above, Top: lou malnati’s deep dish Chicago-style pizza.
above, bo TTom: Gary bimonte of Frank pepe pizzeria Napoletana in New haven, says his grandfather was the first to open a
pizza restaurant in Connecticut.
Just after World War I, gas ovens revolutionized the genre, allowing for easy reheating and
sales by the slice rather than the whole pie. The transformation made pizza more accessible to
the masses, and even converted New York pizza into handheld street food.
The revitalization of Detroit has coincided with a rising interest in “red top” pizza. The
nickname describes pies that are baked in square pans and finished with sauce—the signature
style in Detroit. While the saucy pizza has been around since the ’40s, it only recently began
spreading across the country, heating up in places such as Telluride, Colorado, Denver and,
yes, even New York.
Gus Guerra started the tradition at Buddy’s Rendezvous in 1946 when his mother-in-law
Crucifissa convinced him to add food to his bar menu to improve cash flow. She taught him
her Sicilian dough recipe. Guerra put the dough into rectangular blue-steel pans typically
used for auto parts.
“He topped the dough with cheese all the way to edges, then pressed other toppings into
the dough. The cheese caramelized with the dough to create a golden crust,” says Marie
Guerra Easterby, Gus’s daughter and co-owner with her brother Jack of Cloverleaf Pizza in
Eastpointe, Michigan. “Then he ladled the sauce right on top before baking.” And that became the
model for Detroit-style pizza.
But the key to Motor City pizza isn’t the dough, or even the ingredients. It’s the pan. More
cast-iron skillet than pizza pan or cookie sheet, Detroit-style pizza pans are thick and heavy and
produce a soft, airy crust with crisp edges.