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Last Updated on June 6, 2021

Pizza. This legendary dish tops the list of favorite foods for many Americans. Millennials might even find it unbelievable that once upon a time, there was no such thing as pizza in our country.

Since its entrance on the American market by Italian immigrants in 1905 [1], the pizza consumption has grown exponentially – and with it, some hybrid types of pizza have emerged from the classical flat pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and oregano.

In this article, we take the pulse on the pizza cosmos of the 21st century in the United States. What are the most common types? Which are the latest trends? And is it possible to make a really good vegan pizza (because... cheese)? We've got you covered with all you need to know about the cheesy dish that has melted so many hearts!

Definition of Pizza

Before we dive in, let's define what a pizza even is. You might roll your eyes and think it's a pizz-a-cake to define what a pizza is, but taking the many different pizza types into account, you'll see that a definition is in its place – especially since its siblings such as focaccia want their part of the limelight, too.

A pizza is "a flat, open-faced baked pie of Italian origin, consisting of a thin layer of bread dough topped with spiced tomato sauce and cheese, often garnished with anchovies, sausage slices, mushrooms, etc." [2] From this definition, we can conclude that there are two main parts making up a pizza:

  • Dough or crust
  • Toppings

Moving on, these are the two main components we'll refer to.

Where was the first pizza baked?

The pizza, as we know it today, saw the light of day in Naples in southern Italy in the 18th or 19th century. [3] Modern pizza is an evolution of a flatbread dish called focaccia, topped with olive oil and herbs.

A tale tells that in 1889, Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito created a pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. [4]

Pellegrino Artusi released a classic cookbook in the early 20th century called La Scienza in cucina e l'Arte di mangiar bene. The book has three pizza recipes [5] – somewhat astoundingly to us today, they are all sweet instead of savory!

In the 1911 edition, Artusi added a typed sheet after feedback from some readers with the recipe of "pizza alla napoletana": mozzarella, tomatoes, anchovies, and mushrooms.

Later on, in 1927, Ada Boni's first edition of il talismano della felicità (a well-known Italian cookbook) includes a recipe using tomatoes and mozzarella. [6]

What is the most popular type of pizza in America?

A recent study shows that regular crust pizza is the most popular type of pizza in America [7], closely followed by thin crust. Deep-dish/Chicago style pizza comes quite far behind at a third place, while only 2% of the surveyed participants mentioned Sicilian pizza as their favorite style of pizza.

Types of Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan-style pizza, also known as the real Italian pizza, is a thin-crust type of pizza that is not designed to have too many toppings. In fact, since the crust is so thin, it's usually easiest to eat this pizza with a fork and knife.

Some common variations of Neapolitan pizza:

  • Margherita, the classic pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil leaves
  • Marinara with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil

Chicago Pizza

Chicago Pizza is also called deep-dish pizza. In the beginning of the 20th century, entrepreneur Ike Sewell, founder of famous chain restaurant Pizzeria Uno, created the deep-dish pizza as a variation of the classic pizza. The edges of this pizza type are high like on a pie, and ingredients are layered in reverse: the cheese is caressing the crust, shaping a nest for the toppings, and finished off by the tomato sauce.

Some typical toppings are pepperoni, ground beef, sausage, onion, mushrooms, and green peppers – and some Chicago pizza bakers finish off by sprinkling parmesan on top.

New York-Style Pizza

New York-style pizza is the style of pizza that is closest to the original Neapolitan pizza. With its crunchy outer crust, it is a favorite among many Americans. Proficient pizza bakers know how to find the perfect amount of toppings that won't break the thin dough of the New York-style pizza. That said, there's also the thick-crust counterpart that can handle a lot more toppings for those times when you want something a little extra filling.

A New York-style pizza is traditionally cut in big slices and eaten folded. Common toppings are mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese, chili flakes, and garlic powder.

Sicilian Pizza

Sicilian pizza, also called "sfincione", is a rectangular pizza type with a thick, bread-like crust. Traditionally, it's cut in squares and has the cheese under the tomato sauce to prevent the pizza from becoming soggy. It's not as common as the other pizza types in the United States since only a few places know how to serve this special pizza in the right way.

Tomato, onion, anchovies, garlic, and herbs are toppings you often find on a Sicilian pizza.

Greek Pizza

Greek pizza is also called New England Greek pizza after the place where the dish entered the United States. It has a golden, thick, crunchy crust, without being hard like a cracker. Think a greasy crust staining the carton. A greek-style pizza is often topped with traditional Greek ingredients like Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion, and artichokes, though you might also find it crowned with cheddar and mozzarella.

California Pizza

The dough of a California pizza is far from the classic pizzas. At first glance, it's similar to that of the New York-style pizza or the Neapolitan one – the difference appears when you look above the dough and into the toppings. California pizza is characterized by its unusual toppings, like eggs, goat cheese, or avocado. It was invented by Chef Ed LaDou, who created a famous pizza with red peppers, mustard, ricotta, and pate.

Detroit Pizza

Detroit pizza is the American cousin of the Sicilian pizza. Like the Sicilian one, it is a square pizza with a thick deep-dish crust – which is sometimes baked twice – and with the toppings under the tomato sauce. Thanks to the pan being well-oiled, the crust comes with crunchy, caramelized edges.

