We won’t proselytize once more just how much better Detroit deep-dish pizza is than Chicago’s Sahara-dry brick of crust hollowed out just enough 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 since it is a revelation in Jets Pizza menu 2020. And sure, most outsiders don’t understand it, but Detroiters don’t need the validation of outsiders to be aware what a very important thing they’ve got going on below. It might be stubborn in the potential to deal with the normal pizza form, playing fast and loose with the idea of “toppings” and also the “order” by which they continue, but its uncompromising individualism is part of the things makes it so damn enjoyable. Detroit is its deep-dish pizza, and the deep-dish pizza is Detroit.
And so we’re here to pay for homage to that most superior of deep-dish pizzas, the deep-dish pizza that other so-called “deep dish” pizzas aspire to: Detroit deep dish.
First, it begins with a little bit of automotive history. Detroit may be its deep-dish pizza, yet it is even more therefore the Motor City, and lots of local innovations in the last 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 the fact, in 1946, Gus Guerra was looking to add new menu things to his struggling neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous at 6 Mile and Conant, and acquired a couple of unused blue steel (not the Zoolander pose, the grade of steel) industrial utility trays coming from a friend who worked in a factory.
He thought the lipped trays would make an excellent Sicilian-style pizza, despite their rectangular shape. He happened to be right: each of the characteristics that will make Detroit deep-dish pizza distinctively itself are the consequence 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 due to these repurposed trays.
Legend receives a little shaky here, however the preferred version of local lore is the fact Guerra’s wife Anna got the dough recipe for their signature deep-dish pizza from her Sicilian mother. The alternative story is the fact 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 will be in Sicily, using the unique dough, sfincione, being more similar to a focaccia than what’s typically identified with pizza, which seems to be a defining characteristic about Detroit’s hot take on the subject. It defies what’s considered traditional.
Through the Sicilian dough as well as the rectangular trays, the toppings go directly on the top of the dough; the pizza will be piled over with higher-fat, semi-soft Wisconsin brick cheese up to the edges in the pan, melting within the sides in the crust and caramelizing, bubbling up nice and brown at the top and melting in the middle. It gets another layer of toppings next, and, lastly, the ultimate touch: streaks of thick red sauce over top. The effect is a dense deep dish that also seems to be light mfpeyl airy, filled with flavor and plenty of the coveted corner pieces to visit around.
There is not any dispute that Buddy’s — with 11 locations throughout Metro Detroit — was the originator, and also the other local institutions who have produced a term for themselves using their own versions of Detroit jet’s pizza hours did so through a matter of cultural diffusion.
Just across the street from Buddy’s, the owners of Shield’s took notice of the competitor’s newfound popularity and hired away Buddy’s long-time chef, Louis Tourtrois Sr., to make their pies. Shield’s has since expanded to 3 locations inside the suburbs (the original Detroit location has disappeared). Tourtrois eventually advanced to open their own pizzeria, Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park, widely considered among locals to be the ideal of the class.