Detroit Style Pizza vs Chicago: Not So Different After All!

Published Categorized as Journal

If you’re searching for hearty, filling food that can make your leftovers stretch that extra mile, look no further than the Detroit-style pizza and Chicago pizzas! These “‘za”s, though different in origin and make, create some incredible and unique dishes. Far evolved from their hand-tossed ancestors, these pies are sure to be a nice change from the regular old Margherita.

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man placing detroit style pizza into a pizza oven

General Pizza History 101

Pizza; this seemingly simple food has a much richer history than you may think.

Arising in ancient Rome, some of the classic pizzas we know and love today were originally created for royalty! Even so, pizza has only survived throughout the centuries by virtue of its simplicity and adaptability.

The same is true of ‘Americanized’ pizzas that many hold dear today – these pizzas would never have been born were it not for Italian immigration to the United States, and the innovation the challenges of emigration warranted.

To explain further, this change in environment and culture sometimes meant extremely limited access to traditional foods and their ‘proper’ ingredients. From a mixture of hard work, nostalgia, and ingenuity, new pizzas were born! Once the first food frontier had been overcome, more room for creativity opened up. Destined to progress beyond creations of necessity, Italian-American descendants were apt to experiment with their dishes. Combining American ingredients with Italian culture and all-new ideas, many new pizzas arose – including a certain special two.

What Is Detroit And Chicago Style Pizza?

Detroit and Chicago-style pizzas are two different types of pizza that were first created in Detroit and Chicago, respectively. They were both developed by the descendants of Italian immigrants, and share a fair few similarities.

Despite this, they are still fundamentally different dishes – the history and differences of which will be covered.

Some other ‘Americanized’ pizzas include New York-style pizza, California-style pizza, and ‘Hawaiian’ pizza (actually from Ontario).

green Pizza neon signage

The History

Detroit Style Pizza

Created in 1946 at Buddy’s Rendezvous, Eastside Detroit, the Detroit-style pizza was invented by Gus Guerra and Connie Piccinato. These first square-style pizzas were actually baked in pans borrowed from local automotive plants.

Although the Detroit pizza was the first of its kind in the USA, it is thought to have been inspired by the Sicilian sfincione. This spongy focaccia-based pizza is traditionally baked in a rectangular pan.

Since its creation, Detroit-style pizza has influenced American culture even further! Sheet pizzas were a novel concept inspired by the rectangular shape of Detroit pizza. They are now favored at kids’ birthday parties for their enhanced shareability and cost-effectiveness.

Chicago Style Pizza

The origins of the windy city’s iconic pizza pie are heavily debated and obscured in mystery.

The only concrete fact we know is that the first deep dish pizzas, as we know them today, were served at Pizzeria Uno. 70 years later, the original Pizzeria Uno not only remains standing but has continued its legacy through the huge brand Uno Chicago Grill.

With that, lets get into the nitty gritty of this controversy.

The Malnati’s vs Pizzeria Uno

Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened Pizzeria Uno in 1943 – this is undisputed. What is however disputed is the involvement that the Malnati’s – another prominent pizza family – had in creating the original deep dish pizza.

In short, Rudy Malnati – a former employee of Uno’s – claims that the deep dish only came about by his doing. After Rudy created the pizzas, he and Riccardo would allegedly hand out slices of Uno’s deep dish on street corners. The Malnati’s insist that Sewell only came in later. To push the matter further, records of either Sewell or Riccardo making pizza are absent.

After Riccardo’s death, the Malnati’s claim that Rudy and his son Lou took over Pizzeria Uno until Rudy also passed. Lou claims to have struggled to find his place in the restaurant after. As a result, he opened Lou Malnati’s pizzeria in 1971 on the North Shore of Lincolnwood.

To muddy the waters, even more, Lou Malnati had a half-brother. This brother ended up opening his own joint – Pizano’s – in 1991, in downtown Chicago. A waiter at Pizano’s has since stated that Rudy and Lou’s mother bestowed onto him the original recipe put together by the Malnati patriarch himself.

Despite all of this back and forth, it’s rumored that the genuine beginnings of the deep dish are dated even earlier… The late 1930s.

Conflict Conceived?

