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A Comprehensive Glossary of Pizza in The USA

    A Comprehensive Glossary of Pizza in The USA

    Without a question, pizza is the most popular dish in the United States. On a daily basis, Americans consume enough pizza to cover 100 acres, or 350 slices each second. A huge sum of money, indeed.

    Although pizza is a popular food among many people, there are really an infinite number of pizza varieties available. Pizza comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, crusts (thin, filled, etc.), and topping combinations (from supreme and meat lovers to basic cheese).

    Since 93% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month, we’ve produced a comprehensive list of all the possible pizza varieties and topping combinations. Keep reading to learn more about your favourite pie and to get ideas for various crusts, fillings, and baking techniques.


    It’s common knowledge that there are heated debates about who makes the best pizza. Most people will only eat pizza that is authentic to their location, whether it is a New York slice, a New Haven pub pie, or a square-cut pizza from Detroit.

    As the number of pizzerias throughout the nation continues to soar, however, traditional regional varieties are gaining traction as viable transplants. Restaurants in New York City alone provide a wide variety of pizzas, including St. Louis, Colorado, California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania styles.

    1. In the NYC fashion.

    When it comes to pizza, there are some serious rivalries. Most defer their commitment to their area pizza style, whether it’s a New York style slice, New Haven bar pie, or square-cut Detroit style pizza.

    Despite this nationwide pizza parlour boom, local pizza trends are increasingly making their way to neighbouring locations. There are pizzerias in New York City that specialise in every regional kind of pizza, from New Haven’s deep dish to St. Louis’s thin crust and California’s calzone.

    2. In the New York way.

    Having a New York style piece of pizza is like playing the classics. It’s the type of pizza you see throughout the globe, represented in movies and television and at your neighbourhood slice business. The circular pie has a thin, foldable crust and is traditionally sliced into triangular pieces after being cooked at a high temperature for a brief time until the cheese is bubbling.

    The majority of pizzas sold at chain restaurants around the nation are prepared in this “default” form. New York style pizza, often recognised as the most popular kind, is typically served as a traditional hand-tossed cheese pie or with easy-to-find toppings like pepperoni.

    The dough for a real New York City pie must be made using mineral water from the area, and then allowed to ferment for at least 48 hours.


    The thick, spongey crust and rectangular form of a Sicilian pizza served in Detroit. Detroit’s take on the Sicilian is a little unconventional since the cheese is added first and distributed evenly throughout the whole crust before the sauce is poured on top.

    Detroit style pizza has a unique connection to the city’s history as an automotive powerhouse due to the fact that the first pizza was cooked in a blue-steel pan intended to store spare nuts and bolts in a car plant.

    4. Authentic Sicilian pizza.

    The history of Sicilian pizza predates the history of any other pizza on this list. It’s the quintessential and prototypical rectangular pan pizza. The pizza’s original name, sfincione, literally means “thick sponge,” which may give you a hint as to where it originated: Sicily. The pizza’s crust is simply a reconstituted recipe for focaccia bread, which provides the pizza with its signature soft, fluffy crunch.

    Another indicator of the sponginess of a Sicilian pizza crust is the fact that it absorbs a lot of the olive oil used to grease the baking pan, so it stays light and chewy rather than becoming crisp. Detroit-Style pizza, the progenitor of the Sicilian, is slowly but surely becoming the dominating pizza style throughout the United States.


    Both the dough and the sauce of a Greek pizza are made using classic ingredients in novel ways to create a distinctive flavour. Instead of using a spherical pizza stone, the dough is cooked in a shallow dish or pan, and it seems to be over a pool of olive oil (this is the Greek-iest part of the preparation). Naturally, this produces an oily top, but it’s also fluffy and crackly, and the bready inside is nice and tender.

    The sauce’s signature flavour comes from its long, unsupervised slow-cooking time. Allow the sauce to caramelise (and slightly burn) down the edges of the pan without stirring. The depth of the sauce is increased when the fond that develops around it is scraped off and incorporated. The best pizzas are often the product of careful, hands-on execution, but occasionally you can get great results by just standing back and letting the oven do its thing.

    6. Authentic California pizza.

    Experimentation and uniqueness are hallmarks of California pizza. The California Pizza Kitchen is responsible for the creation of such bizarrely delicious dishes as the buffalo chicken pizza and the jerk chicken pizza. They are experts in the art putting chicken on pizza.

    In the same way that many other pizza types have their roots in New York City, so does California pizza. It’s the creative uses of ingredients and modern takes on classic dishes that set California cuisine apart.


