I love everything about pizza. I love going out for it, eating too much of it, debating which style/joint is the best in town, and perhaps most of all, making it in my home kitchen. As I will no doubt be writing about pizza on several occasions on this blog, I'm officially writing this post as the first in a series entitled, "Let's Talk About Pizza."
A few years ago, I felt that there was a serious dearth of good pizza in Austin, Texas. This was before places like Pieous and Bufalina brought their wood-fired ovens to the capitol city. Home Slice Pizza was a city favorite, and yet, I still found myself only ever really eating pizza when I was out of town visiting family in Dallas (always courtesy of il Cane Rosso and Grimaldi's), or when I was on vacation...or as I like to call them "absurdly-mapped-out-and-planned-eating-fests."
After one such trip to Rome, Italy, where I had my eyes opened to the various styles of pizza that could be found throughout that wonderful city, I returned home to Austin and decided that I should...nay, MUST...find good pizza in my home city. Despite my love of those Dallas pizzerias, I needed to find my go-to pizza place that didn't require a 3+ hour drive to get there. I decided to embark on a "pizza quest," trying one pizza restaurant per week, until I finally found pizza that satisfied my cravings for quality pies.
Surprisingly, the pizza quest ended sooner than I had anticipated, as one Friday evening, I came across a style of pizza that I had never heard of...not New York-style, not Chicago-style, not Roman-style...this, fellow pizzalovers, was Detroit-style pizza. And this was Via 313 Pizza.
Run by a couple of sons of Detroit, Brandon and Zane Hunt, Via 313 Pizza has perfected this unique style of pizza. So, what exactly is "Detroit-style pizza?" For starters, the pizza is decidedly NOT round, opting instead for a square shape. The pizzas are cooked at a high heat in oiled, steel pans that were originally intended to hold automotive parts. The dough is on the thicker side of things, but it doesn't quite reach the depths of Chicago's deep dish pizzas. Similar to Chicago, though, Detroit-style pizzas are assembled in an almost upside down fashion: dough, toppings, cheese, and then sauce. The most distinctive (and delicious) part of Detroit-style pizzas has to be the crispy edges that result from cheese being packed all the way to the edges of the pizzas, which are almost "fried" by the oiled pans. The square pans allow for four corner pieces, each with their own fair share of crunchy and satisfying caramelized cheese edges.
While my first visit to Via 313 Pizza was all those years ago (and as Via 313's popularity has since exploded), I can still recall my first bite of the "Detroiter," which features both smoked and natural casing pepperoni. I added sausage to my pizza because I like to live on the edge. After two bites of my first ever Detroit pizza, I remember sending a text message to my best friend that said merely, "I found the pizza."
After MANY subsequent trips to Via 313 Pizza to make my way through their diverse and unique menu offerings, yet another pleasant surprise to see at a pizza joint, I decided to start doing a little bit of research about how Detroit-style pizzas are actually made. Quite often, I get caught up in a food project, whether it is learning to perfect a certain technique or attempting to recreate a restaurant dish at home. As a Serious Eats-verified "pizza obsessive," learning to make Detroit-style pizzas became an incredibly fun and interesting cooking adventure that really taught me a lot about making dough, experimenting with toppings, and perhaps most valuable, the merits of seeing something through from start to finish with (mostly) positive results. Pizza parties have since become my preferred way to host my friends because, let's be honest...EVERYBODY loves pizza. I love providing guests with several blank "pizza canvasses" to be topped with a variety of meats, cheeses, and vegetables to our hearts' desires. It is a great way to make dinner an interactive and personal experience, which is what food is all about, really.
As this website is not intended as a cooking/recipe blog, I won't go too deep into the exact recipe and process that I compiled over the course of my research, mainly done by combing through the pizzamaking.com forums online. I will, however, at least make you fine readers aware that the specialized steel pans required to make Detroit-style pizza CAN be found online. The easiest way to embark on a Detroit-style pizzamaking adventure might be to check out Detroit Style Pizza Co.'s website, where you can actually order the pans. If you do wish to give making these pizzas a try, you can even have Detroit Style Pizza Co. handle the seasoning of the pans for you. As the steel pans are not non-stick, they must be treated like cast iron skillets to maintain a coat of seasoning, which helps to facilitate the cooking and removal of the pizzas when ready. As for the dough making process (and perhaps a few trade secrets...shh!), feel free to send me a message, and I will be happy to share the rather detailed recipe and instructions that I wrote for a few friends after feeling comfortable with the recipe. I do not believe that I have had any friends actually go through with making Detroit-style pizzas themselves (save for some fellow online pizza friends) based on my instructions, so maybe you should just invite me over for a pizza party? Perhaps the pictures below of some of my creations will entice you to start planning!
Via 313 Pizza (2 locations)
@ The Violet Crown Social Club
1111 East 6th St., Austin, TX 78702
@ Craft Pride
61 Rainey St., Austin, TX 78701
(brick and mortar location coming in 2015 to Oak Hill!)