Our pie-shaped, slice-loving city is the Crossroads of America, after all, and regional transplants have brought their own styles to the Hoosier state.
A weird thing happened in California in the ’80s: Chef Wolfgang Puck’s take on pizza—super thin, topped with fresh and often high-end ingredients—became a huge cultural and celebrity hit. Puck more or less coined “California style,” but it has gone national and then some with the California Pizza Kitchen chain. Luckily, we’ve got a local version that’s better than any franchise.
Try it: Magoo’s California Pizza (multiple locations)
The roots of pizza as we know it in the U.S. starts with, of course, Italy. Pizza’s homeland is the original: about the size of a large dinner charger, thin and saucy, served uncut for one person. Neapolitan pizza is rustic and, ideally, baked in a brick oven, with uneven bubbling that leaves some areas with a little char that balances and subtly sweetens the sauce.
The American original. Take the Neapolitan pizza and stretch it to Big Apple proportions. When the pizza landed stateside, it became a large meal to share, and New York style pizza is known for its pennant-size slices that you have to fold to get into your mouth. They’re baked in huge deck ovens for a leopard-printed, thin, chewy bite and served whole or by the mega-slice.
Indianapolis has so many Region natives, Chicago deep dish is nothing new around here. If you know it, you love it, coming to the table after a lengthy bake about the same thickness and consistency as a casserole. The cheese streams out into a messy puddle you have to eat with a fork and knife unless it’s late and you’re deep in Hasselhof-versus-Wendy’s burger territory.
New England Greek
The Greek diner is an East Coast institution, and with Greek diners came Greek pizza shops, and a delicious new take on pizza was born in Connecticut and Massachusetts. These pizzas are baked in deck ovens like NY pizzas, but their thicker dough is smashed into a high-sided, greased pan with cheese all the way to the edge so it crisps up mahogany and crunchy as a potato chip.
When it arrived stateside, it came with Sicilian grandmas in Jersey and Long Island, and as Grandmas made it to stuff the grandkids full to the gills, that’s how it got its name. It’s mega-crunchy and chewy with a thick, pillowy crust, and every surface of that bready crust that touches the pan bakes up with an audible chew. The difference is that the kids want to eat now, so grandma’s crust comes out thinner and chewier without the second rise.
Try It: Brozinni Pizzeria (8810 S. Emerson Ave., 317-865-0911), Manhattan Pizzeria (6225 W. 56th St., 317-552-2141)
This rectangular pizza was born on the island of Sicily, where it shares many similarities with focaccia: left to rise in a sheet pan coated heavily in olive oil before baking, making the bottom essentially lightly fried and the middle aerated. In Sicily, the dough would rise while the sauce was cooking, but its American cousin earned its nickname from that lack of rising time.
Try it: Giorgio’s Pizza (9 E. Market St., 317-687-9869)
The most famous iteration of Detroit pizza probably showed up at one or two memorable birthday parties, in the form of Little Caesar’s huge, rectangular party pizzas. Detroit style is a perfect merger between Sicilian and New England Greek, baked in deep, rectangular pans with the cheese going on first, all the way to the edge. It bakes up dark and lacy like parmesan crisp, and the fat from meats like pepperoni seep through and almost fry the bottom crispy.
Try it: Mother Bear’s Pizza (two Bloomington locations)
Just as we’re known for being the crossroads of America, Indianapolis pizza is defined by a few crucial elements: topped with fresh, ideally off-the-farm ingredients, on thin crust with a little crunch, far removed from that massive Chicago staple, circular but party cut. Indianapolis, or maybe just Indiana pizza, is a nostalgic birthday party/study/treat after a long day or season of good teamwork. A perfect Indiana pizza will have three distinctive eating experiences: tiny, coveted crust corners; big, crusty pieces; and then crustless islands of cheese flowing in every direction.