6/3/2022 Update: When this piece was originally published, a number of people from Washington, Iowa and a few other states chastised me for missing their favorite regional pizza. So, this list has been updated to reflect those sometimes helpful, sometimes angry objections.
Everywhere you look these days, you can find a new regional pizza style. While New York style and Chicago style have been around forever, there are now things like Ohio Valley style and Colorado Mountain Pie as well. In fact, it would seem as though every state has its own pizza.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as a man who prides himself on being the ultimate pizza connoisseur, I wanted to investigate whether it was a true thing. And so, I’ve spent the last few weeks compiling the state-by-state pizza guide below.
Before we start, though, there are a couple of caveats. For one, while there are plenty of popular city styles, this is primarily a guide for states, which means if some random city in South Dakota has their own pizza style, I may have missed it — I was looking for “South Dakota style pizza” not “Deadwood, South Dakota style pizza.” Second, the style had to be pretty widely recognized — i.e., it had to generate at least a couple of pages of results on Google. Some asshole with a Boboli can’t decide that he’s created “Maine style pizza,” nor can a single pizzeria name a regional style without some wider recognition.
Anyway, away we go…
The closest thing to an Alabama style pizza is barbecue chicken pizza that uses Alabama white sauce, of which there are a lot of recipes online. As opposed to traditional barbecue sauce, Alabama white sauce has a mayonnaise base and is tangier. So while “Alabama style pizza” isn’t official, Alabama has all the makings of something truly distinct in the pizza category.
As a state, Arizona doesn’t really have its own official pizza, but a popular new style can trace its origins there. “Artisan pizza” is kind of a broad term, but it generally refers to thinly-crusted pizzas where special care is taken with the dough, which is made fresh daily and with traditional ingredients. You’ll also find very fresh toppings, like arugula or figs. Its forefather is James Beard Award-winning pizza chef Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (who also, by the way, can’t stand the use of the word “za” to refer to pizza).
Nothing to see here.
California style pizza is generally defined by its toppings — namely, a lot of seasonal and sustainable stuff like goat cheese, artichoke hearts and avocados — atop a traditional New York Style crust. It was invented in 1980 at two different fancy Bay Area restaurants: Prego in San Francisco and Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
Soon after, Wolfgang Puck entered the scene and hired chef Ed LaDou — the “Prince of Pizza” — away from Prego to work at his L.A. restaurant Spago, where California style pizza began to really take off. Then, of course, there’s the California Pizza Kitchen, whose first menu was developed by LaDou. This is also where barbecue chicken pizza was first developed.
Since 1973, the Colorado chain Beau Jo’s has been serving something called the “Colorado Mountain Pie,” a thick, heavy pizza defined by its mountainous, braided crust, and loaded up with an absurd amount of toppings both above and below the cheese. More amazingly, it’s sold by the pound, with sizes ranging from one to five pounds — a true mountain indeed.
Connecticut doesn’t have a state style of pizza, but the New Haven style pizza was birthed within its borders at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. It’s topped with tomato sauce and a little bit of grated pecorino romano cheese. It’s also thinly-crusted and coal-fired, which might give the appearance of being burnt to an outsider, but it’s actually perfectly crispy. Everything about this pizza is absolutely delicious. The only downside is how it’s pronounced. The locals call it “a-pizza” or even “ah-beets,” which is really fucking annoying.
I fucking love Grotto pizza. If you’re unfamiliar with them, Grotto is a chain of pizza joints around Delaware and Maryland that are noted for having their sauce and cheese in a signature swirl pattern. Not only does it give the pizza a unique look, but it makes the sweet, heavily-applied sauce stand out in a spectacular way. So although Delaware may not have a “Delaware style pizza,” Grotto’s many locations in the area represent its contribution to the annals of pizza history.
Florida has Cuban style pizza — which has a round, thick, doughy crust and a thin layer of sauce topped with both mozzarella and gouda cheese — but there’s also something known as Florida style pizza that’s actually from Philadelphia.