St Louis Pizza

St Louis pizza comes from the homonymous city in Missouri. It has a thin, cracker-like crust baked without yeast. For toppings, it usually has Provel-processed cheese – a special three-cheese blend of provolone, Swiss, and white cheddar – and pizza slices take the form of squares or rectangles. St Louis pizza was created by Imo's Pizza.

Types of Pizza Crust

There are different types of pizza crust – we all have our personal favorite.

The Neapolitan pizza has a very thin crust since it traditionally carried just a few toppings like tomato sauce, cheese, and herbs.

Chicago pizza has crunchy edges and a thick, pie-like crust, while the Sicilian variety comes with a thick, bread-like crust. The Greek pizza has a thick, golden, oily crust.

Detroit pizza resembles the Sicilian variety with a thick deep-dish crust sometimes baked twice. St Louis, on the contrary, has a thin, cracker-like crust.

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Nowadays, it's quite easy to find gluten-free pizza dough. Dough without less gluten can be made with oat. For a completely gluten-free pizza, the pizza bakers use a combination of gluten-free flours like rice flour and almond flour together with starches like potato starch and tapioca starch.

Types of Pizza Toppings

There's an infinitude of pizza toppings out there. While the classic Italian pizzas have toppings like tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and herbs, the modern pizza is garnished with ingredients like pepperoni – which is the most popular pizza topping in the United States – beef, different types of cheeses, and vegetables.

Pineapple is one of those pizza toppings that everyone has an opinion about: either you love it or despise it. The legendary Hawaii Pizza was allegedly invented in Ontario, Canada, in 1962 by Greek chef Sam Panopoulos [8]. Although it is one of the least popular pizza toppings in the United States [9], its true fans are loyal.

Vegetarian pizza toppings

Some popular vegetarian pizza toppings are vegetables like olives, artichokes, bell pepper, fruits like pineapple and bananas, and protein sources like tofu. For a completely plant-based, vegan pizza, there are numerous nut-based cheeses (or even made of rice or white beans!), adding that perfect salty contribution that makes the pizza experience complete.

Trending Pizzas

The cauliflower pizza has been on the rise as an innovative, healthy alternative to traditional dough – as the name suggests, the crust is made out of grated cauliflower instead of flour. There are also variations using sweet potato as a basis for the crust. Gluten-free and vegan pizzas are winning land, too.

As for the toppings, fusion-style flavors like Indian and Southeast Asian spices, together with the Italian traditions, are trending among the open-minded generation Y.

FAQ

How many types of pizza are there?

The number of pizza types depends on how you count. Here, we've covered the eight most common pizzas in the United States.

What is the most popular type of pizza?

Regular crust pizza is the most popular type [7] – meaning a base falling somewhere between thin and thick crust. New York and California-style pizzas can be counted into the regular crust type pizzas. If we instead look at the topping, pepperoni is the most popular pizza. [7]

Dan Richer, owner of one of the most popular pizzerias in the country (Razza Pizza Artigianale in Jersey City, NJ), says: "Americans like crispy. We like crispy pizza. We eat it with our hands. Neapolitan pizza is soft and wet, you need a fork and knife. There’s something beautiful about that, and mopping up the soupy bits with your crust. That’s a great thing. But in the United States we slice our pizza into triangles typically, and we pick it up with our hands and we want it to shatter when we bite into it." [10]

What are the different types of pizza bases?

As for the bases, there are thin crust, thick crust, and deep-dish. The thin crust can be either soft or cracker-like (as in the St Louis-pizza).

What are the top 3 pizza toppings?

Pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms [7] are the three most popular pizza toppings in the United States.

Wrapping It Up

Pizza is one of the most adored dishes in the country – from New York to California and everywhere in between. We surely have Italian immigrants to thank for this savory masterpiece that serves as the foundation for local variations such as New York-style pizza and deep-dish pizza – Italian and American in a yummy marriage!

Modern variations are healthy upgraders of the crust in the form of shredded cauliflower, gluten-free bases and vegan toppings, and unexpected spices of Asian origins. The nature of the components may change, but the pizza is here to stay!

References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/1998/06/10/dining/new-york-pizza-the-real-thing-makes-a-comeback.html as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

[2] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pizza as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

[3] Helstosky, C. (2008), Pizza: A Global History, London: Reaktion

[4] Danford, N. (October 1994), Beyond Pizza, Vegetarian Times. Active Interest Media 

[5] Pellegrino, A. (1911; rpr. Torino: Einaudi, 2001), La scienza in cucina e l'Arte di mangiar bene 

[6] Grigorieva, A. (2006), Naming Authenticity and Regional Italian Cuisine

[7] https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xl3avbbw90/Results%20for%20YouGov%20Omnibus%20%28Pizza%29%20020%2023.1.2019.xlsx%20%20%5BGroup%5D.pdf, as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

[8] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/hawaiian-pizza-origin, as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

[9] https://today.yougov.com/topics/food/articles-reports/2019/02/04/pineapple-pizza-toppings-pepperoni-popular, as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

[10] https://oldtiogafarm.wordpress.com/2018/09/11/a-conversation-with-dan-richer, as seen on 13th of Sept, 2020

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Hi, I'm Paul. Welcome to my website! I, along with my cronies, are leveraging our years of working in the food industry to review meal and drink delivery services. We review. You eat happily ever after.

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