“What's Detroit-style pizza?” I asked the gentleman making Italian pie behind the counter at Pizza Squared.
He looked up, chuckled, and cheerfully began answering my question.
“Even people from Detroit come in and don't know about Detroit-style pizza,” says owner, Jamie Hall, a Detroit native.
Hall opened the pizza parlor two years ago in a storefront at University Corner Plaza. He recently opened a second larger location, with more seating, in South Tampa.
Whatever this tiny eatery we visited lacks in tables and assorted other restaurant trappings — there are only three tables — it makes up for in friendly service and very tasty pies.
Motor City residents are definitely onto something because it didn't take us long to become addicted to this unique and flavorful pizza.
Detroit-style pizza is kind of like a cross between Sicilian and deep-dish.
The pizza is baked in a well-oiled steel, rectangular pan using a dough that bakes up light and airy.
Additionally, a blend of mozzarella cheese is spread to the edge of the pan and then caramelized, with a hint of burnt edges.
The dough contains “high hydration” that helps with its unique texture, which is crunchy on the edges and softer in the middle.
They ladle the sauce on top of the pizza after baking, Hall says.
And real Detroit-style pizza is made with a Wisconsin-blend cheese they grate daily in the restaurant.
Each pizza slice is thick and anointed with ingredients.
Although one 8-square pizza was more than enough for four — they also come in 6-square — we sampled a couple of flavors and had plenty of leftovers for lunch and dinner (no one was complaining).
And this pizza heats up deliciously whether you warm it in the oven or nuke it in the microwave.
In fact, three days after we visited the restaurant, we warmed a few slices for friends, and they couldn't stop raving about the flavor.
The menu at Pizza Squared is no frills, with a clear focus on pizza. You won't find any cleverly titled specialty pizzas, and the toppings selection is about as traditional as they come.
We decided to begin with the Detroit-style Meat Lovers pizza, which was loaded with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef and mozzarella cheese, with some added onions and black olives. It arrived fresh, hot and nicely loaded with ingredients. It was delicious down to the very last bite.
A personal favorite was the Hawaiian, which is topped with ham, slices of pineapple, mozzarella cheese and sauce, to which we added bacon, and the result was genius (my mouth is watering as I write this).
The restaurant offers four versions of Detroit-style pizza and hand-tossed, which you can customize to your liking. We couldn't help but wonder how this delectable pie would taste with out-of-the box toppings such as prosciutto, a fried egg, sun-dried tomatoes or barbecue chicken (hint-hint).
Although Pizza Squared definitely excels at making a delicious pie, it fell a bit short when it came to the Stromboli.
We ordered our stromboli with cheese, pepperoni and sausage. It arrived hot and beautifully presented, but didn't hold a lot of meat. The bread was crisp and flavorful, but there was too much dough.
We also tried the restaurant's specialty sandwich, called The Squawker, in original and southern style. The sandwiches are essentially pita bread wrapped around grilled chicken pieces with ranch dressing, lettuce, tomatoes and a cheese blend (original); the southern includes a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. Both sandwiches are simple, but surprisingly tasty, as was a cannoli for dessert.
The chicken wings, salads and appetizers were on par with side items you would find at other pizza places.
But again, this place is called Pizza Squared for a reason — it really is all about delicious, satisfying Detroit-style pizza.