While Neapolitan and New York-style pizzas have taken the world by storm, there’s more styles of pizza than many people might imagine—even within the United States! From California’s fresh, farm-to-table pizzas to Sicily’s thick and doughy pizzas, there’s a style of pizza to suit just about any palate.
Curiously, nearly all of these styles share the same common ancestor: Neapolitan pizza.
Invented in Naples, Italy in the 18th century, Neapolitan pizza is known for its thin, chewy crust and fresh ingredients. Neapolitan pizzas are traditionally cooked in a roaring-hot wood oven and topped with only a handful of fresh ingredients. One famous example is margherita, where a simple pomodoroor tomato sauce is topped with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, torn basil leaves, and a drizzle of fresh olive oil.
It’s commonly agreed that Neapolitan pizza is the common ancestor of almost any other pizza style. However, even the Italians have variations—especially the Sicilians.
Where Neapolitan pizza is thin and fresh, Sicilian pizza—commonly known as focaccia—is thick and fluffy. All that extra dough allows for slightly stronger toppings, with generous layers of tomato sauce, fresh herbs, and strong cheeses sharing the spotlight. While some Sicilian pizza is round, most are rectangular and sliced into squares.
Though both Neapolitan and Sicilian pizza are beloved in Italy, the Neapolitan pizza would be the first to make its way across the Atlantic and into the United States, where it would take on a new form.
The ultra-thin and ultra-wide New York style pizza may have been born in New York City, but it had Italian parents! The New York style pizza is credited to Italian immigrants who came to New York City in the 19th century, bringing their pizza traditions with them.
Eventually, the Neapolitan pizza from the old country would transform into the massive, thin, and economical (and delicious) pizza that New Yorkers love today. While cheese and pepperoni are the classic toppings, New Yorkers still get creative—something that shows when they cut their pizza with scissors!
Not all American-born pizzas bear a family resemblance to Neapolitan pizza. Chicago’s deep dish pizza is one very delicious—and very unique—example. Here, instead of placing toppings on a flat crust, a deep, thick crust is filled with generous layers of meat, cheese, and tomato sauce, and then baked almost like a casserole. Interestingly, the sauce goes on top!
Though you may need a knife and fork to eat it, Chicago deep dish pizza is worth the effort—and it’s a meal in itself.
California’s creativity and fresh approach has not only influenced film and the arts: It’s also influenced pizza. Here, the farm-to-table movement is brought into the pizza ovens where individual pizzas are topped with farm-fresh vegetables, herbs, and, most famously, an egg! It’s unconventional, but it’s also wonderful—just like California itself.
If any city has learned from the Sicilians, it’s Detroit! Like Sicilian pizza, Detroit style pizza takes advantage of rectangular pans to maximize surface area and toppings. The result is a similarly square pizza, only topped with the wide variety of toppings American pizzas are known for.
Though a controversial style for many pizza lovers, just as many love the rich combination of fresh pineapple and ham atop their pizza. Even if you don’t like Hawaiian pizza, don’t take it out on Hawaii: It was actually invented in Portland, Oregon in 1957!
Whether a classic Neapolitan pizza or a Chicago deep dish pizza, any style of pizza is made better by a professional high-temperature pizza oven. Without extremely high temperatures and short cooking times, you may be missing out on some of the most delicious pizza flavors.