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Most Utahns are versed in New York-style pizza with its thin crust and wide, foldable slices.
And we know a thing or two about Chicago’s hearty and cheesy deep-dish pies.
But there’s a third, regional variation — from the unexpected city of Detroit — where we need some schooling.
That’s right, in addition to the automobile industry, rhythm and blues and gale-force winds, the Motor City has a signature pizza, that tosses the round meal into a square pan and flips the ingredients.
“We’re hearing from people that it’s something new in Salt Lake City,” said Josh Poticha, the chef and owner of Bricks Corner, which opened in mid-December on the corner of 1500 South and 700 East. “The style has really evolved over the years and people have really gotten into it.”
The menu at Bricks Corner includes a dozen versions of the pan pizzas that pay homage to the old-school Detroit tradition and also follow the more recent trend toward fresh, gourmet components.
Poticha — who moved to Sugar House about 18 months ago from South Carolina after visiting Utah annually to ski — explains the five distinct features of this lesser-known pizza style to a novice.
Slices are square
Detroit-style pizzas are baked in metal pans and cut into squares before serving. When the style was first created in the 1940s — at a restaurant and bar called Buddy’s Pizza — the chefs decided that the industrial steel pans used in the automobile factories were ideal. While the size can vary, Bricks Corner uses an 8-by-10-inch pan that, when cut, provides eight pieces.
It has a thick crust
The dough, which has its roots in the Italian island of Sicily, is thick but spongy. Poticha uses organic flour, yeast, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil but follows a multistep process that calls for double-proofing the dough over 24 hours to give it a light, airy texture. He even added a special water filtration system to his restaurant because the minerals in the Utah water were negatively affecting the recipe.
Toppings on the bottom
Construction of the Detroit-pizza is unconventional. The ingredients are layered in reverse order. “Toppings” are on the bottom, followed by cheese and then sauce.
Pepperoni and sausage are traditional, but over the past decade many chefs have started using artisan ingredients and experimenting with fresh flavors.
Bricks Corner offers both old and new. There’s the Randazzo ($15) with its double layers of pepperoni, cheese and red sauce. It was named for 44-year-old Shawn Randazzo, who helped popularize Detroit-style square pizza. He died in December 2020, just days before Bricks Corner opened.
The Brick House pizza is another classic with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and roasted peppers ($16)
On the trendier side, Poticha makes the Spartichoke with fresh spinach, artichoke hearts and a white sauce ($16); and the cheesy mushroom Afgoo, with smashed garlic, caramelized onions and baked truffle ricotta ($17)
Loaded with cheese
Old-school restaurants use Wisconsin brick cheese, which is similar to cheddar with a mild flavor and semi-soft texture. However, many chefs, like Poticha, have gravitated to the higher-quality, Italian-style cheese produced by the Grande Cheese Co. No matter the choice, it’s grated and distributed heavily around the edge of the greased pan, creating crispy, fight-worthy corner pieces.
Sauce on top
A generous portion of red marinara is poured over the top of the pie before baking. There’s a bit of debate about this final step, supported by those who despise a soggy crust and opposed by those who like their pepperoni to have crispy edges.
A national trend
The arrival of Detroit-style pizza to Utah follows a national trend.
In October, Culinary Culture, a Texas-based consultant group, said that Detroit-style pizza was “winning the pandemic” as new restaurants opened in Los Angeles, San Fransisco, New York and Tampa as well as Dallas, Denver and Seattle. Even major chains like Little Caesars and Pizza Hut have tested the pizza in regional markets, the consultants said, “meaning it’s bound to keep gaining steam.”
The rise of Detroit-style pizza makes sense for many reasons. In addition to being pure comfort food and easily portable, it lines up with America’s newfound love for yeast and sourdough.
“All those folks at home who learned how to make their own starter or fell in love with the art of yeasted bread,” the consultants said, “have found a kindred spirit in Detroit-style pizza.”
Bricks Corner basics
Poticha said he grew up in Chicago near a pizza joint that “served Detroit-style pizza, but in a Chicago round pan.” He attended the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Ore., but didn’t learn until years later about the traditional square.
Poticha worked at several restaurants in Las Vegas before taking an 18-month “culinary adventure” through Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Upon his return, he worked as a corporate chef for Marriott.
In 2008, he quit that post to open Bricks on Boundary, a bar and grill in Beaufort, S.C., which he still owns.
Poticha said he was drawn to Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood, because it reminded him of his Chicago “‘hood.” But he felt it could use a few more restaurants.
He started remodeling the former Liberty Park Emporium just as the pandemic hit in March — which at the time may have seemed like a curse. But it allowed Poticha to add UV sterilization to a new ventilation system, expand the entryway to help with distancing, and create a front desk for fast and efficient takeout.
For those who want to stay and eat, there are plexiglass partitions and wide spaces between tables. Colorful murals of Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury and a giant pizza monster grace the interior walls.
Heaters keep an enclosed patio at a comfortable 60 degrees in the winter, and the garage doors will be opened once warm weather hits.
In addition to pizza, the menu at Bricks Corner includes hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers. It also has a full-service liquor license for beer, wine and cocktails.
It’s the Detroit-style pizza, though, that stands out.
“Just devoured our delivery from Bricks,” wrote one person on Yelp. “Major thumbs up! The house salad and Brick House pie blew us away.”
“Detroit-style pizza has become one of the family favorites,” wrote another customer. “We got the pepperoni and sausage for the kids and the Brick House for us. Both are delicious. I do love a good deep dish, especially when the butter is calling out!”
Bricks Corner • 1465 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City; 801-953-0636 or brickscornerslc.com. Open Sunday-Tuesday, noon to 9 p.m., and Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.