Florida style pizza is essentially a stuffed pizza pocket that’s deep fried. It originated at a now-shuttered place called Florida Style Pizza and even the owner — who bought the pizza place when it already had that name — didn’t know why it was called that.
Until someone starts putting peaches on pizza, Georgia is another state without a distinct pizza style.
Few subjects ignite as much passion as the ongoing debate over Hawaiian Pizza. Topped with ham and pineapple, Hawaiian Pizza can be traced back to Canada, where Greek-born pizza chef Sam Panopoulos began selling it at his Ontario restaurant. Personally, I’m in favor of Hawaiian Pizza, and I have it on a regular basis. Despite this, I did scientifically disprove its legitimacy a little while back.
As mentioned in the update above, when I first published this list, I failed to find a distinct pizza for Idaho, perhaps because I was looking for some signature, potato-covered pizza that didn’t actually exist. While there certainly are pizzerias in Idaho with potatoes on their pizza — like the potato and bacon pizza at The Pie Hole in Boise — there’s no widespread “style” of potato pizza to speak of. However, there is a very unique pizza called “The Shotsy,” which is popular in northern Idaho and eastern Washington, but it originates in Washington, so you’ll have to check out the Washington section for that.
Along with New York and Pennsylvania, Illinois has one of the most complex pizza scenes in the entire country. There’s obviously the extremely hearty Chicago deep dish, which is baked in a skillet or deep pan and loaded up with cheese, sauce and toppings. But any Chicagoan will tell you that deep dish is purely a tourist thing. Instead, real Chicago natives eat tavern-style pizza, which is thin and crispy and cut into squares despite being baked in a circle.
But that’s not all that’s going on in Illinois. There’s also Suparossa Pizza, which is basically deep dish, except there’s another layer of dough toward the top, so it’s technically a stuffed pizza. Then there’s Quad City style pizza, which has malt in the crust and tomato sauce with red chili flakes or cayenne pepper. The toppings are also under the cheese and the pizza is cut into strips instead of triangles. It’s found pretty much exclusively in the Quad Cities region, which is along the Iowa border.
As Nick Kindelsperger explains over at Serious Eats, “Indiana is caught between two equally strong forces, which basically carve the state in two. On the north is the strong pull of Chicago and its thin crust, tavern-style pizza. Southern Indiana, on the other hand, seems to show a lot of influence from the hands of Papa John’s, which originated in the southern town of Jeffersonville.” Because of this, Indiana doesn’t really have a style of its own, though if it’s forced to choose between tavern style and Papa John’s, it’s pretty obvious they should go with tavern style over a third-tier pizza chain founded by a racist piece of shit.
In Iowa, there’s a lot of love for the pizza served at Casey’s convenience store chain, especially their breakfast pizza. Honestly, I can’t figure out what’s special about it, but The Takeout has reported that pretty much all of Iowa’s best pizza comes from gas stations, which is maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Also, that Quad Cities style pizza is even bigger on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities region than it is on the Illinois side, making me think that Illinois should just give this pizza to Iowa entirely. I mean, come on Illinois, don’t you have enough?
Kansas and Kentucky
These are two states entirely without (pizza) style.
Kind of like Alabama, Louisiana is a state without a style of pizza directly, but its unique foods have been put on pizza quite a bit. There are a number of different Louisiana-inspired Cajun pizza recipes online, and New Orleans’ famous Muffuletta sandwich has been adapted into a pizza as well. There’s also a New York-based pizza chain called Two Boots that takes its Cajun-Italian inspiration from two boot-shaped locations — Italy and Louisiana — but it doesn’t really have anything to do with the state of Louisiana itself.
Although not referred to as “Maine style pizza,” Portland has a thick, gooey, one-pound Sicilian slice that’s extremely popular with locals. Originally served out of the back of Micucci’s, a local Italian grocery store, these oversized slices — called “slabs” — are known for a thick crust that’s surprisingly light and fluffy. This pizza is so beloved that in 2014, a spin-off restaurant called “SLAB” opened up in Portland, which has since been named the best pizza in Maine by Food and Wine and The Daily Meal.
