional variant of Pizza Americana?

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Yes, I do think of it as a variant of pizza Americana--I think the Greek immigrants learned their pizzacraft here, not in Greece, and because so many of them are good cooks with a great work ethic, they essentially dominate the local restaurant scene wherever they live. This isn't just true with pizza but in any city with a large Greek population (like Charlotte, for instance, where I now live, or Houston where the Pappas family seems to own every other restaurant in town, even barbecue and Tex Mex places), many Greeks just seem to have a natural talent for the restaurant business. That's why even in Greek pizzerias you will find as many crust variations as across the rest of the country, even if the style seems similar.

#14 formerly grueldelux

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Posted 10 October 2004 - 07:57 AM

Yes, I do think of it as a variant of pizza Americana--I think the Greek immigrants learned their pizzacraft here, not in Greece, and because so many of them are good cooks with a great work ethic, they essentially dominate the local restaurant scene wherever they live. This isn't just true with pizza but in any city with a large Greek population (like Charlotte, for instance, where I now live, or Houston where the Pappas family seems to own every other restaurant in town, even barbecue and Tex Mex places), many Greeks just seem to have a natural talent for the restaurant business.  That's why even in Greek pizzerias you will find as many crust variations as across the rest of the country, even if the style seems similar.

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Thought I should clarify my question after the fact. I can't really speak for New England as a whole, just Boston/Cambridge (and barely that since I ain't from around here origionally.) Yes, Greeks run all sorts of restaurants and make all sorts of pizza, but there seems to be a recognizable Greek style pizza here that's has a fairly specific crust. Perhaps someone can describe it better?
"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."
-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson