Belle Isle to 8 Mile: Our guide to Detroit pizza

Anchoring a veritable crust belt, a region home to four national chains and more than a thousand pizza parlors, Detroit gave the world a namesake pizza style but keeps its best for residents and in-the-know visitors. The city’s pizza can’t be topped. Every neighborhood from Springwells Village to East English Village offers a little slice of heaven. Whether you’re counting drinks on two hands and looking for something that makes paper plates transparent, or a well-acquainted pizza connoisseur in search of a cheesy delicacy, Detroit has you covered.

Although the city offers pies for every palate, the city is most renowned for Detroit-style pizza. This local innovation is a Sicilian variant -- a rectangular, medium-depth crust twice-baked in an oiled auto parts pan for a distinct golden crispiness, served with marinara on top of its mozzarella and toppings. The best thing since sliced pizza, this style was pioneered at Buddy's, and has been adapted at other Detroit pizza shops. 

Those looking for something more -- or perhaps far less -- traditional, are in luck, too. The city’s pies come in all shapes and sizes, with every topping imaginable, including dried shrimp, tandoori chicken, fried eggs, chevre, eggplant, chicken tikka, chorizo, prosciutto, cilantro, crab, roasted pears, and ghost pepper. Clearly, the city that modeled its arterial street grid after slices of its favorite food knows its way around a pizza kitchen and loves experimenting.

In addition to fresh-out-of-the-oven newcomers to the local pizza scene like Ottava Via, and a host of other delicious pizza options such as Chicago's Pizza, Gregg's Pizza & Bar-B-Q, Nikki's Pizza, Paul's Pizza, Pizza Papalis, and Royal Barbecue Pizza -- that are all the cheese knees -- a few options offer especially fine pie.

The following is a selection of excerpted pizza parlor listings from Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insiders Guide to Detroit.

Amar Pizza - Within a nondescript storefront without much decor, owner Khurshed Ahmed’s Bangladeshi pizzeria offers some of Detroit’s most unorthodox pies. Although the pizza has strong fundamentals -- fluffy and crunchy crust, flavorful seasonings, a nice cheese-to-sauce balance -- the real distinguishing characteristic is the variety of toppings: ghost peppers, naga sauce, cilantro, tandoori chicken, crab, dried shrimp, and eggplant represent only a fraction of the available options. While all the pies are solid, the tandoori pizza and dry fish pizza are exceptional. Lovers of unusual pizza will also enjoy the neighboring Al Qamar Pizza, which offers fine halal pies alongside a stable of tasty subs and sandwiches. 11608 Conant St., Hamtramck, Amar's website, 313-366-0980.

Bob's Pizza Palace - A Detroit staple since 1966, Bob’s Pizza Palace is a pizzeria in the most classic sense: dough is made fresh daily; sauce is made from scratch using Bob’s own secret recipe; mozzarella cheese is browned and bubbly; and the pepperoni is small and crispy­, all curled up at the edges. This is a neighborhood family place that is as much a part of the community as the people in it. Order the classic hand-tossed round or the Detroit-style square with some hand-battered fried shrimp, wing dings or ribs.20510 W. 7 Mile Rd., 313-538-2742.
Buddy's Rendezvous Pizzeria - Opening in 1936 as a neighborhood bar, Buddy's began serving its now-famous, deep-dish square pizza in 1946. It’s the originator of what has come to be known as Detroit-style pizza -- a deep-dish square pie with Sicilian roots featuring a deliciously greasy, chewy, and crispy crust with the sauce on the top and toppings under the cheese to prevent scorching. True to its Detroit roots, the square-shaped pizza is the result of being baked, not in a pizza pan, but an automotive parts tray. Buddy's is now a small Metro Detroit chain, but this is the original (and, in our opinion, best) location. It’s got an unpretentious 1950s vibe and charming decor including a pizza-themed homage to Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle in the entryway. While it serves a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and more that are reportedly delicious, we’ve never been able to resist just ordering one of its many award-winning pies. Enjoy your pizza with a pitcher or boomba of beer and be sure to step out back for a game of bocce ball after dinner. 17125 Conant St., 313-892-9001.

Gracie See Pizzeria - This unassuming retro sports bar and restaurant has been serving some of the west side's most popular pizza since opening in 1969. In contrast to the Spartan exterior, the interior oozes character from the Nixon years, including standbys such as wood paneling, period breweriana, and horse-themed, Secretariat-era figurines and black velvet paintings. The friendly staff complements this casual atmosphere with its easygoing attentiveness and predilection for terms such as "sweetie" and "doll." Although the menu offers a constellation of American and Italian fare, the house specialty is undoubtedly the pizza. Gracie See specializes in a thin crust type of pie, with a crispy bottom and flakey top, and a perfect balance between crust and pizza. While it’s hard to go wrong with their many specialty pies, the Double Deuce -- double cheese, double pepperoni -- is our favorite. 6889 Greenfield Rd., 313-581-8070.

