Detroit Style Pizza VS Sicilian: Ultimate Showdown

In the world of pizza, there are few rivalries as intriguing as the battle between Detroit style pizza vs Sicilian-style pies. Both have their origins in the old country and have evolved into unique creations that reflect the culinary traditions of their respective cities.

With their thick, square crusts and abundance of toppings, each variant offers a distinct experience for pizza lovers. As we dive into the details that differentiate these two regional specialties, we can explore the textures, flavors and histories that make each of these pies a mouthwatering masterpiece in its own right.

So, let’s embark on a delicious journey as we delve into the world of Detroit-style versus Sicilian-style pizza.

detroit style pizza vs sicilian

History of Detroit-style pizza

Detroit-style pizza was born in the 1940s when Gus Guerra, a local bar owner, sought to create a unique pizza that would set his establishment apart. He started with a thick, rectangular crust, which he based on his mother-in-law’s recipe for sfinciuni, a type of Sicilian focaccia.

The crust was light and airy and Guerra topped it with a generous amount of Wisconsin brick cheese, leaving the edges to caramelize and create a crispy, cheesy border around the pizza. Finally, he added the sauce on top of the cheese, a departure from traditional pizza-making methods.

The result was an instantly recognizable pizza with a distinctive taste that quickly gained popularity in Detroit and eventually spread across the United States.

History of Sicilian pizza

Sicilian pizza, also known as sfincione, finds its origins in the 1800s in the region of Sicily, Italy. This pizza style features a thick, spongy crust made from a well-hydrated dough that is allowed to rise and ferment, resulting in a light and airy texture.

Traditionally, Sicilian pizza is topped with tomato sauce, onions, anchovies, breadcrumbs and herbs, with cheese taking a backseat. Over time, Sicilian immigrants brought their pizza-making traditions to the United States, where the style evolved and adapted to local tastes.

Today, many American pizzerias offer their own take on Sicilian-style pizza, with different toppings and regional variations.

What’s the difference between the detroit style pizza vs sicilian?

One of the key differences between Detroit-style pizza and Sicilian pizza is the crust. While both styles feature a thick, rectangular crust, Detroit-style pizza is known for its light and airy texture, achieved through a unique dough preparation process. On the other hand, the crust of a Sicilian pizza is spongier, as it’s made with a well-hydrated dough that undergoes fermentation.

Another distinguishing factor is the toppings and their arrangement. In Detroit-style pizza, Wisconsin brick cheese is generously spread across the dough, with the edges caramelizing to form a crispy, cheesy border. The sauce is then added on top of the cheese, deviating from traditional pizza-making techniques. Sicilian pizza, however, emphasizes the use of tomato sauce, onions, anchovies, breadcrumbs and herbs, with cheese taking a less prominent role. In contrast to Detroit-style pizza, the sauce is applied directly onto the crust, followed by the toppings.

Both pizza styles have evolved over time and adapted to local tastes, resulting in various regional variations and toppings. Despite their differences, both Detroit-style vs Sicilian pizzas provide a unique take on an iconic dish, offering distinct flavors and textures that are enjoyed by pizza enthusiasts around the world.

Detroit Style Pizza VS Sicilian: Ultimate Showdown

Origin and Background

1. Detroit-style pizza

Detroit-style pizza

1. Development in the mid-20th century

Detroit-style pizza emerged during the mid-20th century, when Gus Guerra, the owner of Buddy’s Rendezvous, a bar located in Detroit, aimed to create a unique pizza to differentiate his establishment. In 1946, Guerra crafted a rectangular pizza with a thick, airy crust, combining elements of both the Sicilian and traditional American styles.

The crust was made extra crispy by lining the pan with a generous amount of oil and the toppings were layered in reverse, with cheese directly on top of the crust, followed by the other ingredients and finally topped with sauce. The result was a delicious, crispy and cheesy pizza that quickly gained popularity.

