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The Greatest Food Invention in Modern History

By Laura Tucker DeVries

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Yogi Berra

Working as a sales consultant in the Italian food industry for almost 20 years, I learned a whole heck of a lot about everyone’s favorite food—PIZZA!

Naturally, every pizza maker, in every pizzeria believes his version to be the very best.  There are so many factors that go into building the perfect pie—the dough, the sauce, the cheese, and the pepperoni. Traditionally, that is and was the order in which pizzas are “constructed”.

Well in 1946, Gus Guerra had a different idea.  It was then and at the original “Buddy’s Rendezvous” on Conant in Detroit that the “Detroit Pizza” was invented.  His creation was different from any pizzas that folks had previously enjoyed.  It was “constructed” in a very non-traditional way.

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In 1953, Buddy’s was sold and Mr. Guerra opened across town in East Detroit (now Eastpointe) on Gratiot as Cloverleaf Pizza.  As former employees and relatives spun off and opened up in different locations such as Shield’s and Loui’s—the pies were strikingly similar.  Suffice it to say, there were a lot of hard feelings, people locked out of kitchens and people barred from entering establishments.  It all sounds like a Hollywood movie script, but this is how local folks remember things and how they happened.

There were several things about Buddy’s original pizza that was different from the same old round pizza that we were accustomed to, which was placed on a cardboard disc inside of a brown paper bag.

Gus’s pizzas were square, well rectangular, actually.  The original pizza pans were made of “blue steel”.  Legend has it that they were originally used to hold auto parts– post-WWII.  All the pizzas were deep dish.  And the characteristic that makes these pies “Detroit-Style” is that after the dough is pushed into a well-oiled steel pan, it is then covered with lots’o’cheese (probably Brick cheese originally).  It is then and only then are the toppings are arranged and the sauce spooned over the top.  Sometimes the pepperoni was on top of the sauce, sometimes it was under the sauce.  Basically, it was, however, your Nonna told you to make it.

It’s that configuration and placement of the components that keep folks flocking back to these pizzerias today.

We’ve discussed the “Detroit-Style” pizza—but we cannot forget the “Chicago-Style” (where all the topping are buried under tons of sauce and cheese).  The “New York-Style” pizza has a very thin crust, usually baked in a wood-fired oven at a very high temperature.   And, the slice must be folded longways when eaten properly—ask any New Yorker!

Many pizza aficionados do not recognize nor see the need to include the “Hawaiian-Style” pizza in any serious discussion.  Ironically, it was invented by a native of Greece, operating in Canada.  I must admit, I do enjoy a Hawaiian pizza from time to time.

And, unless you grew up under a rock—you probably figured out that more pizza is ordered on Super Bowl Sunday than ANY other day of the year.  Go Pats!!

I would like to tip my hat and give a long hand salute to the post-WWII G.I.’s who had been stationed in Italy during the war.  It’s thought that they enjoyed the pizza so much that they brought the idea back to start the “pizza revolution” in New York City—which quickly grew to surrounding areas and eventually coast to coast.

We are certainly glad they did!  So is Gus!  So, there you go—you now know a lot more about one of the greatest food inventions in modern history.

And as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says,

“I would never win an award for not loving pizza”

This article was originally published on January 31, 2019

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