Detroit-style pizza is enjoying a renaissance born from national attention that has been decades overdue. It is a thick square with an airy crust, lots of cheese, dollops of sauce on top and a ring of burnt cheese around the edge. In spite of being cooked in a deep dish pan, it bears little resemblance to Chicago-style pizza. It is more a variation on what some might call a Sicilian slice.
Origins of the style are cloudy. Most agree that Gus Guerra was the inventor, but it is unclear whether Buddy’s, where he developed it, or Cloverleaf, where he spent most of his career as a pizziolo, is closer to the original. The original Cloverleaf is different from the counter service branches around Detroit. It is an actual sit-down pizza parlor — the place to go to try the original Detroit pizza hot and fresh.
The perks of eating at a parlor are several. First off, the Cloverleaf has a surprisingly fresh and tasty antipasti salad to entertain you while the pizza bakes, along with tall glasses of cheap beer to stimulate the appetite. More important, Detroit-style pizza is best consumed right out of the oven, even though the convention in town is to take it away.
The crust is what makes Detroit-style pizza one of our favorite American pies. It is spongy and airy where Chicago deep dish would be dense and crisp. Since the crust is the best part of this pizza, your table will probably fight for a corner piece. The more edges you have, the more inches of toasted cheese there are to eat.
A nice feature of dinner at Cloverleaf is that salad comes with bread sticks made from strips of pizza dough that have been coated in sugar, butter, and Parmesan cheese and baked until slightly crisp. Theyare known as Crunchy Bread; and you should get some even if you don’t order a salad.
For us, the cheese-to-sauce ratios on Cloverleaf’s pizza could use adjustment. Our pizza had so little sauce on some slices that we had to try to beg or borrow some from more sauce-rich neighbor slices. Sauce aside, the crust on Cloverleaf pizza is magical. Even among other great Detroit pizza it stands out for its lightness and perfectly caramelized edges.