Aficionadough: Rectangles, Triangles and Squares, Oh My! There are Reasons for the Different Slices of your Pizza Pie
Today we lay down the last critical part of your Pizza Education before I start profiling Central Ohio pizzerias. Any way you slice it, there are those that can not contemplate that pizza, like cookies, chocolate chips and beer glassware is not a one shape serves all experience. Living among us, sometimes in plain sight other times lurking on pizza discussion forums, there is a subset of consumers < (PizzaNewYorkusTrollis) (JerseyPieextremistmaximus)> that get bent out of shape by a slice with right angles. Today, I will set most of you free with an overview of the ‘why’ of the different types of slices in the world of pizza pie.
In order to start the dialogue, let me set the scene. An east coast transplant walks into a Midwestern pizza palace and launches into a diatribe about how the pizza available sucks. The trigger is always the sight of a square slice pizza pie, which I call the “can’t see (eat) the pizza for the squares” phenomenon. Whereas, a resident of Ohio visits New York City or some east coast metropolis, encounters a different variety, style and cut of pizza and thinks or says, “That’s nice.” There is not a reciprocal exchange of rage. Those of us raised on squares can adapt. Those raised on triangles alone, are victims of groupthink and years of propaganda to such an extent that only endless love, extensive deprogramming, an abundance of right angles and cheaper housing can cure.
If you were not a fan of geometry in high school, have no fear, this discussion of shapes will not get complicated. The shape of a slice depends on a multiple of disparate things: history, tradition, style of pizza, oven type, geographic location, whimsey, where and when in time the style associated with the cut was created and if the originator-slash-maker was/is topping-centric, dough-centric or egocentric.
There is a time and a purpose for all of the shapes in the pizza universe so as a resource to help someone with squaresliceaphobia, or for you to just feel better about your culinary life choices, I am going to break down the different types of slices and why they all deserve a place in your heart and spot in my belly.
Whereas with the most common slice, the ubiquitous triangle or wedge slice is the dominant cut in the world of pizza, we begin, but certainly do not end, with the pie-shaped crowd pleaser.
Styles: New York, New Haven aPizza, Neapolitan
Places: Borgata, Adriatico’s, Everywhere
Pros: You can often fold the slice for eating on the run, there is often a giant crust ring if you like that
Cons: There is often a giant crust ring that could have been flattened out to make more pizza
Pizza as we know it originated in Naples, Italy. By circumstance and design, it was created as a food for people on the go who often had no kitchen at home. Often served by the slice, the dough ring at the end served as a handle for the eater on the go. The dough ring can also service as a point of contact to turn the pizza in a very hot oven or pull it out. A round mound of pizza dough is made for tossing and turning which provides a good show. More importantly for thinner crust pizza, the tossing helps with the moisture of the dough and helps it rise in the oven. The perfect shape for this approach is a circle and when your purpose is to give someone a lunch on the go, one or two triangle slices is perfect for consumption on the streets of Napoli. For the time, place and style of oven this style was created in and for the consumers it was created for, the triangle was the best way to serve the masses (in the era before pizza boxes and bags).
Styles: Sicilian, Detroit
Places: Adriatico’s, Jets, Pie of the Tiger
Pros: Pizza baked in a pan can create a large volume of pizza for consumption in the same amount of space as “traditional” pizza. Rectangle slices offer a lot of crust to crust fans.
Cons: If dough is not your thing, you are going to feel those carbs pretty quickly.
Rectangle slices typically hail from pizza created in pans that have a focaccia style thickness (at least 1 inch in depth). In the case of Detroit Style Pizza, the style was shaped by the easy access to automotive parts pans available for a song (or maybe brought home from work) in the 1940s.
Styles: St. Louis, Dayton, Columbus, The “Edge” from Pizza Hut
Places: Tommy’s, Gatto’s, Terita’s, Bexley Pizza Plus
Pros: Easy to share, supports the capacity for more topping (volume and variety), facilitates trying more topping combinations, easier to say…”just one more slice!”
Cons: What do you do with the corner pieces? Having to listen to people whine about square slices.
The consensus is that square cut pizza, also known as Tavern Cut, Party Cut and the Great Satan, is largely a style that originated in and is still very common in the Midwest of the United States of America. It is most likely that this originated in Chicago in what is commonly referred to as bar pie or tavern pizza. This cut was intended to provide a smaller portion of pizza to larger amounts of people in a convivial bar or tavern setting. We know that this approach to cutting pizza was codified in Columbus by Romeo’s Pizza (Jimmy Massey and Romei Sirji) in 1950. The square cut was the perfect fit for all of those square types in the 1950s. As a breakout new food of the era, it was very popular with newly affluent teenagers who could go out as a group, pool their money and share different topping combinations at the same seating to enjoy this strange, new food offering. The triangles may have pointed these early entrepreneurs in the right direction for pizza, but the square made it what it is today in Columbus!
Center Cut Pizza – The Grand Compromise of Cuts
Style: (Old School) Columbus
Places: TAT, Massey’s, Rubino’s
Pro: It can bring peace to the pieces debate
Con: Few people know about this so it must be specially requested at most of the places that offer this.
Here is how the center cut works. The pizza maker cuts the pizza vertically then makes one horizontal cut in the center. This creates long, narrow rectangle strips of pizza. Each slice has a section of crust. The end result is still easier to share and offers the potential for a wider variety of toppings. While this cut will not work on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza and might not be a best practice for some other styles, this is a very viable option for most situations.