We won’t proselytize yet again simply how much better Detroit deep-dish pizza is than Chicago’s Sahara-dry brick of crust hollowed out just enough to pour in a tepid pool of marinara sauce. It totally is, but that’s not why we’re here.
Detroit deep-dish pizza is really as much a reflection of Detroit because it is a revelation in Jets Pizza catering menu. And sure, most outsiders don’t comprehend it, but Detroiters don’t have to have the validation of outsiders to know what a good thing they’ve got taking place on this site. It may be stubborn in their resistance to the normal pizza form, playing fast and loose with the idea of “toppings” as well as the “order” where they go on, but its uncompromising individualism is part of the things makes it so damn enjoyable. Detroit is its deep-dish pizza, and also the deep-dish pizza is Detroit.
Therefore we’re here to pay homage to that most superior of deep-dish pizzas, the deep-dish pizza that other so-called “deep dish” pizzas aspire to: Detroit deep dish.
First, it starts off with some automotive history. Detroit may be its deep-dish pizza, however it is even more so the Motor City, and many local innovations within the last century are directly born from its automotive roots. Like our neighborhood-skewering freeways and vast swathes of parking lots. (No one said all innovation was inherently good.)
So it is the fact, in 1946, Gus Guerra was seeking to add new menu items to his struggling neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous at 6 Mile and Conant, and acquired several unused blue steel (not the Zoolander pose, the grade of steel) industrial utility trays coming from a friend who worked at a factory.
He thought the lipped trays would make a great Sicilian-style pizza, despite their rectangular shape. He happened to become right: all the characteristics which make Detroit deep-dish pizza distinctively itself are the consequence of the heavy trays, similar to cast iron skillets, utilized to bake them. The crunchy exterior crust soaked through with oil and bubbled over with caramelized cheese, the soft and airy interior crust: it’s all thanks to these repurposed trays.
Legend gets a little shaky here, however the preferred version of local lore is the fact that Guerra’s wife Anna got the dough recipe for signature deep-dish pizza from her Sicilian mother. The alternative story is that an old Sicilian dude named Dominic taught Guerra the “Sicilian way.” Blame the omert?ode of honor for that silence and subsequent speculation. In any event, Detroit deep dish’s roots will be in Sicily, with all the unique dough, sfincione, being more akin to a focaccia than what’s typically identified with pizza, which is apparently a defining characteristic about Detroit’s hot take on the subject. It defies what’s considered traditional.
Through the Sicilian dough and the rectangular trays, the toppings go directly on top of the dough; the pizza will be piled over with high-fat, semi-soft Wisconsin brick cheese up to the sides in the pan, melting on the sides in the crust and caramelizing, bubbling up nice and brown at the top and melting at the center. It gets another layer of toppings next, and, lastly, the last touch: streaks of thick red sauce over top. The effect is actually a dense deep dish that also manages to be light mfpeyl airy, packed with flavor and lots of the coveted corner pieces to travel around.
There is no dispute that Buddy’s — with 11 locations throughout Metro Detroit — was the originator, and also the other local institutions who have produced a name for themselves making use of their own versions of Detroit jet’s hours did so through a point of cultural diffusion.
Just down the street from Buddy’s, the people who own Shield’s took notice with their competitor’s newfound popularity and hired away Buddy’s long-time chef, Louis Tourtrois Sr., to make their pies. Shield’s has since expanded to three locations in the suburbs (the first Detroit location has disappeared). Tourtrois eventually advanced to open their own pizzeria, Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park, widely considered among locals to be the best of its class.