In this version of the story, the Chicago deep-dish pizza was born of necessity from Neapolitan immigrants in Chicago. The deep-dish was created to stretch leftovers out as toppings, and to create a filling meal from a restricted amount of ingredients during the second world war. This was a clever and convenient choice as the ingredients for the dough itself were not rationed, making it easy to use up everything else that could not be wasted while still providing a filling meal.


What’s The Difference Between Detroit And Chicago Deep Dish Pizza?

Chicago deep dish and Detroit style pizza differ in a few ways.

To return to the historical element of their creation, Detroit style pizza was heavily inspired by the Sicilian sfincione pizza! Chicago, on the other hand, was influenced by Neapolitan culture.

In addition to this, they have a few differences from in dough texture and layering-style that I’ve put into a table below to compare. I’ve also added ordinary hand stretched pizza as a control subject to evaluate against.

Hand-Stretched Pizza Chicago Deep-DishDetroit Style Pizza
DoughUsually thin, bread-like with some more crispinessThinner than you might expect, crispy/crunchy cracker-like crust with a bread-like interiorThick, buttery, flakey and surprisingly airy! Famous for its square shape with and crispy corner-piece cheese
LayersSauce, cheese, toppings (pepperoni is also popular)Cheese, sausage, other fillings, cheese, pepperoni, saucePepperoni, other toppings, cheese, strips of sauce
making your own detroit style pizza dough

Detroit vs Chicago Deep Dish Pizza – How Are They Made?

The majority of the differences between Chicago’s deep dish and Detroit-style pizza lie in the ways that they are created. So, let’s get into it!

Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit-style pizza differs from Chicago in that the dough is double proofed, then fit into a square pan. This process allows the dough to rise and be stretched twice. Then, in a similar fashion to deep-dish, the toppings are layered backward.

Slices of pepperoni are placed directly onto the dough to infuse the dough with flavor. Next, Wisconsin cheese is sprinkled over it before the addition of other toppings. To complete the pizza, the sauce is carefully ladled across the length of the dish – traditionally, in three-wide stripes. Then it all goes into the oven for baking.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Whilst sharing some similarities, Chicago deep dish differs in a few ways. For starters, deep-dish uses a different pan! The dough is placed into an olive oil and flour-coated circular cake pan. The sides are pressed up against the pan to form a crust, which works to hold in all the fillings like a traditional pie.

The topping-layering usually starts off with either a layer of sliced mozzarella or crumbled Italian sausage, followed shortly by another layer of rich, gooey cheese. From there, pepperonis are added and the ‘za is drenched in tangy tomato sauce. Crushed tomatoes are sometimes used instead, and vegetables may be added to the fillings.

When in the oven, the olive oil works to lightly fry the dough while the sauce saves the cheese from baking to a crisp. This all results in a golden, crunchy crust with rich flavors and cascading melted cheese.

Making Your Own: Tips And Tricks!

  • When making a Chicago deep-dish, make sure to layer the cheese below the sauce otherwise, it will burn. Deep-dish is also cooked for longer, so be careful with how many fillings you put in – make it too thick, and the pizza dough will be undercooked and potentially inedible.
  • Tomato sauce too acidic? You can cut the acidity in tomato sauce by adding a little milk or sugar! There are a few other options available too.
  • Likewise, if you have leftover pizza/tomato sauce after baking, you can use it in pasta! Just make sure that you season it well.

Pizza Wars: Who Makes The Best Pizzas And Where?

Whilst this is a subjective topic, I’ve tried my best to pull from different sources and rank the best-rated pizzerias available. I’ve also added a video for each list so you want to get a better look at these ‘zas!

Who Makes The Best Detroit-Style Pizza?

  1. Como’s
    • Como’s was by far the pizzeria that most people said they preferred – however, it’s a little pricier than the other options.
  2. Buddy’s Rendezvous
    • This list wouldn’t be fair at all if it didn’t include the birthplace of the Detroit pizza! Many stated that this classic joint was their favorite pizza place, and with recipes guarded and passed down from 1946 no place could be truer to Motown.
  3. Cloverleaf
    • A split off from Buddy’s, Cloverleaf has carried the same Detroit pan pizza recipe for 68 years. With daily-made fresh dough and a memorable signature sauce, Cloverleaf remains an icon of Detroit.
  4. Loui’s Pizza
    • Uniquely charred with a thick crust, Loui’s does NOT skimp on toppings! The antipasto and Greek salad have also received high praise from reviewers and the commitment to the era makes for a wonderful dining atmosphere.

