Not too long ago, most Americans ate pizza from cheap slice joints, mass-market delivery chains or, worse, the freezer case. Now our pizza horizons have expanded, and it seems like every decent-size city has at least one Neapolitan spot cranking out the small, made-to-order pies out of blazing-hot ovens. But Neapolitan isn't the only pizza trend on fire right now; here, we looked around the country to find the hottest pie-related trends, from heirloom wheat crusts to a gourmet revival of that after-school classic, the pizza bagel. Read on for more.
First it was New York style, then Neapolitan. But as that has become commonplace, crust lovers are moving on to a more delicate style du jour: Roman, which translates to a thin, crackerlike crust. In New York, restaurateur Danny Meyer has devoted his latest restaurant to the stuff: Marta features both white and red pies. Go for the funghi, a white pie with fontina, roasted chanterelle and hen of the woods mushrooms, red onion, thyme and lemon juice.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia find “al taglio” Roman-style slices (i.e. served at room temperature) at places like Pizzeria Vetri and Bufad, where the oblong pies are cut with scissors and then priced by weight. Scissors also make an appearance at Pizzeria Gabbiano, where chef Mike Easton serves gorgeous Roman-style pies for lunch. He says he’s inspired by Forno Campo de Fiore in Rome, and sells the pizza by the kilo and pairs it with chile oil for dipping. We like the spicy coppa with housemade Sicilian tomato sauce, shaved fennel and parsley (on the left above).
Why, yes, those square pans are automotive parts: one of the hallmark features of this pizza style is that it takes the blue steel pans originally used in automotive assembly lines and puts them to a new (more delicious) use, giving Detroit-style pizza its distinct shape as well as a bit of history. The pies have their roots in the Sicilian thick-crust style, and they are also sometimes called “upside-down pizza” because the toppings are buried under cheese, which is then topped with sauce.
We're not exactly sure why, but the style is now busting out of Michigan. In Austin, trailer Via 313 (named after Detroit's area code) does a version of the Midwest style; Jet’s Pizza, which has locations all over the Midwest, has also captivated Dallas eaters with its deep-dish pies with three locations in the area. Meanwhile Galleria Umberto in Boston features the Sicilian-style square slices, and Union Brothers in Yorktown, Virginia, concentrates on the square style as well; it even features a pizza called the Teamster, with pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, red onions and green peppers.
You know exactly what this is: a thin-crusted pie at an old-school bar more famous for pizza than Pabst. The Northeast is overflowing with them, with places like Kinchley’s Tavern in New Jersey. But now pizza mavens like Slice blog founder Adam Kuban are resurrecting the style, bringing thin crust to the spate of beer gardens and breweries that have materialized around the country. Because, really, what goes better together than pizza and (craft) beer?
In Kuban's case, he's putting his money where his crust is with a pop-up called Margot’s Pizza, housed inside Emily in Brooklyn. The ticketed pop-up happens once every month or so and features pies like the Funghitown, with Romano cheese, three kinds of mushrooms and truffled sottocenere cheese. The difference between these pizzas and the reheated slices you sometimes find on bar menus? Well, at places with bar pizza, you'll find whole pies on the menu as well as a devotion to the craft. For example, at hot spot ABGB in Austin, house-brewed beer cozies up to specialty pizzas like the guanciale with cherry tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and lardo crust with a balsamic reduction.
Heirloom Wheat Crusts
You may not look to fast-food chains for cutting-edge trends, but in this case, Chipotle-backed Pizzeria Locale breaks all the rules. The Colorado-based restaurants recently switched from using traditional Italian double-zero flour (the zeros refer to how finely it is ground) in their crusts to an heirloom wheat variety called Edison. Meanwhile, in Berkeley, Eugene de Christopher (the creator of Boboli pizza crust) has been doing a pizza pop-up that uses organic, non-GMO heirloom wheat in its pizza.
So why is this shift happening now? Chefs and diners are more interested in local, whole grains instead of the mass-produced, bleached flour that's the basis for most pizza dough. Plus, restaurants sourcing heirloom wheat varieties make a special effort to find it locally. In Phoenix, Pizzeria Bianco uses local White Sonora Wheat from Hayden Flour Mills in its breads and pizza crust; in fact, the restaurant's bread baker Marco Bianco thinks heritage wheat will be “the next big thing to hit the culinary world.”
Turns out Chipotle is inspiring the pizza world in more than one way. Quick-fired pies served in minutes are popping up all over the place: Customers design their own pies, choosing from a display of fresh ingredients, and then the spots cook them in less than two minutes and deliver them to the table just as quickly.
Washington, DC leads the trend, with places like &pizza and Custom Fuel proving the service-line model works for marinara and mozzarella too. Dallas-based Pie Five plans to open 38 locations in the DC area, and local pizza legend Ruth Gresser is even planning to open a quick-serve concept called Pizzeria Paradiso in the spring too. Meanwhile places like 800 Degrees (from Umami Burger founder Anthony Carron) have mesmerized LA and Las Vegas, with locations in New York and more to come. And don't forget Pizzeria Locale, which, beyond its heirloom wheat crusts, also targets the fast-casual crowd.
Meanwhile another restaurant, Project Pie, has locations in San Diego and Dallas and boasts that it turns out pies in less than five minutes. So much for slow food.
Move over, Sriracha. “Hot honey,” which is infused with chiles, is the hottest (pun intended) new micro-trend in Brooklyn. Brooklyn joint Paulie Gee’s premiered the stuff a few years ago and serves it atop its sopressata pie. Turns out employee Mike Kurtz came up with the stuff, and recently he branched out with a bottled product called Mike’s Hot Honey. Find it for sale at places like Stinky Blkyn and Wedge.
Now more Brooklyn places are spicing up their pies with Mike's Hot Honey or housemade versions of the stuff. For example, at Roberta’s, try a pizza called the Bee Sting, with tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, chile and honey, and Rosco’s in Crown Heights serves a red pie with broccoli rabe, bacon, mozzarella and hot honey.
Just because you’ve finished your main course doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to pizza. Italy brought us pizza and Nutella, and the latest craze combines them in an addictive dessert. Why? Well, now that the country has mastered Neapolitan crust, the next logical step is to slather it with something sweet.
In Austin, Due Forni’s version comes with Nutella, strawberries, toasted hazelnuts and gelato on a Neapolitan crust. At Rizzo’s Fine Pizza in New York, find a Nutella pizza with dark chocolate chips and powdered sugar, while in San Francisco at Gialina, find a hazelnut dessert pizza with amaretti and mascarpone cheese. At Osteria Marzano in Alexandria, Virginia, try the Nutella pizza with pistachios, sea salt, whipped mascarpone and baby marshmallows. Last but not least, at Via Tribunali in Seattle, chocolate and hazelnut meet the calzone in the Mezza Luna.
Though the pizza bagel —an unholy alliance of bagel, canned sauce and melted cheese — has never gone out of style with the after-school crowd, now it's jumping from the toaster oven to legit restaurants. Boston is leading the country, with Katz Bagel Bakery and the new Bagelsaurus, which serves the treat at lunch (pictured).
In Austin, Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden’s late-night munchies menu features pizza bagel bites with andouille, sauerkraut and housemade cheese. Meanwhile New York’s über-hip Black Seed Bagels has just started offering late-night pizza bagels (cheese pizza with bagel or pepperoni) from 10 PM until 4 AM on Thursday through Saturdays. We're not sure exactly why these hipper places have started to offer the specialty, but the high-end ingredients and dedication to quality sure make us glad they did.