The Detroit-style boom may have put the city's pizza scene on the map, but there are countless more styles worth eating.

By Brittany Hutson
April 28, 2021
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Motor City Brewing Pizza
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Motor City Brewing Works / Photo Treatment by Meredith Digital Design

A decade ago, a ranking of the top pizza cities in America could have easily excluded Detroit. Despite having its own signature style like Chicago and New York, most of the nation was oblivious about the city and its surrounding suburbs as a hotspot for pizza. Detroit is familiar with being the underdog, so it was only a matter of time until the rest of the country caught on to its varied and exciting pizza scene.

Detroit-style pizza achieved mainstream status in 2012 when Shawn Randazzo, founder of Detroit-Style Pizza Company, was named World Champion Pizza Maker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. Over the past decade, Detroit-style pizza's spread to other parts of the country, including Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and Brooklyn. Even chains like Pizza Hut want to get in on all the excitement, adding a version to its menu earlier this year.

Pie-Sci Cheddarkenny Pizza
Credit: Courtesy of Pie-Sci Pizza

Defined by its rectangular shape and a thick, airy and chewy crust, Detroit-style pizza is baked in steel trays and layered with Wisconsin brick cheese and toppings, then finished off with a spread of tomato sauce. It was born in 1946 when Gus Guerra, owner of Buddy's Rendezvous Bar, adopted his mother-in-law's recipe for sfincione: a square pizza made with leftover bread dough, cheese, tomato sauce, and anchovies that Sicilian immigrants brought with them to Detroit a century ago. This year marks 75 years since Guerra introduced this style of pizza to the city, with the first annual national Detroit-style Pizza Day to be held on June 23.

Though the city has joined the upper echelons of American pizza culture thanks to the Detroit-style boom, the local landscape has expanded in recent years, with more experimental concepts featuring a wide array of styles. The city has something for every pizza lover, whether you're looking for rectangular Detroit-style pies, foldable New York slices, Chicago-style deep dish, traditional Neapolitan, or even Bangladeshi-style pizzas.

PizzaPlex
Credit: Featherstone

With the vibrant, growing pizza scene in Detroit, it's hard to narrow down the list. These five pizza places are a great place to start.

Buddy's

Ask for Detroit-style, and more than likely you'll be directed to Buddy's. To residents, this place is legendary, and you can't leave without trying the classic—with loads of melted, caramelized brick cheese, pepperoni, and red sauce on top. There are several Buddy's locations throughout the metro area, but check out the one located downtown on Broadway Street where you're in the middle of the action, surrounded by Comerica Park, the Detroit Opera House, and shopping on nearby Woodward Avenue. buddyspizza.com

Pizza Plex

This neighborhood pizzeria located in Southwest Detroit offers traditional, Neapolitan-style pizza for those who are craving authentic Italian. The restaurant, bar, and coffee shop serves ten different Neapolitan-style pizzas with popular options like the Regina, which comes with mushrooms, prosciutto cotto, basil, and olive oil. Not only is Pizza Plex a destination for Neapolitan pies, but pre-pandemic, it also was a community center hosting karaoke nights and nonprofit meetings. The pizzeria is an LC3—a low-profit limited liability social enterprise with a mission to offer collective worker ownership. It also has a buy-one-give-one model known as sospeso, a pay-it-forward pizza program for individuals in need. pizzaplex.com

Amar

A city of 2.1 miles that's surrounded by Detroit, Hamtramck is where you'll find Amar's pizza, which combines Bengali, American, and Italian flavors into some boundary-pushing varieties. There's several standouts, including the Naga pizza, made with chicken, red onions and cilantro; the spice pizza with marinated spicy ground beef, green chilis, onions, and cilantro; and the popular ghost pizza. This last version packs a punch with the heat, topped with chicken, red onion, cilantro and ghost pepper. All pizza options are available as a round, thin crust, or square deep dish. amarpizza.com

Motor City Brewing Works Pizza
Credit: Courtesy of Motor City Brewing Works

Motor City Brewing Works

Opened in 1994, Motor City Brewing Works is the midtown area's oldest operating brewery, so you can have a personal brick-oven pie alongside some hand-crafted beer. There are ten selections, including the Mary Did Have, a mixture of fresh ground lamb roasted with garlic, mint, and pine nuts topped with feta, labneh, cucumber and za'atar. motorcitybeer.com

Pie-Sci

Pie-Sci is known as the city's pizza laboratory with its menu of always-changing, unexpected specials with punny names. The pizzas change seasonally, so there's always something new to try, and the menu is broken into three "academic levels." You can start with the basics, or "pizza elementary," with classic combinations like meat lovers, veggie and margherita. The next level is the complex section (or "pizza high") with concoctions like the Jimmy Pesto with walnut pesto sauce, chicken, mushrooms, and ranch drizzle. When you graduate, head to U of Pizza and check out flavors like Mac to the Future, made with garlic oil and ground beef and topped with romaine lettuce, pickles, and Thousand Island drizzle. piescipizza.com