Detroit-style pizza is a rectangular-shaped pie cut into squares, baked in an oily pan to create a crispy crust but soft fluffy, center. The pizza was first invented just after World War II as a bar food based on a Sicilian pizza recipe. Detroit squares remained relatively unknown outside of the Detroit Metro area until 2012, when pizza maker Shawn Randazzo won the title of World Champion Pizza Maker at the International Pizza Expo held in Las Vegas. Since then, Detroit-style pies have exploded in popularity. Here's a look at the original pizzerias.
Shortly after the war ended, Agostino "Gus" Guerra bought into Buddies Bar. He renamed it in 1946 to Buddies Rendezvous. Gus had immigrated from Italy in 1929, and so when he decided to add food to the menu, he chose pizza to help differentiate his bar from others in the area. With Gus's mother's Sicilian pizza recipe, waitress Concetta Picinato created the Detroit square slices, cooked in shallow pans. Today there are more than a dozen locations of Buddy's.
In 1953, Guerra left Buddy's to start a new restaurant he called the Cloverleaf. Originally East Detroit, the town changed its name to Eastpointe. He took the pan-pizza recipe and the restaurant continues to make it the same way he did in 1946. The pizza is topped with a combination of Mozzarella and Brick cheese, a cheddar-like cheese from Wisconsin. Guerra died in 2010, but his family still runs the restaurant.
Shield's started off as a bar in 1937 and like Buddy's, wanted to add food to the menu in order to bring in more customers and increase sales receipts. That's when Shields hired Louis Tourtrois, who had worked at Buddy's making pizza, and the bar added Detroit squares to their menu. Louis would eventually leave to start his own pizzeria. In 1992, brothers Paul Andoni and Peter Andoni purchased the pizzeria and began franchising.
Louis Tourtois eventually left Shield's to found his own pizzeria. He opened Loui's Pizza in The Hazel Park, Michigan community. Today the pizzeria remains in the family, run by Nykolas Sulkiwskyj, Loui's grandson. Loui's also offers classic Italian American foods.
Detroit Style Pizza Company
Shawn Randazzo, who popularized the term Detroit-style pizza, opened this pizzeria and pizza supply company after winning the World Champion Pizza Maker title in Las Vegas. The company sells special steel pans for making pizza. Randazzo started off his career delivering pizzas for Cloverleaf before becoming a master pizza maker himself. He became an evangelist for “Detroit-style” pizza and helped popularize the term.
Palazzo Di Pizza
Randazzo opened this new pizzeria in 2019 with his cousin. He believed the Detroit area had become overrun with chain pizzerias and Randazzo wanted more authentic Detroit-style pizza to serve the community, especially as it grew in popularity. Unfortunately, Randazzo was soon diagnosed with brain cancer and died a year later.
Shofiul Alam and his brothers opened Amar pizza bringing Bangladeshi cuisine to the top of Detroit-style pizza. The pizzeria also serves round pies, but the real attraction here are the unique toppings inspired by Bangladeshi flavors. Alam told Eater that he worked at Dominos for eleven years learning about how to run a pizzeria. However, before opening Amar pizza he also worked as a truck driver crisscrossing the country and sampling different style pizzas in 48 states.
Ian MacAllen is America Domani's Senior Correspondent and the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American. He is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Brooklyn. Connect with him at IanMacAllen.com or on Twitter @IanMacAllen.