Maryland’s style of pizza is noted for its rectangular shape, its thin, biscuit-y crust and its use of provolone cheese. As a regular visitor to Ocean City, Maryland, I’ve had this pizza, and it’s just fine. But I highly recommend going with the aforementioned Grotto Pizza, which has a ton of Maryland locations, too.
Popular throughout New England is Greek style pizza, which Eat This, Not That! explains has a “thick, soft crust [that] is spread with oregano-scented tomato sauce and a blend of cheeses, which often includes cheddar and mozzarella. Lastly, everything is doused in plenty of olive oil.” This pizza was born in Massachusetts, as was New England beach pizza, which, per Eater, is super thin, super light and super mediocre.
After the initial publishing of this list, a baker in Brockton, Massachusetts told me I “missed the boat” on Massachusetts pizza because I failed to include South Shore Bar Pizza. This Boston-born pizza is a thin, personal pie that’s cooked in a steel pan and is made without a crust. You can also order it “laced,” which means the pizza maker puts a line of sauce around the very edge to burn against the pan. Frankly, that sounds delicious, and I apologize for missing it the first time.
A year or so ago, I did a whole thing about Detroit style pizza, and at the time, I explained that it’s “legitimately Detroit in just about every way.” Not only was this thick, crustless, focaccia-like pizza created by warring Detroit pizza restaurants, but it’s also cooked in an automotive drip tray, which is beyond perfect. I mean, for Motor City to have its signature pizza be cooked in a car accessory is the kind of beautiful poetry these other states should be striving for.
In 2017, the Minnesota-based pizza chain Red’s Savoy rebranded itself as the originator of ‘Sota style pizza, or a round pizza that’s square-cut, loaded with cheese and toppings and equipped with a “passive aggressive” sauce that’s both sweet and has a bit of a kick. Five years later, their claim is still holding firm as ‘Sota style is a recognized thing now.
On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it’s common to drizzle French dressing or Catalina dressing on your pizza. The tradition started at Hugo’s Pizza in Biloxi back in the 1950s, and though Hugo’s closed in 2003, the tradition lives on in this area of the state.
According to First We Feast, the cracker-thin St. Louis style pizza has a sweet sauce and a regional cheese called Provel. The sauce, cheese and toppings also extend all the way to the very edge of the pizza.
One pizzeria in Montana claimed in 2021 that they had invented Montana style pizza, which has local ingredients and a sourdough crust. Since it’s so new, I hesitate to call this official in any way, but I wish them well, as sourdough pizza can be pretty damn good.
Nebraska has a legit pizza style that’s pretty widely recognized. It’s called Omaha style, and it’s rectangular with a flaky, biscuit-like crust and lots of meat toppings.
Nevada is another state without its own kind of pizza. That said, a recent piece in the New York Times notes that Las Vegas has a thriving pizza scene consisting of pizza makers who have imported their home styles from across the country.
Not much going on in New Hampshire, but unsurprisingly, they also like the New England Greek pizza.
There’s a lot of crossover between the cultures of New York and New Jersey, especially when it involves pizza. New York style pizza is most definitely a thing — which I’ll get to shortly — while “New Jersey style” might apply to a couple different things. In some cases, New Jersey style is New York style, just slightly saucier and slightly crispier. In other cases, the phrase “New Jersey style” is applied to something called Trenton tomato pie, which is most definitely its own thing.
Trenton tomato pie is sometimes thick and sometimes thin. It’s also sometimes eaten at room temperature and sometimes cut into strips or squares as opposed to triangles. Really, there’s not a ton of consistency around it, except for the fact that you put Romano cheese down first, then the toppings, then a layer of sauce. Some even claim that Trenton tomato pie is so unique that it isn’t actually pizza, but, I mean, of course it is — that’s dumb.
I originally had reported that New Mexicans liked corn and carrots as pizza toppings, and then I got an angry Facebook message asking me, “Do you even know anybody that lives in New Mexico?” To answer that question: “No, I don’t, everything I know about New Mexico comes from Breaking Bad.” However, I’ve since found out that they put green chiles on their pizza there, which makes more sense than corn and carrots.
