Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pizza Styles, including Midwestern - What Is It?

Midwestern pizza? Huh?

Most of my prior pizza experience (beyond the big chains) includes these types:
  • Trenton/New Haven Tomato Pie - thin, sturdy, crisp crust, and more emphasis on tomatoes (crushed) than the cheese - example, Trenton's DeLorenzo's, Philly's SLiCE, or the famous Pepe's
    A slice at Frank Pepe, New Haven CT
  • New York Slice - thin, crisp yet foldable, conventional sauce and cheese - example, New Park Pizza in Queens and Wiseguy NY Pizza in D.C.
    Pepperoni slice at Wiseguy
  • Neapolitan - thin, delicate, puffy crust cooked at 900 degrees in 2 minutes, fresh mozz, often wet in the center, as found at Philly's Osteria, Stella, Zavino
    Neapolitan at Zavino
  • Hybrid - Neapolitan flavors and toppings, but sturdy like a Trenton pie - La Porta in Media PA
    Pizza carbonara at La Porta
  • Standard mass produced - medium thick and soft floppy crust, loads of generic cheese, typically what you get at mom-n-pop places
    Mass-sourced pie
  • Sicilian - thick airy crust, rectangular slices, conventional sauce and cheese
    Sicilian pizza
  • Flatbread - maybe not even a pizza, but excellent stuff on good bread, such as Jules Thin Crust
    Distinctive pies at Jules Thin Crust
  • Roman "al taglio" - square slices like Sicilian, but thinner, crisper, superior - Forno Marco Roscioli
    Roman al tagio slices
  • Granma - an outer boro pie that may be the closest American cousin to Roman pizza - Lenny's in Brooklyn makes a good one
    Granma slice at Lenny's in Brooklyn
  • Bar pie - crust thinner than even a Trenton tomato pie, basic ingredients in modest amounts, success depends on the piemaker's skill. Can't beat the bar pie at Lee's Tavern in Staten Island.
    Bar pie from Lee's Tavern in Staten Island
  • Conshohocken (Philly) tomato pie - basically a Sicilian without the cheese, eaten at room temp
    Conshohocken tomato pie (slices are usually smaller)
  • Old Forge - Sometimes, a somewhat thinner version of the Conshohocken pie, found in Northeast PA. Other times, more like an over-cheesed and under-cooked Sicilian pie. Keystone Pizza Critic gives the details HERE
  • Chicago deep dish - a casserole that uses many of the ingredients of a real pizza
    Giordano's "stuffed crust" casserole, Chicago

Recent travels, though, have introduced me to a new kind of pie, Midwestern style. I held an east-coast bias which presumed that midwesterners, when taking a break from corn and roast beef, would get their pizzas at Pizza Hut.
Vito & Nick's, Chicago

But I discovered - in Columbus OH, in Bloomington IL, and on the South Side of Chicago (the baddest part of town) - a wafer-thin crispy crust pie that was cut not into triangles but little squares (the "party cut" aka the "tavern cut" ) and it has quite a bit in common with old-school bar pies. Conventional but salty and spicy sauce and cheese, home-made sausage, floating on but not soaking into an almost cracker-y crust. Wonderful stuff and easy to eat a lot of it.
Rubino's, Columbus OH

Here are my reviews of the midwest style pies at Rubino's in Columbus OH, Monical's Pizza in Bloomington IL, and Vito & Nick's in Chicago.

Sausage pie at Vito & Nick's


  1. If you are looking for a new New York style pizza place to try I recommend you come down to Asheville North Carolina and try Favilla's NY Pizza. They have been open for three years now and have made quite a name for themselves around town. They were voted best Specialty Pizza in the Asheville 2012 Pizza Showdown.

  2. Thanks for the tip on Favilla's. Haven't been to NC for a while, but I will keep it on my list! PQ

  3. You mostly nailed what Midwest style is except Rubino's which I have had is more crackery then most Midwest styles. I have been eating Midwest all my life and have probably had 50 or more examples. You got the gist its flat, its party cut, yes good sausage is really key, but toppings in general are the focus even if not sausage, usually overloaded with toppings.

  4. Thanks for the note! Wish I could get some good thin party cut pie right now.