    Also breaking with standard pizza fare is the use of unleavened ingredients in a St. Louis pie’s dough. Unless you really prefer tearing your pizza in half, you probably won’t want to fold it in half before eating it (hey, to each their own). The cracker-like texture of this crust is the opposite of floppiness. For reasons of stability, a St. Louis-style pizza can only be thin and sliced into squares.


    Pizza made in the Colorado style is ideal for those hungry in the Rocky Mountains. This huge pizza, often offered by the pound rather than by the pie, is the cure-all for your hunger aches after skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or swimming. The honey-kissed, extra-chewy crust is piled high with so many toppings that the pizza almost falls apart when you try to pick it up. The original Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs, Colorado, is known for its Firecracker pizza, which is a specialty of the restaurant. Fresh jalapenos, spicy chicken, ranch dressing, and hot sauce all come together in this fiery pie. There’s also Monterey jack cheese in there instead of mozzerella.


    Trenton tomato pizza, or New Jersey style pizza, is often round, thin, and very crispy. The sauce and cheese make the largest impact since they dampen the crispiness. In reality, the pizza’s cheese goes on first, followed by the tomato sauce. There are a few cities outside of the Northeast that serve pizza made in the New Jersey style, but it’s more common in towns like Utica, Providence, and Philadelphia.


    Ohio Valley pizza gets its reputation for excellence by having the toppings added AFTER the pizza has been baked. Instead of using a traditional pizza sauce, we use stewed tomatoes as the basis, add the cheese and toppings while everything is still hot and gooey. The toppings are supposed to cook in the steam from the new pizza as it is topped. The pizzas are known for their signature provolone cheese, pepperoni, and banana peppers toppings.

    Variations in Common Rust

    It has been shown elsewhere that crusts are the most important factor for pizza reviewers. Crusts are the foundation of a pizza; they provide structure and support for the pizza’s other components (cheese, sauce, and toppings).

    Also, crusts are the trickiest to master, especially for newbies using the high temperatures of a coal or wood-fired oven and attempting to bake a thin crust. As if that weren’t enough, there are a plethora of factors to think about while adjusting the dough’s hydration, gluten formation, protein enrichment, fermentation duration, etc. It might be an ordinary dough made with a few minutes of kneading, or it can be an incredible feat requiring 48 hours of work! The dough/crust is the foundation of every pizza, therefore it’s important to focus on it first.

    1. THIN CRUST.

    Pizzas that are made with a thin crust are slimmer than a traditional pizza, leading to a crunching yet doughy edge. The center of a standard thin crust pizza is usually thinner than the rest so the sauce, cheese and toppings are baked more quickly. New York and Neapolitan style pizza have thin crusts and use ingredients sparingly so the crust can handle the weight, especially when folded.


    Thick crust pizza can support the wait of multiple toppings and a healthy amount of sauce. Crust thickness ranges from ⅛ an inch to ¼ inch. Categorically thick crust pizzas are seen on Chicago style and Sicilian pizzas where the edges are filled with ingredients and toppings, leaving the pizza to be shaped inside a pan to both bake and serve.


    Gluten-free pizza does not contain gluten, meaning the dough is not made from wheat flour and contains less than 20 ppm of gluten. Pizza made without gluten often utilizes potato starch or rice flour to bind the ingredients together to make the pizza dough. Aside from wheat, other items that contain gluten are rye, barley and spelt. Those who suffer from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease can only eat this type of pizza.


    Shout out to Stouffer’s for the famous french bread frozen pizza, a staple for college students and latchkey kids alike. The split baguette is topped with simple ingredients like sauce, cheese and pepperoni and the both halves are tossed in the oven until bubbly and extra crisp. It’s like garlic bread, but way, way better.


    A stuffed crust pizza is as easy as it sounds, a pizza that’s filled with a cheese-stuffed crust, usually chewy, stretchy mozzarella cheese. The cheese stick is enveloped in the dough before cooking so you have a 100% chance of a cheesy breadstick every time. Now a staple at pizza chains, Pizza Hut debuted this publicity stunt back in 1995 and it’s stuck ever since.


    All great pizzas bring a little something extra to the table. Sometimes this extra something is nothing more than extraordinary preparation and quality ingredients, even if everything else is conventional. But then there are also times where lavishness and excess is the factor that floats the most boats. With pizza, there is beauty to find in both simplicity and multiplicity. These key toppings and pizza types are the “pepperoni on top” of a perfect pie. See what we did there?

