Where to find Detroit-style pizza in Pittsburgh

By now you’ve likely heard that what makes Detroit-style pizza unique is the steel, square pan in which it’s cooked. Legend has it these were oil drip trays or used to pass small parts back and forth between workers during automotive manufacturing. The rest is history.  This crisp pan pizza, laden with cheese and toppings, became a fad in Pittsburgh when Iron Born opened in the Strip District’s Smallman Galley food hall in 2017 (though they weren’t the very first in the area to do it). When Galley Group opened a second Pittsburgh location, in Northside’s Nova Place, there was Detroit-style pizza there, too. Michigan & Trumbull served up square crispy pies at Federal Galley until returning to the homeland, right near the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood (they keep a Yinzer salad with fries on the menu, in honor of their time here). [The Galley…

by Brian Conway
January 17, 2022

By now you’ve likely heard that what makes Detroit-style pizza unique is the steel, square pan in which it’s cooked. Legend has it these were oil drip trays or used to pass small parts back and forth between workers during automotive manufacturing. The rest is history. 

This crisp pan pizza, laden with cheese and toppings, became a fad in Pittsburgh when Iron Born opened in the Strip District’s Smallman Galley food hall in 2017 (though they weren’t the very first in the area to do it).

When Galley Group opened a second Pittsburgh location, in Northside’s Nova Place, there was Detroit-style pizza there, too. Michigan & Trumbull served up square crispy pies at Federal Galley until returning to the homeland, right near the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood (they keep a Yinzer salad with fries on the menu, in honor of their time here). [The Galley Group has closed the Strip District location and now runs a location in Bakery Square and the Federal Galley at Nova Place on the Northside.]

Even though they’re gone, they still took the time to chat with their Federal Galley successors, Driven, to offer up advice on running a food hall pizza spot. After all, pizza is love. Here’s where to find Detroit-style pizza, and Detroit-inspired pizza, here in the Steel City. 

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Driven // Northside

📍 200 Children’s Way (Northside)

Follow: @drivenpgh

While you were at home making pandemic sourdough, Jake Stewart was perfecting square pan pizzas in a church basement. The 25-year-old Fox Chapel native has been making pizza for 8 years now. He started to refine his Detroit-style pie while working at Mercurio’s alongside Ed Stalewski, who runs the popular EddiesPizza412 Instagram account. Galley Group, the owners of Federal Galley, eventually followed Stewart on Instagram and approached him about opening in the Northside food half. Driven’s thick, crispy crust is surprisingly light, and judging by the number of takeout boxes on a recent weeknight visit, quite popular, too. They serve fried ravioli and pasta as well as pies, of which, the most popular is the PBR: pepperoni, banana peppers and ricotta. 

Iron Born // Strip District & Millvale

📍 1806 Smallman St. (Strip District)

📍 413 Grant Ave. (Millvale)

Follow: @ironbornpizza

Iron Born is why this whole craze started in Pittsburgh. The former Smallman Galley standouts have two locations now, one on Grant Ave. in Millvale, a block away from Attic Records, and another on 18th and Smallman in the Strip, three blocks from where it all began.  Longtime menu favorite, “the forager,” is made with garlic cream, roasted mushrooms, local honey, ricotta and herbs, but you really can’t go wrong with any. Don’t sleep on the cannoli, either. 

Jet’s // Dormont

📍 1810 Dormont Ave. (Dormont)

Follow: @jetspizza

Why go to Detroit when Dormont is right here? Started in 1978 in Sterling Heights, a suburb north of Detroit, Jet’s has but one Pennsylvania location, right off Route 19 in Banksville Plaza. Opened in 2015, theirs is a dense, buttery crust, with slightly burnt cheese all around the edges. If you’re feeling bold, go for the 8 corner: that’s two 4-piece pies together —  all end pieces — to maximize that cheesy crust. And unlike many other Detroit-style pies, Jet’s puts sauce underneath the cheese as well on top, a nice touch for a hefty style that can sometimes seem too dry.

Detroit-inspired pizza options:

East End Chewing // Larimer

📍 147 Julius St. (Larimer)

Follow: @eastendbrewing

Did you hear? Larder, the Severinos’ new venture, is gone from East End (blame Covid), but take solace: East End Brewing now serves pizza. It’s rectangular and crispy and very good., and they make a special one each week. Is it technically Detroit-style? We say, If it feels good, chew it.

Caliente // Multiple Locations

📍 Multiple Locations

Follow: @caliente_pizza

Caliente now has 5 locations around, and as you may have heard, they won “best pan pizza in the world” once at the International Pizza Expo, so it comes as no surprise they riffed on Detroit-style pizza, too. Their 8-mile pie is 12 huge slices, with a spongy, almost ciabatta-like texture to the dough, along with a classic, crispy crust.

Brian Conway is a freelance enterprise reporter based in Pittsburgh's South Side. He is a member-owner and communications manager at the Work Hard Pittsburgh digital media cooperative.

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