Triangles, move aside. It’s hip to be square when it comes to pizza.
There’s something divine about a massive square slice with a crunchy outside crust, flavorful sauce, oozing cheese, and glistening roni cups. Really incredibly delicious calories don’t count, right?
I embarked on a mission to find the best square slice New York has to offer that began with a pizza crawl in the Lower East Side. As I began diving in, I was absolutely baffled by my foodie ignorance. It turns out that “Sicilian” and “Grandma” aren’t in fact interchangeable, and that trying to simply compare square slices would be no different than putting Chicago deep dish up against a New York thin slice.
Talk about mind blowing!
I dug into the crusty journey of learning about the world of the square pies. Here are four square slices that are common in New York to be on the lookout for!
When there’s a square slice, most people will assume it’s Sicilian.
In Sicily, this style pizza is called sfincione, which translates to spongy bready. Sure enough, Sicilian-style pizza in the USA features a spongy, thick, focaccia like bread base that is baked in a pan for a square shaped pie.
For a no-frills, budget friendly slice, check out Joe’s, and if you want the haute slice mosey on over to Prince Street Pizza (be warned there will probably be a line.)
I personally find true Sicilian pizza too bready, and it seems more like a bread with toppings rather than a cohesive culinary journey. However, it’s all the rage and worth trying.
I have made the egregious err of confusing “Grandma” with “Sicilian”.
Grandma-style pizza actually originated in Long Island, New York, and was created by first generation Italian immigrants seeking to recreate dishes from home. The difference between a grandma pie and Sicilian pie lies in the crust. Unlike a Sicilian slice, you don’t prove the grandma dough for long, if at all, then you bake it on a cookie sheet with olive oil which gives it a thinner, denser texture.
It has only recently hit the mainstream, which is why it is often confused with Sicilian pizza; even restaurants will confuse the two, as evident when googling “NYC Grandma-Slice”. Looking back at my pizza journeys, I’m having a bit of a crisis in determining which slices were grandma and which were Sicilian, but above are images of what I THINK are grandma slices.
3.Detroit Style Pizza
Detroit style pizza was first cooked up by Gus Guerra in 1946. He used Sicilian pizza as his model with the same light, airy crust, but put it in a deep, heavy square pan to create a caramelized crust that is crunchy, crispy, and flat out amazing. While the pan is the #1 factor that makes a pizza “Detroit” style, another distinguishing feature is that Detroit style pizza uses hard cheeses rather than mozzarella. The higher fat content seeps into the crust to not only aid in the caramelization process, but create a beautifully buttery taste. I know what you’re thinking… it sounds like a Chicago Deep Dish pizza. What separates the two is the fact that Detroit Pizza is blasted at a higher temperature for less time while Chicago deep dish has a lower temperature and longer bake.
4.Roman Style Pizza
Roman-style pizza has a thin, crispy crust that is sturdy enough to be loaded up with toppings galore, and it is often cut up with scissors. Unlike other crusts, the dough for a Roman pie has a touch more water, and it also needs to undergo cold-fermentation, which simply means you put it in the fridge. The temperature slows down the yeast without restricting the enzymes from breaking down the gluten proteins, which results in a less dense, airier bread that is still sturdy and flat. The high moisture levels also play a star role in making the pizza base delightfully airy.
I’ve had plenty of “flatbreads” that I suppose could be Roman Pizza, but the only true experience I can attest to it Bread and Salt in Jersey City. I can’t say Roman style pizza is my favorite brand of square, but keep an eye out, my guess is it will become more trendy in the upcoming years.
I bet you didn’t know there was so much to a square slice…. I sure didn’t!
Whether you want a fluffy Sicilian or crunchy Roman slice, it’s cool to be square.