Everybody loves pizza. If it wasn't a terrible idea, most of us would eat it every day. But seldom do we realize -- amid all the oregano and mozzarella and marinara-speak -- that most of the pizzas we enjoy are Americanizations of an Italian classic that was kind of boring before we co-opted it.
With that, and gluttony, in mind, we've whipped up this handy guide to Americanized pizza styles... no biancas or Neapolitan pies here, just a coast-to-coast rundown of the regional bests. Then, just because we can, we ranked them.
Style: St. Louis
Where it thrives: The Gateway City and its suburbs.
Distinguishing qualities: An ultra-thin, cracker-crispy crust cut into squares. The presence of some processed white cheese goop known as Provel, which is a combo of provolone, cheddar, and Swiss that is considered to be Velveeta's Midwestern cousin.
A great example: Imo's Pizza is what St. Louis expats long for.
Ranking rationale: Provel is a very acquired taste, which is to say it's just kind of gross unless you're used to eating it.
Where it thrives: The West Coast and in suburban outdoor malls with California Pizza Kitchens throughout the country.
Distinguishing qualities: Thin, bubbly crust that combines New York and Neapolitan styles. Typically served up as a single-serving pie topped with stuff like spinach, squash, and other toppings New Yorkers often point to as reasons they hate California.
A great example: Mozza in LA and anything touched by Wolfgang Puck everywhere else.
Ranking rationale: While it's great to disguise pizza as healthy, if we wanted a salad and cheesy breadsticks, we would have ordered salad and cheesy breadsticks.
Style: Chicago thin-crust
Where it thrives: In Chicago and the goofily named suburbs.
Distinguishing qualities: Crunchy, square-cut slices loaded to the edge with cheese. Cultivation of comments like "That's not Chicago pizza!" from people who don't know any better and who are probably considerably fatter than you.
A great example: Vito & Nick's is the local fave, but Aurelio's has more name recognition for being more chain-y but keeping its street cred.
Ranking rationale: If you're going Chicago style, why not go for the gigantic kind?
Style: New Haven
Where it thrives: Connecticut and "artisan" pizza places throughout the country with a surplus of arugula, wood ovens, and no other name to call their style.
Distinguishing qualities: Thin, foldable, floppy slices that totally aren't New York style, you JACKASS, because this isn't New York, and it's called apizza. Crust with ciabatta-esque qualities and cheese/sauce going all the way to the edges. Sometimes, clams on top, because Connecticut.
A great example: Modern Apizza in New Haven and Apizza Scholls in Portland, OR.
Ranking rationale: Really, this is so close to New York style that it's almost redundant. Also, seafood on pizza takes a pretty big leap of faith if you're not from Connecticut.
Where it thrives: In MoTown, but also throughout Michigan, Ohio, and other Midwestern areas.
Distinguishing qualities: Thick, Sicilian-ish crust loaded with oil. Burnt cheese crusted to the edges with the ability to cut the roof of your mouth. Giant, doughy square slices that may soon be viable forms of currency.
A great example: Buddy's is the icon in the D, but out of state Jet's Pizza is a decent substitute and will inspire you to sing Paul McCartney songs.
Ranking rationale: As a hometown hero, I'd rank this #1 if more places offered it... but they don't. As it stands, it's like the pizza Holy Grail, and heading to the D to get it rivals fighting on top of a tank if you're uninitiated.
Style: Chicago deep-dish
Where it thrives: Throughout Illinois and randomly where Chicago natives relocated and, going through withdrawals, took matters into their own hands.
Distinguishing qualities: Dense, thick crust often made of cornmeal. Huge layers of cheese and sausage. Sauce on top. Ability to instantly inspire fiery arguments among visiting New Yorkers.
A great example: Lou Malnati's, a Chicago classic that'll ship frozen deep-dish pies everywhere in the world, including to your New York friends who won't stop saying crap like "It's not a pizza, it's a casserole".
Ranking rationale: Chicago deep-dish trumps all in terms of taste, heft, and excess, but committing to eating it is also committing to a big dry cleaning bill and a long nap. Plus, you can't grab a slice on the go, unless you want to wear it.
Where it thrives:
Subway stops, on every single street corner in New York, and in the mind of New Yorkers every time they take a bite of not-NY pizza.
Thin, foldable, floppy slices topped most often with cheese and pepperoni, but never pineapple unless you want to get punched in the mouth. Ability to eat it while simultaneously walking and swearing at that schmuck who keeps speeding up and slowing down his pace.
A great example: Prince St. Pizza
in Manhattan, any slice outside a NYC subway stop, and any small shop across America run by a stubbly dude with a thick Brooklyn accent.
New Yorkers believe that all things pizza (or all things in general) start and stop in the Big Apple. The rest of the country calls New York pizza "pizza". It's cheap. It's manageable. But it's not the end-all of pizza greatness.
Where it thrives:
In every single city, suburb, and college town in America.
Round, bready crust overloaded with greasy pepperoni and sausage. Extremely stringy cheese. Best consumed from a silver-towered serving tray in a room equipped with pinball machines, or taken home in a box sporting a finger-licking caricature of an Italian chef.
A great example:
Gina's Pizza in Flushing, MI, Peter's Pizza in Wellesley, MA, or pretty much every single place you remember fondly from childhood that will appear in the comments section below preceded by "you forgot".
An individual's definition of pizza is what they ate when they were kids. It's not New York. It's not Chicago. It's whatever they had in their hometown. And it's perfect.
Andy Kryza is Thrillist's national eat/drink senior editor, and has proudly lived vegetable-free since 2001. Follow his adventures/slow decline via Twitter at @apkryza.