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Detroit Style Pizza at Boston Pizza in Astoria
History of Detroit Style Pizza
Naples. New York City. Chicago. New Haven. These four cities are some of the most well-known for having a prominent pizza scene. But, there is another city in the Midwest that has a pizza style that has exploded in popularity. Although it has only recently gained traction outside of Michigan, Detroit style pizza dates back over 70 years. In a Pure Michigan article, Tony Sinicropi discussed how the style was born from a neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous, owned by Gus and Anna Guerra. The birth of a pizza style in a bar is not a singular occurrence, as the Old Forge style was also developed in a bar. Anna got the recipe from her Sicilian mother and Detroit style pizza was born. Buddy’s is now a prolific chain in the Detroit area and has been ranked in the Best 101 Pizza List by The Daily Meal on several occasions. There is also Loui’s, which was opened by a former Buddy’s chef and has also received praise.
Characteristics of Detroit Style Pizza
Detroit style pizza is characterized by a square shape with crispy edges from the cheese that caramelizes on the sides of the special deep pan. Although it looks heavy at first glance, the dough is meant to be light and airy. Traditionally, the cheese used is Wisconsin brick and sauce is applied on top. Fittingly, it is said that Gus received his first pans from a friend who worked in the factory, where they were used for spare parts. These characteristics give Detroit style pizza a unique texture, taste and an ode to the heavy manufacturing presence that the city was once known for.
Detroit Style Pizza in NYC
Detroit style pizza has become wildly popular in NYC in recent years. The first eatery to put Detroit style pizza on the map in the city was Emmy Squared, which opened in 2016. Although I haven’t visited yet, it has received widespread acclaim and is from the owners of Emily in Brooklyn. Here, they serve a creative variety of whole Detroit style pies in a sit-down restaurant setup. They also offer a variety of burgers and other dishes. Since then, it has expanded to a Manhattan location as well as an outpost in Nashville, Tennessee.
In Spring 2018, a new Detroit style pizza joint opened up in Manhattan. Much like Emmy Squared, it was opened as a spin-off of another prominent area pizza spot. The owners of Lions, Tigers and Squares are from the well-known Artichoke Pizza. But, it differs from Emmy Squared in that it is a small take-out style spot as opposed to a sit-down style. Early reviews have been largely positive, though it is also a place where you must order a full pie. Given the ownership, I suspect that it is primed to become a chain, much like Artichoke.
Boston: The Third City in this Tale
How does Boston become relevant in the story of Detroit style pizza? First, some personal background. While growing up in Astoria, Queens, I often saw Boston Pizza and Restaurant while walking or driving through that part of the neighborhood. As a die-hard New York sports fan and native New Yorker, I always found the name curious. It wasn’t until years later that I would learn the significance. Boston Pizza is named for the original business partner of the pizzeria, who brought the recipe from the rival northern city. This recipe is for Greek-style pan pizza, made popular by Greek immigrants in New England who opened pizzerias and put their own twist on it.
Serhan Ayhan: Son of Boston Pizza and Developing Pizzaiolo
I first came in contact with Serhan Ayhan, son of the owners of Boston Pizza, via Instagram through conversations about pizza. Over time, we met and continued to discuss and eat pizza together. On his Instagram page, he showcases different experiments with dough and creative styles of pizza. From these discussions, I could see that he was a student of the craft. He mentioned pizza and bread books and taught me some of the science behind dough. There is so much more to pizza dough than what meets the eye. Hydration levels and fermentation are a couple of the terms associated with the product of flour, water and yeast.
One day, Serhan mentioned that he ordered some Detroit style pizza pans and would try his hand at experimenting with them. At the beginning, he used the ingredients on hand at the family pizzeria with visually promising results. One night, he invited a group of friends and I to the pizzeria to try his creation. This was my first Detroit style pizza experience and I enjoyed it. The crispy edges of caramelized cheese were delicious and the lightness of the dough was impressive. Immediately, I became a fan of the style and was encouraged to see what Serhan could do with it.
Detroit Style Pizza by the Slice: Pop Up at Boston Pizza in Astoria
Shortly after that experience, Serhan told me his plan to start a Detroit style pizza pop-up at Boston Pizza on Sundays. Naturally, I marked my calendar when he announced the date and brought a pair of pizza-crazed friends. After one bite, I could taste a difference in the consistency of the dough. It was even lighter, airier and crisper than the first version. He told me that he made the dough by hand for this batch. There was also a different cheese blend, as he added some white cheddar to the mozzarella and topped it with Parmesan. All three of us ordered two slices each, which we quickly devoured and thoroughly enjoyed.
It is exciting to watch an individual who works on their craft to develop. Also, there is a great opportunity to be the only pizzeria that offers Detroit style pizza by the slice. As we mentioned before in the L’industrie Pizzeria post, there is a renaissance for pizza in NYC. It is fitting that this Detroit style pizza pop up fits into the resurgence of by the slice spots.
Have you tried Detroit style pizza before? What did you think? Where is your favorite place for it? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Boston Pizza and Restaurant
Astoria, NY 11103
Where can I purchase side by side pans like lions and tigers square