How Car Factory Parts Inspired Detroit-Style Pizza

Detroit-style pizza isn't just an homage to "the Motor City." It actually owes its roots to the automobile factories that put Michigan's largest city on the map in the same way that Motor City moniker does.

Just as it's important to note the difference between Detroit-style and Chicago-style pizzas, it's crucial to comprehend how vital the automobile industry has been to Detroit's culture. The Week detailed in 2015 how the city's first automobile plant opened in 1899 and industry titans like Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, and General Motors followed in the next half-decade. By 1950, Detroit had just south of two million people and the city boasted nearly 300,000 of them working in car factories (per The Week). The Detroit Historical Society explains that those factories determined where people lived as the city developed and the automobiles the factories produced became integral to Detroiters' identities.

Naturally, the food Detroit residents have enjoyed hasn't been immune to the influence of the automobile industry, either. The city's own take on pizza is a great example.

A pizza born on the assembly line

As the Detroit Historical Society details, what made Detroit automobile factories successful was their assembly lines. Phaidon's "Where to Eat Pizza"  reveals that in the 1940s, workers would collect the parts they needed in blue steel trays. Those trays became the perfect vessel for a new kind of pizza when, in 1946, the Sicilian mother-in-law of Detroit's Buddy's tavern owner Gus Guerra imagined using them as the pans to bake pizza in. Thus, Detroit-style pizza was born. Slice Pizzeria says that putting the sauce on top is crucial because it allows the thick crust to avoid getting soggy as it bakes. The automobile industry's impact on Detroit's culinary scene goes beyond this twist on Sicilian pie, however.

Eater Detroit outlines how many of the city's classic restaurants opened their doors at the same time the auto industry boomed. This includes not only Buddy's but Sinbad's Restaurant & Marina and the Dakota Inn Rathskeller. Like the cars the city's factory workers made, Detroit-style pizza has risen to national prominence. In 2021, Pizza Hut unveiled its take on Detroit-style. If you want to try the chain's version, there are a few things you should know first, like the reason some people took issue with Pizza Hut's rendition. Whether you travel to test the original at Buddy's or order takeout, the only suitable way to acquire Detroit-style pizza is in a vehicle. After all, if not for the automobile industry, Detroit-style pizza might not exist.