As is the case with sports teams, everybody has his or her favorite style of pizza. And just like with sports teams, those allegiances almost always originate at home. The regional pizza styles we grow up with often leave a lasting impression. The good news is that it has never been easier to chase down the pie of one's dreams or find a new slice. The pizza renaissance in Cleveland is in full swing with options all over Northeast Ohio popping up in recent months and years, giving diners slices from around the country and world.
Chicago Style Deep Dish
Even though Jon Stewart griped, and you might agree, "This is not pizza! This is tomato soup in a bread bowl!" many people love this hearty, filling version of a pizza-like thing. Characterized by its tall sides and inverted tomato sauce and cheese strata, this knife-and-fork pizza casserole is the polar opposite of today's thin-crust obsession. Despite the Windy City's proximity to Cleveland, there are scant few true representations of the style. Give Danny Boys' or Antonio's versions a whirl to see what all of the fuss is about.
No pizza category has expanded with more gusto of late than authentic Neapolitan style. Most disciples of this movement strictly adhere to the tenets of the crusade, which mandate that the pies be made only with specific flour, tomatoes and cheese and baked in a wood-fired oven. Diners have come to expect thin-crusted, 10- to 12-inch pies sparingly topped and sporting puffy, blistered rims. Find textbook examples at Vero, Citizen Pie, In Forno and Biga.
Sicilian & Detroit Style
Massacred by school cafeterias everywhere, Sicilian pizza in its most common form takes the shape of the rectangular pans in which they are baked. But there's more to this satisfyingly doughy pie than its thick crust and square slices. The best sport an airy focaccia-like dough that takes on a crusty, shiny shell where it meets the edges of the sheet pan. There is a thick mantel of edge-to-edge cheese and, in the case of Detroit style, that cheese resides under the tomato sauce. One of the best slices was briefly available at the short-lived Arcadian, but you can still grab a square or two at Vincenza's and Antonio's.
New York Style
Just like the city of its birth, New York-style pizza is big, round and flat (trust us on that). The thin crust should be supple enough to fold in half, while retaining a slight crispness and strong chew. Done poorly, these pies have all the charm of the cardboard box they come in. Bright, slightly sweet tomato sauce is capped with heaps of mozzarella cheese, few (or no) toppings, and baked in deck ovens. We love the slices (never pieces) dished up at Valentino's, Marotta's, Crust, Edison's and Capri.
Imagine if chef Wolfgang Puck made pizzas ... . Oh wait, he did, decades ago at Spago, thus setting in motion the haute cuisine pizza craze. Think thin, almost cracker-esque crusts topped with fresh, seasonal, chef-driven ingredients and you start to get the picture. Bar Cento's Sunnyside pizza with prosciutto, farm eggs and cracked black pepper immediately comes to mind, as does Flour's wild mushroom, goat cheese, thyme and truffle rig. Other great interpretations on the style can be found at Humble Wine Bar, Cha Spirits and Pizza Kitchen, Tomori's, 3 Palms, Dante Next Door, and Wood and Wine.
Admit it. Pizzas baked up at beloved local institutions like Angelo's, Geraci's, Mama Santa's and Master Pizza don't comfortably fall into any of the above categories. These round pies are thicker than all but deep dish or Sicilian. The crisp-bottomed crust is rich and buttery — almost oily. The tomato sauce leans to thick and sweet, and it's ladled on with reckless abandon. Toppings are numerous and traditional, with pepperoni, mushrooms (canned), sausage (pellets) and onions leading the pack. We also love Compola's Tasty Pizza, Dina's Pizza, Pizza 216 and Sainatos.