Sometimes it just takes a bit of distance to realize the unique joys of a favorite hometown dish. After moving 1,400 miles from their hometown of Detroit to Austin, Texas, the Hunt brothers (Brandon and Zane) developed a craving for pizza made in the unique style of the Motor City. When they couldn’t find any local pizzerias to feed their nostalgic yearnings, they created a version of pizza that was true to their roots, starting a pizza empire right in ATX.
The Hunt brothers are widely considered to be the first to put a geographic name to the dish that folks in their hometown just called “square pizza” (to differentiate it from traditional round versions). Calling themselves Via 313 (literal translation: by way of the Detroit Area Code), they recreated a dish that folks back home had been enjoying since the 1946 founding of Detroit-style’s vanguard restaurant, Buddy’s Pizza.
What the heck is it?
Originally made in industrial blue steel pans used by auto workers, Detroit-style pizza is characterized by a thick, chewy crust, cheese that goes all the way to the edges, and sauce that’s added on top of all the layers, often after the pizza comes out of the oven. It’s a style that’s gaining traction beyond Detroit and the Hunt’s multiple Austin locations. Also called upside-down pizza or Detroit Red Top, it’s showing up on menus in Denver, Louisville, New York, Tampa and Toronto.
Brandon Hunt recently took a moment to answer a few deep (dish) questions on Via 313’s approach:
Were you an instant success when you opened six years ago?
Definitely not. The first day, we sold something like 30 pizzas. We figured we needed to make $200 a day to cover bills and pay ourselves, and we made $212 that day, so we decided to keep going. That first day we were open, we forgot to bring a pizza cutter, so we had to borrow one from a competitive pizza trailer across the street. They were nice to us, that’s for sure. Now we’re selling about 6,000 pizzas a week.
Do you still use auto parts pans to bake your pizzas?
The company that made them went out of business, so we’ve switched to anodized steel pans that are made in the U.S. You need a pan that can handle the intense heat. We still wear them out after a while, even if they’re used in rotation. They get holes in them.
Wisconsin Brick Cheese is traditional for Detroit-style pizza. Is that what you use?
We have a proprietary four-cheese blend, but I can tell you that it’s definitely not brick.
What’s in the pizza sauce you ladle on top as the pizzas come out of the oven?
Semi-chunky canned tomatoes. The only addition is some ground black pepper to cut the acidity.
Should your pizza be eaten by hand or with a knife and fork?
I have a big beard, so I eat it with knife and fork, because I don’t want to get sauce on my beard.
To appeal to diners who love to dunk their slices, offer the perfect dipping sauce with popular pizza-dipping choices including Marzetti® Avocado Ranch, Blue Cheese, Buttermilk Ranch, Creamy Caesar, Chipotle Ranch, Garden Harvest Ranch, Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch and Roasted Garlic Parmesan.
Collective of pizza makers devoted to the “Detroit-style pizza revolution”
Serena Maria Daniels of the Detroit Metro Times covers the history and favorite hometown locations for Detroit-style pizza
Definitive guide from Eater Detroit
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