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Detroit-style pizza with pepperoni on an Ooni Bamboo Peel & Serving Board.
Detroit-style pizza with pepperoni on an Ooni Bamboo Peel & Serving Board.

Let’s Get Deep: A Brief History of (and Recipes for) Our Favourite Pan Pizzas

Arguably the most indulgent of pizza styles with its thick crust and extra generous layers of cheese and toppings—pan pizza is not only iconic—it’s a cause to celebrate. Read on for a look into this pizza styles’ history, variations and recipes to try at home.

Chicago-style Pizza

If we’re going to talk about pan pizza, we need to talk about Chicago. According to UNOs, their “story begins in Chicago in 1943 when Ike Sewell developed deep dish pizza and opened a new type of restaurant at the corner of Ohio & Wabash.” There are differing opinions, though, on who invented the Chicago-style deep dish; while Ike Sewell claims credit to it, amateur historian Peter Regas found many holes in his (and UNO’s) story.

What remains true is that this pizza is a crowd favourite and one of the most filling styles around. The crust features an almost scone-like consistency and usually includes butter or corn oil in the dough. The toppings are notably placed in reverse—the cheese goes on the crust, followed by meat, vegetables or whatever your heart desires (we like ours with onions, peppers, and Italian sausage), finished with the tomato sauce and, if desired, sprinkled with grated parmesan.

Check out our recipe for Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.

Sicilian-style Pizza

Originally a street food, our second pan pizza offering is the Sicilian-style, or sfincione, as it’s known in Italy. Baked in a rimmed sheet pan, the dough rises to a lovely, chewy thickness and is cut into large square slices before serving. Traditionally, the sfincione is topped with onions, tomatoes, anchovies, oregano, caciocavallo (a hard Sicilian sheep’s milk cheese) and a layer of breadcrumbs for a crispy, golden finish.

In our version, we swap out anchovies and oregano for aubergine and basil, and a mix of fresh and shredded mozzarella in place of caciocavallo. As with Chicago-style, the sfincione layers the cheese first, then adds the toppings of aubergine and marinara sauce. Served piping hot, this hearty pizza will please vegetarians and carnivores alike.

Check out our recipe for Sicilian Pizza.

Detroit-style pizza with pepperoni and tomato sauce racing stripes.

Detroit-style Pizza

With its thick, bouncy base, crispy crust and stunning cheesy edges, Detroit-style pizza is distinctive both in look and flavour. Invented sometime in the 1940s in the Midwest, this version of pan pizza traditionally relies on a brick cheese from Wisconsin that’s known to melt and crisp up quite well. (If you can’t find that in your area, though, white cheddar or low-moisture mozzarella are great substitutes.)

In 1946, Buddy’s Rendezvous, a bar owned by Gus Guerra, was struggling to make money. Gus decided to add new items to his menu and just happened to have a few unused blue steel industrial utility trays, which he thought would make a good Sicilian-style pizza. The trays helped the dough keep its soft and airy crust while also allowing the exterior to be soaked through with oil. Who exactly came up with the dough recipe is under debate (maybe Guerra’s wife, Anna, or an “old Sicilian dude named Dominic”) but what’s fact is that its roots are, indeed, Sicilian.

The cheese goes on the dough, all the way to the edges of the pan, followed by more toppings, and the final touch: streaks of red sauce, honouring the history of the automotive roots of the Motor City. In our version, we’ve added tons of pepperoni for a hit of salt and spice—perfect for any night of the week.

Check out our recipe for Detroit-style Pizza.

Grandma pizza with tomatoes, pepperoni, and mozzarella.

Grandma pizza

Grandma pizza has grown in popularity over the years, going from a regional specialty found at pizzerias in Long Island, New York to a style that’s increasingly a menu standard. Normally made thinner and more dense than a Sicilian-style pie, it’s claimed to have been invented at Umberto’s in the 1970s just for the staff, then sold to the public in the 1980s.

At its most basic, this is a gas oven-fired, square pan-cooked pizza with a scattering of shredded mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. With a crispy base and a soft, bouncy, cheesy top, it’s quick to make and packed with flavour. Perfect for any busy nonna with mouths to feed, hanging with friends or simple weeknight dinners. You can stick with the classic version or try our interpretation that’s topped with mozzarella, pepperoni, fresh tomatoes and chilli flakes. 

Check out our recipe for Grandma-style Pizza.

Previous article A Love Letter to Northeastern Pennsylvania-style Pizza

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