And so it is that, in 1946, Gus Guerra was looking to add new menu items to his struggling neighborhood bar, Buddy's Rendezvous at 6 Mile and Conant, and acquired a few unused blue steel (not the Zoolander pose, the grade of steel) industrial utility trays from a friend who worked at a factory.
He thought the lipped trays would make a good Sicilian-style pizza, despite their rectangular shape. He happened to be right: all of the characteristics that make Detroit deep-dish pizza distinctively itself are the result of the heavy trays, similar to cast iron skillets, used to bake them. The crunchy exterior crust soaked through with oil and bubbled over with caramelized cheese, the soft and airy interior crust: it's all thanks to these repurposed trays.
Legend gets a little shaky here, but the preferred version of local lore is that Guerra's wife Anna got the dough recipe for their signature deep-dish pizza from her Sicilian mother. The alternative story is that an old Sicilian dude named Dominic taught Guerra the "Sicilian way." Blame the omertà code of honor for the silence and subsequent speculation. Either way, Detroit deep dish's roots are in Sicily, with the unique dough, sfincione, being more akin to a focaccia than what's typically identified with pizza, which seems to be a defining characteristic about Detroit's hot take on the subject. It defies what's considered traditional.