12 Delicious Pieces of Regional Pizza Slang
Perhaps only slightly less important than how you eat your pizza is how you talk about it. Here are 12 ways people all over the country (and Canada!) refer to those cheesy slices of goodness.
1. PLAIN OR CHEESE?
Plain meaning without toppings is New York-area vernacular while outside New York such a pizza would be referred to as (the redundant) cheese. Other New York options include a regular slice (a nice parallel with the northeast dialectal, regular coffee, a coffee with cream and sugar) and plain old slice.
2. PIECE OR SLICE?
Speaking of slices, in New York you can say, “I’m getting a slice,” and people will know what you’re talking about. However, elsewhere “piece of pizza” is preferred, and if you say “slice,” you’ll need to qualify it with “of pizza."
3. PIE OR PIZZA?
While to east coasters, it might feel perfectly natural to say “pie” when referring to a whole pizza, not so for those in other regions. In an informal poll I conducted, “pie” was described by west coasters as "pretentious" and “only something someone in a movie would say,” while one Brooklynite described those who didn't use "pie" as "heathens." The reason for this sharp divide is unclear.
4. PIZZA PARLOR, PIZZA SHOP, OR PIZZERIA?
People don’t seem to feel as passionately about the place they get their pizza from as the pizza itself. In my survey, pizza place was the most popular, followed by pizza parlor and, a close third, pizzeria. There was one write-in for pizza joint but no votes for pizza shop.
In a Google Ngrams search of “lots of books” from 1800 on, pizzeria is by far the most popular. A distant second is pizza parlor, third is pizza place, and pizza shop and pizza joint almost tie for last.
5. TIP SAG
Tip sag refers to when the tip of one’s pizza slice droops down (and, depending on the degree of droop, may result in the dreaded pizza fold). Tip sagging might be most familiar to regions that specialize in Neapolitan-style pizza, that is, round with sauce, cheese, and various toppings.
In 2013, certain Dallas diners were put-out by the characteristic sag of one restaurant's Neapolitan, resulting in a schooling by the restaurateur on the pizza’s deliberate yummy “sogginess.”
Legend says that Chicago-style deep dish pizza was invented in the early 1940s by the founders of Pizzeria Uno, or else the founders’ employees. About 30 years later, eateries started offering stuffed pizza (not to be confused with Pizza Hut’s stuffed crust monstrosity). These long-baking varieties may have come about to create a different, slower dining experience than the on-the-go Neapolitan.
However, Chicago does have its own thin-crust pizza -- described as crisp and crunchy like a cracker -- which, some say, is even more popular than deep dish or stuffed.
7. PARTY-CUT OR PIE-CUT?
You can’t talk about thin-crust Chicago style pizza without talking about the type of cut. Party-cut, also known as tavern-cut, means cutting in a grid, while pie-cut means cutting in triangles or wedges. Pie-cut is so-called because of its resemblance to how a dessert pie would be divided. Presumably party- or tavern-cut got its name because that’s how pizza has traditionally been served in taverns and at parties, although why is unclear.
Perhaps less well-known, although no less delicious, is New Haven-style pizza, known in local vernacular as apizza. New Haven-style is thin like New York pizza, but if you walk into an apizza parlor and order a “plain,” you’ll get one without mootz, or mozzarella.
Apizza and mootz both come from the dialect of Naples immigrants who arrived in the area in the early 1920s. Apizza is pronounced uh-BEETs, with a silent final A.
9. OLD FORGE PIZZA
Old Forge pizza originated in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, which is right outside Scranton. This self-proclaimed “pizza capital of the world” was primarily a mining town, and the story goes that one “Grandma” Ghigiarelli would serve the square-shaped pizza to coal miners who had come in to take a break and play cards.
Thicker than a Neapolitan, the most popular varieties of the Old Forge are the red, a traditional tomato sauce and cheese; the white, hold the sauce; and the black, which has cheese, black pepper, black olives, and anchovies.
10. GRANDMA PIZZA
Also known as grandma pie, the grandma pizza is similar to the chunky, rectangular Sicilian, but with a thinner, dense crust. The style probably originated in Long Island, New York in the early 20th century, and is similar to pizza alla casalingo, or “housewife style pizza,” the kind you’d get if you visited someone’s home in Italy.
What makes the crust denser and thinner? Shorter proofing, or the time between stretching the dough and baking the pizza, because, as one knows, Italian grandmas are way too busy for your silly proofing.
11. ALL-DRESSED PIZZA
All-dressed is Montreal slang for “everything on it.” There’s the all-dressed hot dog, the all-dressed bagel (the equivalent of New York’s everything bagel), and of course the all-dressed pizza. Pizza tout garnie in Quebecois, the all-dressed pizza comes with mushrooms, green peppers, and pepperoni, not literally "everything" but still a lot.
So what makes a Montreal pizza Montrealean? A thicker, puffier crust, toppings that go under the cheese, and a dough ball in the center to keep the pizza box lid off the pizza, a much less wasteful option than plastic pizza savers.
12. PIZZA IN AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
Pizza has regional differences in ASL as well. Some are fingerspelled while others are representations of a round pizza tray -- apparently the accepted sign in British Sign Language -- or someone taking a bite of pizza. The taking-a-bite sign is popular in Sacramento, California.
Fingerspelled methods include the “Za” variation, signing a double Z plus the letter A; the “P,” using a P handshape to sign the letter Z; the double Z with no A; and spelling out the whole word.
But however you sign, say, or serve pizza, it all spells delicious.