While we cannot say we’ve never had a bad slice, pizza is one of the world’s great satisfactions. It’s that very rare dish for which this can be said: Even when mediocre, it’s still kinda good. It still manages to placate, still comforts that part of your soul that will always long for hot melty cheese and tomato sauce intermingled on oven-baked bread.
We each grew up in New Jersey, where good thin-crust pizza abounds. The mom-and-pop pizzerias our respective families frequented were reliably delicious, and greasy $2 boardwalk slices never failed to hit the spot, even when it wasn’t 2 a.m. Now we’re spoiled in New York City, where even the closest neighborhood joint will turn out a hot, glistening slice to satiate your craving and keep you going till the next one, and where we’re within easy striking distance of other American pizza centers, like New Haven, Connecticut. This is, after all, the so-called U.S. pizza belt.
But one of the pleasures of traveling is seeing how other people do things. We have a long way to go in documenting all the regional styles of pizza across the world—hence, we are asking our readers for some help in our current contest—but we’ve had a pretty good taste so far of how pizza is translated across cultures. Thick or thin, crispy or wet, square or round, plain or loaded with toppings—the possibilities are endless, and we’re always digging up more. Here are some highlights from our global pizza search (in no particular order).
Square and cheesy and splashed with tomato sauce on top, the classic Detroit “square pizza” has a thick, crispy exterior crust and doughy insides. Rather than mozzarella cheese, most of these pies use a secret blend that includes Wisconsin brick cheese. Read more
Paying tribute to the U.S.’s second-ever pizzeria, Joe’s Tomato Pies of Trenton, New Jersey, so-called tomato pies like this one are traditionally made with cheese first and then chunky tomato sauce, so a slice is dotted with little piles (or swirls, in this case) of tomato. Read more
New York City (pie)
Very hot coal-fired ovens, of which there’s a finite number left, are responsible for this old-school brand of New York pizza, which is to say, Neapolitan-American pizza: the ingredients and methods of pizza in Naples, brought and adapted here by Italian immigrants. Over the years the tradition has evolved into what you see here: a pie larger, rounder, and crispier than in Naples; with a thinner (yet still supple), slightly smoky crust, some char underneath, and a great, generous cheese-sauce ratio. Read more
New York City (slice)
The famed New York slice came about once gas ovens took off in the U.S. Cut from a large, round tomato-sauce-and-shredded-mozzarella pie, this slice is defined by a thin, wide, crispy yet supple crust that begs to be folded. Yes, how you eat a slice in NYC is nearly as important as what it looks and tastes like—forks and knives are not OK. Read more
True Neapolitan pizza margherita is a beautiful thing, with the freshest of local ingredients, a light and puffy crust, and a wet and creamy middle that melts in your mouth. Read more
Buffalo, New York
It’s not just pizza topped with chicken, blue cheese, and hot sauce (though that exists too). It’s cheesy and doughy with a healthy amount of sweetish tomato sauce and a thickness somewhere between the traditional pies of New York and Chicago. Pepperoni is the preferred topping, always charred and curled around the edges. Read more
New Haven, Connecticut
Here’s another prominent style of old-school Neapolitan-American pizza given a local twist: New Haven is best known for its white clam pizzas, a salty, tasty mix of chopped clams, grated cheese, olive oil, garlic, and oregano. The city’s tomato pies, a simple affair of fresh tomato sauce with a dusting of grated pecorino romano cheese, are also delicious. Read more
California pizza is generally thin-crust, but it’s defined by what goes on top. That’s where chefs have been free to experiment and refine the pie into something healthier, more seasonal, and more gourmet—think artichoke hearts, avocado, and goat cheese rather than pepperoni and meatballs. Californians like vegetables, didn’t you know? Read more
Alas, no photo—yet—but Chicago is, of course, famed for its thick, deep pies (and though this list is not by any means exhaustive, these must be mentioned). They’re a huge source of pride for Chicagoans and often pretty baffling to outsiders, who may wonder how something two inches thick is really pizza. No matter, it’s a popular style across the nation now, well established in the U.S. pizza landscape.
This is a good reminder of how the general idea of pizza—cooking flatbreads with toppings—has been widespread across many cultures long before the first pie was made in Italy. Lahmacun is the Turkish variety, with a thin crust and topping of mincemeat and garlicky, lemony seasoning. Thanks to the Turkish population in Amsterdam, it’s popular there too. Read more