Detroit-style pizza was born in what was once a blind pig. Now that we’ve got things off to a wholly unappetising start, allow us to explain. We don’t mean a sightless porker whose vision has since been miraculously restored: in Prohibition-era Detroit, a ‘blind pig’ was a speakeasy. And Gus Guerra’s setup, ‘Buddy’s Rendezvous,’ did a brisk bit of business.
But by 1946 alcohol had long been legalised and Gus needed a business model that involved more than moonshine and flappers. His clientele were a hungry bunch: shell-shocked soldiers returning from war, weary auto factory workers, and drunks with over-ambitious appetites. He decided to serve pizza. A new kind of pizza. A working man’s pizza. Detroit-style pizza.
Fast forward to Beijing 2013 and the opening of Pie Squared. In a city dominated by thin crust pies, Pie Squared’s Detroit-style pizza stands out like, well, a Detroit-style pizza. An impossibly thick, rectangular crust. Heaps of cheese. Mounds of toppings. You could not put more pizza on this pizza if you tried.
The sensation of chewing Detroit-style pizza is intensely satisfying. It gets all of your teeth involved. Crunch through the crispy outer layer of crust with those incisors and canines and then masticate away at the chewy centre with your molars. Oozy cheese and generous dollops of thick sauce tie everything together.
If there’s one thing holding Pie Squared’s pizzas back, it’s the mixed quality of the toppings. When we ate the flavourless crumbles of sausage on The Supreme, we couldn’t help but get the feeling they came from a plastic bag. Pepperoni and ham toppings fare better. The hefty meat boulders on the Motown Meatball variety are a combo of pork, ground beef, Parmesan and fresh herbs that would win us over were they not quite so mushy.
Breadsticks (19RMB for six pieces and 27RMB for 12) are a headscratcher. Yes, Pie Squared has succeeded in creating what are indisputably sticks of bread, just as the name describes. But why not provide additional flavour? They’re supposedly topped with garlic and Parmesan, but those ingredients aren’t terribly detectable. As an alternative, try the ‘hot’ chicken wings (38RMB for six pieces and 58RMB for 12), the best of the three flavours on offer (the other two being ‘regular’ and ‘BBQ’). Don’t let the name deter you: these wings are far from scorching, and the little heat can be further tempered with a side of ranch dressing.
Pie Squared is required eating for pizza lovers who’ve never tried it Detroit-style. It may be too heavy for some – even the true-blue Americans at our table were clutching their stomachs afterwards – and at such reasonable prices (ranging from 42RMB for a six-inch-by-six-inch small to 148RMB for a formidable 12-inch-by-17-inch extra-large), it’s easy to over-order. So know what you’re getting yourself into, respect these monster pizzas and we guarantee you’ll crave them again and again.