2. Influence of the automotive industry

The automotive industry played a significant role in the development of Detroit-style pizza. Guerra sourced square, deep pans from local automotive plants, which were originally used as parts trays. These pans provided the perfect vessel for cooking the thick-crusted pizza evenly and achieving its signature crispy texture.

The connection to the automotive industry not only influenced the physical shape of Detroit-style pizza but also contributed to its widespread popularity in the city, as factory workers and employees in related industries embraced this delicious, filling meal. This unique combination of pizza history and industrial influence sets Detroit-style pizza apart from its Sicilian counterpart.

2. Sicilian pizza

Sicilian pizza

1. Roots in traditional Italian cuisine

Sicilian pizza, also known as sfincione, has its roots in traditional Italian cuisine, dating back to the 17th century. Originating in Palermo, the capital city of the island of Sicily, this style of pizza was inspired by local culinary traditions.

Sfincione features a thick, spongy crust made from a combination of flour, water, yeast, and olive oil. Unlike Detroit-style pizza, which has its toppings in reverse order, Sicilian pizza is topped with a rich tomato sauce, onions, anchovies and a generous sprinkle of breadcrumbs.

Often, it also includes caciocavallo cheese, a type of aged provolone, which adds a distinct flavor to the dish.

2. Evolution over time

As Sicilian immigrants made their way to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they brought their culinary traditions with them. In American cities such as New York and Chicago, these immigrants adapted the traditional sfincione to suit local tastes and ingredient availability.

The Americanized version of Sicilian pizza evolved to include more cheese and a wider variety of toppings, such as pepperoni, mushrooms and olives. The use of a rectangular pan also became common, creating a similarity in shape to Detroit-style pizza.

However, the distinct flavors and textures rooted in its traditional Italian origins set Sicilian pizza apart from its Detroit counterpart.

Ingredients and Preparation

1. Detroit-style pizza

1. Rectangular shape and thick crust

To achieve the classic Detroit-style pizza shape and crust, you’ll need a rectangular pan, preferably a steel pan. This will help to create a crispy thick crust that is a key characteristic of the style. The dough should be prepared by mixing flour, water, yeast, sugar and olive oil. Allow it to rest and rise for a few hours before pressing it into the pan.

2. Layering of toppings and cheese

Unlike Sicilian-style pizza, which usually has cheese on top, Detroit-style pizza features layers of toppings and cheese directly on the crust. Start with a layer of thinly sliced or grated Wisconsin brick cheese, which will melt and caramelize around the edges during baking. Next, add your desired toppings, such as pepperoni, mushrooms, or onions. You can also experiment with different combinations to suit your tastes.

3. Signature tomato sauce on top

The signature element of Detroit-style pizza is the tomato sauce that is dolloped or spread over the cheese and toppings. Use a high-quality tomato sauce, preferably made from crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and season it with a blend of herbs and spices, such as garlic, oregano and basil. The sauce should be applied after the cheese and toppings, which sets it apart from Sicilian-style pizza.

This layering technique contributes to the overall flavor profile and allows the crust to stay crispy and light. Bake the pizza until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, then serve and enjoy your delicious Detroit-style pizza.

2. Sicilian pizza

1. Square or rectangular shape

Sicilian pizza is traditionally shaped into a square or rectangular form, similar to Detroit-style pizza. This shape is achieved by using a large, shallow baking sheet or pan. The size of the pan will dictate the size of your pizza, so choose accordingly depending on how many servings you’d like to make.

2. Thick, spongy crust

The crust of a Sicilian pizza is distinctively thick and spongy, setting it apart from other pizza varieties. To create this texture, mix flour, water, yeast, sugar and olive oil to form the dough, and allow it to rise for an extended period of time.

This longer rise will help to develop the crust’s signature airy, spongy texture. Once the dough has risen, press it into the prepared baking sheet or pan, ensuring an even thickness throughout.

3. Toppings and cheese baked into the crust

In contrast to Detroit-style pizza, Sicilian pizza features toppings and cheese baked directly into the crust. Begin by spreading a layer of tomato sauce, seasoned with herbs and spices like garlic, oregano and basil, onto the prepared dough. Next, add a layer of grated mozzarella cheese and your choice of toppings, such as sliced vegetables, pepperoni, or sausage.