Motor City Brewing Works - Since 1994, the small but mighty Motor City Brewing Works has made a name for itself as one of Michigan’s finest microbreweries, and in this beer-rich state, that’s saying something. Serving out of its constantly packed taproom dotted with locally designed tile mosaics and metalwork, owners John Linardos and Dan Scarsella offer a stable of handcrafted beers anchored by the signature Ghettoblaster, "the beer you can hear." Flanked by seasonal varieties such as Pumpkin Ale and the popular Summer Ale (best with an orange wedge), tasty house-made sodas, and locally made wines, the brewery has a beverage for every palate. If the beverages weren’t enough, the neighborhood institution also boasts delectable thin-crust brick-oven pizza made with locally grown ingredients from the Bronx Bomber (cheese and meat heaven) to Roasted Pear and Fig. Visit on Wednesday nights for the popular This Week in Art one-night art shows. Bottled brews are distributed regionally, and growlers of soda and beer are available to take home. 470 W. Canfield St., 313-832-2700. 

Sgt. Pepperoni's Pizzeria & Deli - Although most popular at 2 a.m., when three sheets and looking for treats, the speedy service and tasty slices will leave customers of any blood alcohol level saluting the Sergeant for a job well done. Complementing the golden crust and gooey cheese, the rich sauce offers a distinct, slightly spicy and slightly tangy, piquant flavor, making all of the signature thin-crust pies pretty tasty. While the individual slices are celebrated by the inebriated, Sgt. Pepperoni's offers whole pies, alongside a stable of salads, and sandwiches -- including the yummy grilled veggie reuben and baked Italian sub. Although the toppings mostly remain in familiar territory, visitors can opt for vegan cheese, blue cheese, or chevre. Open late. Limited delivery available. 4120 Woodward Ave., 313-833-7272. 

Supino Pizzeria - Believe the hype: Supino serves up some of the best thin-crust brick oven pies in Metro Detroit. Inspired by relatives in the village of Supino, Italy, owner and maestro Dave Mancini painstakingly honed his craft before he opened up shop in 2008. Melding balanced, rich, traditional flavors with perfectly textured New York-style crusts, Supino’s enormous pies are delights that never disappoint. Though there are dozens of options, adventurous meat-eaters should try the Bismarck: homemade red sauce, fresh mozzarella, and salty prosciutto, with an egg cracked in the middle, blending brilliantly with the tomato and cheese. Vegetarians (and anyone who likes delicious food) shouldn’t miss the Supino: homemade red sauce, fresh mozzarella, sublimely roasted whole garlic cloves, olives, and fresh ricotta. Though Supino does a steady carryout business, the cozy dining room, charmingly decorated with reclaimed wood doors and salvaged institutional tables, adds to the experience. As an added bonus, you can watch a master hand toss pies in the open kitchen while you wait. 2457 Russell St., 313-567-7879.

Vince's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria - There’s a reason they've been using the same recipes for more than 50 years: Vince's is classic Italian food at its best. In a homey dining room that feels like a visit to your Italian grandparents' basement, bedecked with murals of Italian cities, this Springwells favorite is family-owned by four generations of the same family, and it shows. Founded by Italian immigrants Vincenzo and Maria Perfili in 1960, what began as a small pizza parlor serving up pies for workers at Southwest Detroit’s Cadillac Fleetwood Plant grew into a beloved family restaurant. In addition to its popular old-school pizzas, Vince's serves house-made pastas and sauces and wonderful ravioli and manicotti. All the dishes are made to order, so it’s not a good option if you're in a rush. Be sure to stay for dessert -- the tiramisu is the best in town and the cannoli is sublime. 1341 Springwells St., 313-842-4857.

These entries were originally written for Belle Isle to 8 Mile by contributors Aaron Egan, Anna Hipsman-Springer, Andy Linn, Emily Linn, Robbie Linn, Frank Nemecek, Nicole Rupersburg, and Molly Schoen.

Illustration of Buddy's Rendezvous Pizzeria by Emily Linn for Belle Isle to 8 Mile.

Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider’s Guide to Detroit includes more than 1,000 Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park attractions, sites, institutions, events, restaurants, bars, shops, and curiosities from the essential to the obscure described over 448 pages. The book is available at City Bird and Nest in Midtown and here, as well as at other online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
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