Barbecue, mashed potato, hot oil -- in the U.S. we have made pizza our own. Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com pick their favorite regional pizzas. If none of these restaurants is in your state, scan the list of everything Jane and Michael have mentioned on The Splendid Table over the years.
1. Coletta's Restaurant
At Coletta's they specialize in barbecue pizza. It's a nice, flat bread with mozzarella cheese, but instead of sausage and pepperoni, it's pulled pork with barbecue sauce on it. It's a great invention because there you are eating a pseudo-Italian food served by waitresses with a southern drawl surrounded by Elvis pictures on the wall. It's a total dissonance that is actually pretty delicious. If you are dieting, you can get barbecue salad, which is just a bunch of iceberg lettuce with barbecue on the top of it.
A New Haven-style pizza is like traditional Neapolitan pizza but bigger. What's different is the crust, it tends to be much chewier. With classic Neapolitan pizza, the crust can be kind of elegant, but it has a little chew to it. A New Haven pizza has real chaw to it, you really work your jaw chewing it. To those of us who love bread, it's heavenly: a lot of semolina on the bottom, scorch marks here and there.
New Haven, Conn.
We're big boosters of Connecticut pizza, New Haven-style in particular. But very specifically, one of the things we have found in a couple of New Haven pizzerias is mashed potato pizza. That sounds weird if you think of a big heap of mashed potatoes, but it's not that. It's a regular pizza with mozzarella and tomato sauce, but with a thin, thin glaze of mashed potatoes across the top that gets slightly crisp in the oven. It's a weird-but-wonderful combination. Somebody dragged us screaming to this mashed potato pizza place and I was thinking there is no way in the world that this is even going to have two bites taken out of it.
6. Colony Grill
In Stamford, Conn., you can find the classic Connecticut pizza, but the hot-oil pizza. It is a regular crust with sausage -- at the Colony Grill the sausage is made across the street. They top the pizza with a red, hot oil, sort of like Sichuan cooking oil. You think, "Well, that's a really bad idea," but the lines out the door at this place that has been there since the 1930s will tell you otherwise.
7. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company
Chicago did not invent pizza, but I think it has invented more kinds of pizza than any other place. We all know about Chicago deep-dish pizza and soufflé pizza. One of the most interesting kinds is made by the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. They call it a pizza pot pie -- that's what it is. It's a very deep-dish pizza that is served to you upside down.
It's less like a pizza than it is like a big, crusty casserole. Needless to say, you need utensils to eat this pizza, you don't eat this by the slice. Its resemblance to a normal pizza is only in the ingredients. It's kind of like a deconstructed pizza, but if the ingredients are good -- and they are at this place -- it's a wonderful dish.