    1. CHEESE.

    The second most popular topping in the US behind pepperoni is extra cheese. Yes, cheese is its own topping – it is in fact the most important layer of toppings on a pizza! How much cheese you wish to use is going to depend not only on your preference for cheesiness, but also the type of cheese you enjoy. While you might be used to mozzarella, as you may have read previously some styles omit it entirely, or blend it with different cheeses to create the best melting experience.

    The perfect amount of cheese for some pizzas, like the New Haven style pizza for instance, is just a sprinkling of pecorino. While the most photogenic slices out there feature long, stringy cheese pulls, that needn’t always be the amount of cheese you require or want on a pizza. The converse is also true, where the perfect amount of cheese could be a mountain of mozzarella.


    Some may say that pepperoni pizza is the GOAT, the greatest of all time. This is certainly true here in the States, where 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni are consumed every year and 36% of all pizza orders want their pie topped with pepperoni. There’s something irreplaceable about this spicy, oily and crisp cured meat that perfectly marries gooey cheese and pizza sauce.


    Where are our carnivores at? Meat lovers will, indeed, relish in the meat lovers pizza, topped with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, salami and whatever other meat toppings the kitchen has readily available. Be sure to ask your local pizzeria what’s on their meat lovers pizza. You may be in store for some fun surprises like fried chicken, ground beef or BBQ pork if you ask nicely.

    4. SUPREME.

    A supreme pizza is what you order when you can’t decide what type of pizza you want. The supreme has a little bit of everything, from pepperoni and crumbled sausage to classic veggies like red onions, peppers and olives. There are no surprises here, just fresh, traditional ingredients all atop one perfectly cooked cheese pie.


    Vegan pizza is a go-to for plant-based diets these days, focusing on one specific category to rule them all: vegetables. With plant-based and vegan products hot on the market these days, a typical vegan pizza can be topped with vegan cheese in addition to roasted vegetables like eggplant and zucchini or classic ingredients like green peppers, red onions and olives. The most important thing is that the pizza is made without any animal products, including dairy, honey or eggs.

    6. VEGGIE.

    Give your classic cheese pie some color, texture and elegance by adding some veggies. It’s not only “good for your health” but also adds different flavor profiles and depth to your pizza. Jazz it up with green peppers, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions, olives, tomato slices and more for an extra tasty veggie pizza.


    Margherita pizza, it can be argued, is the reason so many Italian immigrants who traveled to the US in the early 20th century had such extensive pizza knowledge. The pizza Margherita is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who was served the pizza in 1889 in celebration of the reunification of Italy. The pizza was designed to represent the colors of the Italian flag – red (sauce), white (fresh mozzarella cheese), and green (fresh torn basil leaves). This moment kicked off a ravenous demand for pizza that has lasted for centuries.


    For all your BBQ lovers out there, combine your favorite Southern barbecue flavors with cheesy good pizza on a BBQ chicken pizza. This cult-favorite can be found at your local sports bar or college slice joint as an addictive, hearty meal. Rather than using marinara sauce, the pizza is slathered with BBQ sauce and sprinkled with a cheese blend before being topped with grilled or pulled chicken. You’ll love the sweet, tangy flavor.


    The buffalo chicken pie has all the flavors of your wing-and-sauce combos but on easily accessible pizza dough. Chicken breast cutlets are the star here, either grilled or fried, followed by a blend of monterey jack and mozzarella cheeses, hot sauce and ranch dressing. More refined versions may include blue cheese crumbles, blue cheese sauce, spring onions and even a proprietary blend of local spicy sauces.

    10. THE WORKS.

    “The works” is the pizza equivalent of the phrase, “everything but the kitchen sink.” A pizza that contains the works features meat, cheese and vegetables abound and largely depends on the pizza place that’s serving it. In a traditional sense, the suite of toppings more specifically include mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onion, mushrooms and olives. Oftentimes, additional cheese is added like a pecorino or parmesan, and the kitchen can put other fun add-ons too like anchovies, bacon, ricotta, roasted garlic or cherry tomatoes.


    There aren’t really any wrong choices when it comes to pizza (yes, that even includes oreo pizza). While arguments over which style of pizza is superior are unfortunately all too common throughout the US, it’s ultimately never a good use of one’s time to denigrate one less favored type of pizza over another.

    One (wo)man’s idea of pizza heaven could be another (wo)man’s idea of pizza hell, or pizza purgatory (which is probably still good pizza, to be honest).

    The point is, we should all appreciate the immense diversity, history, and creativity involved with producing our favorite pizzas.

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