We won’t proselytize once again just how much better Detroit deep-dish pizza is than Chicago’s Sahara-dry brick of crust hollowed out sufficient to pour in a tepid pool of marinara sauce. It totally is, but that’s not why we’re here.
Detroit deep-dish pizza is just as much a reflection of Detroit as it is a revelation in Jets Pizza menu. And sure, most outsiders don’t comprehend it, but Detroiters don’t require the validation of outsiders to understand what a good thing they’ve got going on right here. It might be stubborn in their resistance to the typical pizza form, playing fast and loose with the thought of “toppings” as well as the “order” where they go on, but its uncompromising individualism is an element of what causes it to be so damn enjoyable. Detroit is its deep-dish pizza, and the deep-dish pizza is Detroit.
And so we’re here to cover homage for that most superior of deep-dish pizzas, the deep-dish pizza to which all other so-called “deep dish” pizzas aspire to: Detroit deep dish.
First, it starts with a small amount of automotive history. Detroit may be its deep-dish pizza, however it is even more therefore the Motor City, and several local innovations over the past century are directly born looking at the automotive roots. Like our neighborhood-skewering freeways and vast swathes of parking lots. (Nobody said all innovation was inherently good.)
And so it is that, in 1946, Gus Guerra was trying to add new menu things to his struggling neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous at 6 Mile and Conant, and acquired a few unused blue steel (not the Zoolander pose, the grade of steel) industrial utility trays coming from a friend who worked at a factory.
He thought the lipped trays makes a great Sicilian-style pizza, despite their rectangular shape. He happened to get right: all of the characteristics which make Detroit deep-dish pizza distinctively itself are the result of the heavy trays, much like cast iron skillets, used to bake them. The crunchy exterior crust soaked through with oil and bubbled over with caramelized cheese, the soft and airy interior crust: it’s all thanks to these repurposed trays.
Legend receives a little shaky here, nevertheless the preferred version of local lore is that Guerra’s wife Anna got the dough recipe for his or her signature deep-dish pizza from her Sicilian mother. The alternative story is that an older Sicilian dude named Dominic taught Guerra the “Sicilian way.” Blame the omert?ode of honor for the silence and subsequent speculation. In any event, Detroit deep dish’s roots are in Sicily, with the unique dough, sfincione, being more akin to a focaccia than what’s typically identified with pizza, which appears to be a defining characteristic about Detroit’s hot take on the subject. It defies what’s considered traditional.
From your Sicilian dough and the rectangular trays, the toppings go directly on top of the dough; the pizza will be piled over with high-fat, semi-soft Wisconsin brick cheese up to the sides of the pan, melting on the sides in the crust and caramelizing, bubbling up nice and brown at the top and melting at the center. It gets another layer of toppings following that, and, lastly, the final touch: streaks of thick red sauce over top. The effect is actually a dense deep dish that still manages to be light mfpeyl airy, packed with flavor and plenty of the coveted corner pieces to go around.
There is not any dispute that Buddy’s — now with 11 locations throughout Metro Detroit — was the originator, and also the other local institutions who have made a good name for themselves with their own versions of Detroit jet’s hours did so through a point of cultural diffusion.
Just across the street from Buddy’s, the those who own Shield’s took notice of the competitor’s newfound popularity and hired away Buddy’s long-time chef, Louis Tourtrois Sr., to create their pies. Shield’s has since expanded to 3 locations inside the suburbs (the original Detroit location has disappeared). Tourtrois eventually moved on to start their own pizzeria, Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park, widely considered among locals to be the greatest of their class.