Sure, New Jersey is known for its pizza (and pizza makers). But, a new era has hit the East Coast and is now on the rise here at home. It’s called Detroit-style pizza. This is no flimsy pie. It gets its rectangular shape from the special, high-sided pan it’s cooked in and the exterior is a glorious caramelized cheese crust. While Detroit-style pizza may not be as well-known here in New Jersey, its widespread popularity is not lost on the Garden State.
What Makes Detroit-Style Pizza
Detroit-style pizza dough closely resembles that of focaccia bread, except fluffier. It’s quite sturdy but not chewy, like many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are used to. In the oven, the bottom gets super charred and crusted over with the cheese that has melted down the sides of the pan. Once baked, the texture is extremely light and porous despite its thickness. The taste is buttery and almost has a deep-fried quality to it from the time it spent sizzling in the rendered fat from the cheese.
While mozzarella might be most people’s go-to, Detroit-style pizza uses brick cheese from Wisconsin. This cheese is tangy and creamy in its raw form. Once cooked, the middle stays gooey while the edges get brown and crispy. The key is to dot the perimeter of the pie with cheese. This forms a blackened, lacy crust around all the sides and edges of the pizza. Yeah, you’re gonna want to call dibs on that corner slice.
Without these pans, Detroit-style pizza could not exist. Repeat after me, it’s all about the pan. Traditionally made from blue steel, these rectangular (or square, depending on who you ask) “trays” are believed to be inspired by the ones used by autoworkers in Michigan factories. The sides are what make them unique since they’re designed to be angled outwards, which means there’s more surface area at the top of the pie than the bottom.
Why It’s Trending
Most famously, New York City’s Emmy Squared came onto the scene with their Instagrammable Detroit-style pizza and pepperoni cups in 2016. They’ve since expanded, and their pan pies definitely started a movement here on the East Coast. Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed this type of pizza grow even more in popularity and it’s proven resilient amid the pandemic. (Its sturdiness holds up to delivery.) Back in April, NJ’s own Ani Ramen started a non-profit pop-up called Rock City Pizza Co. in which they sold Detroit-style at their Jersey City and Montclair locations. Today, you’ll find traditional and creative homages to the classic Detroit-style pizza across the entire state. Below are a few of our faves.
Where to Get Detroit-Style Pizza in New Jersey
1. Low Fidelity – Jersey City, NJ
Low Fidelity has become one of my favorite pizza spots in all of New Jersey. And I swear it doesn’t have anything to do with its close proximity to my apartment. If you haven’t been, know that they’re sister restaurants with The Archer in Downtown Jersey City, so you know the quality (and cocktails) are on point.
At Lo-Fi, goers will find all different iterations of Detroit-style pizza broken down into four categories: Red, White, Speciality, and Red Eye Pies (available for weekend brunch). The Motor City is my go-to and one of their simpler offerings, topped with pepperoni cups and hot honey. Other standouts include the Aloha Satellite with guanciale, fermented pineapple and Thai basil or the Jersey Cosmonaut with pancetta, vodka sauce and smoked mozzarella.
2. Bakeria 1010 – Linwood, NJ
Bakeria 1010 describes itself as a “boutique slice shop and micro-bakery.” Their pizza begins with a fermented sourdough starter from Naples, Italy and they top their pies with in-season ingredients only. If you live in the South Jersey area, know that I am very jealous and dream about these pies on a regular basis. While they might not use the words “Detroit-style pizza” to describe their offerings, their square pies will surprise you in flavor and presentation. Seriously, keep an eye out for their weekly specials.
3. Blue Steel Pizza Company – Bloomfield, NJ
Just by hearing the name Blue Steel Pizza Company, you know that they know what’s up. Their New Jersey restaurant is using the traditional blue steel Detroit-style pizza pans to craft their pies in a classic 8” x 10” size. Here, you’ll find true to form Detroit-style pizza down to the brick cheese and classic red top. They’re also putting their spin on other well-known pies, including a ricotta and sausage pizza, one with littleneck clams, or a supreme pizza with red onion and black olive tapenade.
4. Luna – Jersey City, NJ
Perhaps the least traditional, but still very tasty, Detroit-style pizza on this list comes from Luna in Jersey City. While most known for their homemade pasta, Luna has dipped its toe into the New Jersey Detroit-style pizza pond. Dubbed the “Che” Pizza, they describe it as “a one of a kind personal pie, similar to ‘Detroit Style’ with luna tomato sauce, mozzarella, oregano.” While small in stature, this pizza will do the trick in a pinch if you’ve got a craving.
5. Pasquale’s Pizzeria – Wall, NJ
A Monmouth County favorite, you can expect almost nothing but the classics at Pasquale’s Pizzeria in Wall. That being said, they’ve joined the bandwagon and added Detroit-style pizza to their menu. Not to be confused with the Brooklyn square pie they also offer. Here, you can top your pizza with any of the traditional pizza toppings from veggies to meats.
Know any other spots to score Detroit-style pizza in New Jersey? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image by Peter Bonacci featuring the Motor City from Low Fidelity