August 10 2009 by Karla Henriquez
A few weeks ago, my sister and my dad drove across the country. I talked to them while they were in Chicago, eating at the original Uno, where the Chicago deep dish pizza was born. They were duly impressed by the mass and flavor that each slice was offering. A few days later, their trip complete, we stopped in at Modern Apizza, a beloved restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut. While he was wolfing down an Italian Bomb and a White Clam Casino, my dad said: "Chicago does a great pie, but I don't think it beats this." His comment got me thinking about the different styles of pizza around the country and the various cities and restaurants that claim to make the best pizza. I also started thinking about planning vacations around pizza. My husband, who loves pizza above all other food, would be thrilled if this were a new motivation behind my travel planning madness.
Pizza connoisseurs acknowledge about seven distinct styles to the U.S. Each style originated in an Italian-American community in different cities across the country. From East to West they are: Providence, New Haven, New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. If you plot these cities on a map, you'll discover that our nation has a pizza pipeline that roughly follows I-80. You could drive across the country and get all the best pizza at the same time. But there are two problems with that idea; you would miss Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix and you would have a long stretch of generic pizza between St. Louis and San Francisco (which may not matter to you because even when it's not great, all pizza is good).
I think the way to go is to sneak great pizza sampling into family vacations and business trips. I'm soon visiting my brother in the Detroit area and should be able to talk his family into going out for a square Detroit-style pizza at Buddy's. I'm also heading to Cape Cod in early September--I figure I can hit Sally's in New Haven for the famous potato pie on my way to the Cape and Al Forno in Providence for a grilled pizza on the drive back home.
I've had plenty of New York style pizza, and lucky for me, I live near the city and can keep visiting new ones. My favorite pizzas in New York are Joe's for a simple slice as you walk down the street. Also on my list are Grimaldi's, which makes the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge even more worthwhile (the other reason to make the crossing is for the unbeatable view of the financial district) and L'asso for a simple Margherita. My next trip to the city I am going to try Co. in Chelsea which I hear serves a phenomenal Margherita as well.
Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco are going to have to wait - although I've seen some great airline fares advertised recently, so hopefully it'll happen sooner than I think. The most intriguing of these three styles is St. Louis pizza. I have to admit that before starting this post, I was not even aware that St. Louis had a unique style of pizza, but now I'm eager to try it. This is also one style of pizza that can't easily be found anywhere else because it has to be made with a regional cheese called Provel - a mixture of provolone, Swiss and white cheddar - that is only made for the St. Louis market. The crust is also unique as it is yeast-less. The final product is a very thin, crunchy pizza that is strong enough to be layered high with sauce, toppings and cheese. You can get it at many area pizzerias but the original chain that serves this style is Imo's.
How can you fit one of the seven pizza cities (or Phoenix, which has one pizzeria of national renown) into your upcoming trips? Also, let us know about your favorite local pizzerias!