Legend has it that Detroit-style pizza got its start in 1946 when bar owner Gus Guerra’s wife, Anna, made a pizza in a rectangular mechanics’ pan using thick Sicilian dough. The Motor City specialty has gained traction across the country in the past few years for its thicker crust and unique layering of cheese on bottom, followed by red sauce and then more cheese on top.
When Garry Boyd, vice president of food, beverage and innovation for BarFly Ventures, was asked to develop a pizza menu for the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based chain HopCat, he looked for inspiration in his home state. “I thought, if we’re a Michigan company, and we’re going to travel and open locations across the country, it makes sense to serve Detroit-style pizzas; we can take it to Nebraska and Florida and Missouri,” he says. HopCat opened its first Missouri location in Kansas City in March – another location will open early next year in the St. Louis area – serving square versions of the Motor City staple. In the kitchen, balls of dough proof in square pans before they’re pressed into the sides and allowed to proof again. “The nickname of Detroit-style pizza is ‘upside down:’ We put the cheese in first, after the dough, and we push the cheese in around the corners to create a cheese wall – dough right into cheese – so that when we bake it, that cheese will interact with the dough,” Boyd says. A layer of red sauce is added next, followed by more cheese and toppings, and then the pizza is baked and cut into four large square pieces. Popular pizzas include the HepCat with chorizo, Feta and red onion, and the Canadian, with bacon, cheese curds and green olives. Head to HopCat for happy hour Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6pm, when pizzas are $5 off.
Hopcat, 401 Westport Road, Westport, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.656.3439, hopcat.com
The ‘za at Ziggy’s Pizza, with two locations in Wichita, Kansas, is “semi-Detroit-style” according to general manager David Weldon. The pizzas are baked in custom-made rectangular pans and aren’t quite as thick as what’s traditional in Detroit, but are thicker than hand-tossed pies. Fresh dough, made daily, is stretched over the pans before sauce, cheese and toppings are added. Popular pizzas include the Meat Me at Ziggy’s with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, ground beef and smoked bacon, and the White Delight, which combines cream cheese, grilled chicken, smoked bacon, green peppers and red onions and is served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. “I was hesitant of it because I don’t like cream cheese, but as soon as I tried it, I was hooked,” Weldon says. Pizzas are cut into eight slices with one exception: During lunch, the rectangular pies are cut into only six pieces and each is sold by the slice. “The most common reaction we get about the pizza is, ‘Oh, it’s square, not round?’ It’s unexpected," he says.
Ziggy's Pizza, multiple locations, Wichita, Kansas, ziggyswichita.com
As its name suggests, Porano Pasta didn’t initially focus on pizza when it opened in January 2016: The debut menu at James Beard award-winning chef Gerard Craft’s fast-casual Italian-inspired concept included build-your-own pasta and grain bowls. Within six months, executive chef Michael Petres introduced a personal favorite to the menu. “I was making Detroit-style pizzas in a cast-iron pan at home, and I’d put some of them on Instagram, and Gerard said, ‘Why don’t we do that here?’” he says. To make the pies, Petres cold ferments from-scratch, Sicilian-style pizza dough overnight and then portions it out in the morning; it then cold ferments again for half a day. Once at room temperature, it’s pressed into the corners of Porano’s 1-inch-thick pans, where it’s allowed one final proof before being topped, baked and cut into six squares. “The most popular pizzas are the Margherita and the pepperoni; the Margherita is just red sauce, a blend of mozzarella and Provolone cheeses and fresh basil,” Petres says. “The pepperoni is the same sauce and cheeses, and then pepperoni with some Romano cheese on top.” He adds that the pizzas have been hugely popular, allowing for “off-the-wall” specials like a cheeseburger pizza with pickles, raw onion, shredded lettuce, meatballs and a Dijonnaise sauce.
Porano Pasta, 634 Washington Ave., Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.833.6414, poranopasta.com