Who Makes The Best Chicago Style Pizza?

  1. Pequod’s
    • Nominated for best deep dish in Chicago multiple times, it’s no surprise that Pequod’s makes the top of this list. The restaurant uses a unique pan design that allows the cheese to caramelize on the crust. This ‘local’s favorite pizza’ not only has a crust that is to die for, but the sausage has a touch of spice and bold seasoning, with sauce renowned for its delicious tang.
  2. Lou Malnati’s
    • Lou Malnati’s – a classic choice for a Chicago deep dish. With a flakey melt-in-your-mouth butter crust and sausage that covers the whole base, this pizza is truly one of the Greats. To top it all off, the freshness of the tomato sauce balances out the grease! Break off a piece of the thick, crunchy crust to dip into your dish!
  3. Giordano’s
    • This thick pie is stuffed with an insane amount of cheese, with a tangy tomato sauce that keeps it from becoming overpowering. Fresh, flavorful, and sweet, Giordano’s pizza has a flakey, thick crust.
  4. Gino’s East
    • A meaty layer of evenly distributed sausage greets cornmeal-like crumbly dough and a rich sauce-covered cheese top creates a pizza reminiscent of the Midwest.
melted cheese being prepared for chicago and detroit-style pizza

Detroit Style Pizza vs Chicago Style Pizza: FAQs

Is Detroit-style pizza from Detroit?

Yes, Detroit-style pizza was first made in Eastside Detroit, at the original Buddy’s restaurant – which actually began as a speakeasy, before moving to pizzas.

Does deep-dish come from Chicago?

Yes, deep-dish pizza – at least as we know it today – was first made at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. Even before that, during the Second World War, the ancestor of the deep-dish was being made by Neapolitan immigrants in Chicago.

Is Detroit-style pizza any good?

Detroit-style pizza is a pizza you could nominate for having perfect balance – the cheese on the crust is crispy and flavorful, the middle is gooey, the pepperonis act like little cups of flavor, and the crust is thick yet airy and light.

Is deep-dish pizza good?

The Chicago deep dish is a hearty pie, stuffed to the brim with rich cheese and fillings. Covered in a tangy tomato sauce, the crust is crunchy whilst the base is thinner and more on the crispy side. If that sounds good to you, then it must be good!

Is deep-dish pizza really pizza?

The answer to this question is entirely subjective; cheese wasn’t even included on pizzas until 1889! Regardless, someone who views things as immutable may still try to argue that deep dish isn’t pizza. Aside from any legal mandate – which is NOT applicable to deep-dish – the boundaries between different foods remain abstract, as they shift with the cultures they are influenced by.

What makes Detroit-style pizza different?

Detroit-style pizza differs from other kinds of pizza in shape, layering technique, and dough texture. It starts with a very buttery square-shaped dough that’s crispy on the bottom and corners and is layered with thick pepperoni slices, other toppings, then Wisconsin cheese, and three stripes of tomato sauce.

What is the difference between Chicago-style pizza and ordinary pizza?

The differences between Chicago deep-dish and ‘regular’ pizzas are boundless – to start with, deep-dish is baked in a, well, deep dish. It is also layered completely differently, with sausage being the first and sauce being the last. It is deep and pie-like, with a thinnish base and talll, crispy crusts.

Detroit-Style Pizza vs Pan Pizza: The Main Takeaway

Ultimately, the main differences between deep-dish and Detroit-style pizzas are the shape and the dough. A deep dish is built like a pie – the crust is brought up along the edges of a deep, circular pan and acts as a bowl to hold in the fillings once baked. Detroit pizza is made in a deepish square pan, though it is not used as a pie – it’s made more like an ordinary hand-stretched pizza, though it is layered ‘upside down’ like a Chicago deep dish. Traditionally, they have different toppings and use different kinds of cheeses, and their doughs have different processes and textures.

More yummy food to learn about!

Categorized as Journal

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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