The toppings and cheese should be added before baking, allowing them to meld with the crust for a unique and cohesive flavor experience. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice into squares, serve and savor the delicious taste of Sicilian pizza.

Key Differences

  • Crust thickness and texture:

Detroit style pizza is known for its thick, yet airy and crispy crust which is a result of being baked in a square steel pan. The crust is often compared to a deep-dish pizza, but with a lighter texture.

Sicilian pizza, on the other hand, also features a thick crust, but it is typically denser and more bread-like in consistency, reflecting its origins as a simple and filling street food.

  • Sauce application:

In Detroit style pizza, the sauce is usually applied on top of the cheese and other toppings, creating a unique visual appeal. The sauce, often chunky and robust, contributes to the overall flavor balance of the pizza.

Sicilian pizza typically has a more traditional sauce application, with the sauce spread evenly beneath the cheese and toppings, providing a base for the other ingredients.

  • Topping distribution and layering:

Detroit style pizza is famous for its “upside-down” layering of ingredients, with toppings placed directly on the crust, followed by cheese and finally the sauce. This layering technique helps to keep the crust crispy and prevents sogginess.

In contrast, Sicilian pizza features a more standard approach to topping distribution, with toppings placed over the sauce and cheese.

  • Regional variations and adaptations:

Detroit style pizza has become a regional favorite in and around the Detroit area, with many pizzerias offering their own unique take on the classic. This includes variations in toppings, cheeses, and crust recipes.

Sicilian pizza, while also enjoying regional popularity, has a more standardized recipe that remains true to its roots as a simple, rustic street food. However, regional adaptations within Sicily and beyond can include differences in toppings and regional ingredients.

Taste Test: Comparing Detroit-Style and Sicilian Pizza

1. Exploring popular pizzerias

To truly compare Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza, it’s essential to visit popular pizzerias known for offering authentic versions of these styles.

In Detroit, this may involve heading to local establishments such as Buddy’s, Loui’s and Cloverleaf, which have been credited with popularizing the Detroit-style pizza.

For Sicilian pizza, sampling slices from famous spots like L&B Spumoni Gardens or Prince Street Pizza in New York City can offer an authentic taste of this classic style.

2. Analyzing flavor profiles and mouthfeel

When comparing the flavor profiles of Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza, it’s important to consider the differences in crust, sauce and toppings.

The crispy and airy crust of Detroit-style pizza lends a satisfying crunch, whereas the denser, bread-like crust of Sicilian pizza offers a more substantial bite. The sauce on Detroit-style pizza, applied on top of the cheese, is often more prominent and chunky, creating a concentrated, robust flavor.

In contrast, the sauce on a Sicilian slice is typically smoother and more evenly distributed beneath the cheese and toppings. The unique layering of ingredients in Detroit-style pizza may also result in different flavor combinations with each bite, while the more uniform distribution of toppings on Sicilian pizza provides a consistent taste.

3. Evaluating overall satisfaction and preference

In the end, personal preference will play a significant role in determining which style of pizza is more satisfying. Some may appreciate the innovative layering and crispy crust of Detroit-style pizza, while others might prefer the denser, heartier experience of Sicilian pizza.

The best approach is to sample both styles from authentic pizzerias, allowing for a true comparison of their distinct flavors, textures and overall satisfaction. Ultimately, the decision between Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza will largely depend on individual tastes and preferences.


In conclusion, both Detroit style pizza vs Sicilian bring their unique flair to the world of pizza. Detroit-style pizza, with its thick, crispy crust, generous toppings and signature sauce on top, is a hearty option perfect for those seeking a satisfying meal.

Other hand, Sicilian pizza, characterized by its rectangular shape, airy dough, and simple yet flavorful toppings, offers a taste of traditional Italian cuisine. Ultimately, the choice between these two distinctive styles comes down to personal preference and culinary adventure.

So, why not try them both and discover your favorite in the great pizza debate?

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