Ah, my home state and easily the most important pizza scene in the country (suck it, Chicago). There’s a lot of pizza styles that come from New York, from the rectangular, sauce-on-top Grandma pizza, to the traditional-with-a-twist neo-Neapolitan pizza, to the cup-and-char pepperoni-covered Buffalo pizza. Even French bread pizza comes from New York. All of this, though, pales in comparison to good ol’ New York style pizza. A large, hand-tossed, triangular-cut, thinly crusted pizza that’s soft, but sturdy enough to be folded in half and eaten on the go. New York style pizza is pizza, and it’s the pizza all other pizzas are measured by.
There’s a couple of different things going on in Ohio. First, there’s Ohio Valley style pizza, which is square and, while it’s cooked with sauce on it, the cheese and toppings are applied later because, as First We Feast explains, “the heat from the crust will cook the toppings.” This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’ve had pizza with cold cheese on it before — this is a local favorite in Oneonta, New York — and it’s a pretty nice contrast of hot and cold.
Ohio also has Brier Hill style, which are cooked in pans, covered in a thick sauce and topped with bell peppers and Romano cheese. Finally there’s Dayton style, which, as far as I can tell, is Chicago tavern style, but with heavier toppings and cut into smaller pieces. To me, Dayton style is precisely what’s wrong with all these regional pizza styles. I entirely applaud pizza innovation, but taking a style from a nearby state and just cutting the slices slightly smaller does not warrant your own fucking style.
Think for yourselves, Dayton — if you want your own regional pizza style, let’s apply ourselves, okay?
Oklahoma may have a musical, but they don’t have a style of pizza.
Along the I-5 corridor in Oregon, you can find several pizza places serving a style of pizza that some feel is, indeed, “Oregon style pizza.” According to a Reddit thread, the sauce of this pizza is “thick, pasty and heavily spiced with herbs and pepper flakes,” while the dough is thin and bubbly. It doesn’t seem to be well known outside of the state, but along the I-5, this is how pizza is done.
Pennsylvania’s got some interesting stuff going on. There’s the Old Forge style pizza in Old Forge. What’s different about it is that it’s rectangular and cooked in a tray — that’s about it. While the pizza looks good, it’s led to some pretty incredulous claims, most notably, the residents of Old Forge like to insist that their town is the pizza capital of the world, which is insane.
There’s also Philadelphia tomato pie, which is a thick focaccia bread topped with a thick layer of sauce and a sprinkle of cheese; the heavily crusted, super cheesy Pittsburgh style; and Altoona style, perhaps the weirdest pizza in the country thanks to its use of one odd ingredient — American cheese.
In addition to that New England Greek pizza I keep talking about, Rhode Island has a grilled pizza that people really like, and it has “Pizza Strips,” which is just bakery bread topped with sauce and cut into strips.
South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee
Nope, nope and nope.
There seems to be no consensus on whatever Texas style pizza is, but there’s a lot of chatter about Texas BBQ Pizza, which makes sense.
Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming
No on all counts, but that New England Greek pizza is fairly popular in Vermont, too.
Originating from Fazzari’s in Clarkston, Washington, the “Shotsy” is among the most unique regional pizzas in the country. Instead of tomato sauce, they use a mustard sauce, they then top the pizza in Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, Polish sausage, onions and sauerkraut. That sounds more like something you’d get from a biergarten than a pizzeria, but I can’t help but be intrigued.
When this piece was first published, one Wisconsinite reached out to me and insisted that Wisconsin style pizza was pan pizza made with Crisco on a belt oven, then loaded up with cheese and toppings. While this kind of pizza — which looks very good — is served at Frankie’s on Lake Superior, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything more than a local favorite, which still gives it a way to go before becoming a full-fledged regional style.
Really, I recommend that the Cheeseheads in Wisconsin get together and sort this all out, because the cheese state definitely should have its own pizza, which is more than I can say for some of these other regional pizzas.