Within the pizza canon, there are established, unquestionable regional styles: foldable New York-style slices, New Haven, Detroit-style pan, Chicago-style deep dish and tavern-style.
And then, there’s the gray area. We’ve seen the Land Of A Thousand Lakes assert that Minnesota-style pizza exists (Minnesota native Andrew Zimmern’s take? “Fuck no”), and a frozen pizza brand called Outsiders had us scratching our heads over Milwaukee-style pizza. Now, we can add to the list: Kansas City-style pizza?
Kansas City NPR affiliate KCUR recently profiled the two owners of Long-Bell Restaurant in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, just southeast of Kansas City. For three years, co-owners Jayson Eggers and Aaron Mulder have been perfecting a type of pizza that they’re asserting is Kansas City-style. Wait, is it topped with burnt ends? Nope. Slathered in barbecue sauce? Nope. In the shape of a Royals logo? Also nope. Here are its defining characteristics, per Long-Bell Restaurant:
- Crispy bottom (so the whole pie can be held underneath with one hand without the sides flopping down)
- Herb-butter-brushed crust
- Then, in what seems to be its truly defining feature: “Like in a Chicago-style pizza: the sauce goes on top.”
<Record scratch> Wait, what? I don’t want to beat up on these guys who make what looks to be a delicious pizza pie, but as a former Chicagoan, I cannot remain silent on this point: Deep-dish is not the pizza of choice for most Chicagoans, and furthermore, the sauce-on-top isn’t deep dish’s most recognizable characteristic. It’s defined by its depth, its casserole-ness, its thick layer of sausage and cheese, its audacity.
Back to the matter at hand though: Does swirling the sauce on top of the toppings and cheese denote an entirely new regional styles of pizza? What taxonomic criteria must a pie meet before pizza speciation occurs? Must there be a density of pizzerias making a certain type of pie before it may become its own regional style? So far, Long-Bell is the only restaurant I’ve noticed making a claim to Kansas City-style pizza, and as you can tell, The Takeout is not yet ready to declare this its own category until further evidence is collected. In the meantime, if someone could get on that burnt-ends pizza, that would be great. (Update: A reader informs me Kansas City’s Waldo Pizza serves burnt ends on pizza. Thank you, Aqib!)