The Rise of Maillard Browned Pan Pizza in Seattle

Satisfy your love of deep-dish without a knife and fork.

If you adore pizza, it’s likely you’ve been caught up in the timeless debate: Which is better—New York-style or Chicago-style? The thin, foldable slices from the Big Apple or the thick, stuffed, deep-dish pieces from the Windy City? And while pizza-making is obviously more nuanced than this, the debate nevertheless rages on.

But what if I told you that here in the Emerald City, there is a third prominent option—a hybrid slice that can satisfy your love of deep-dish without needing a knife and fork? Well, dream no more, my hungry friends. It’s a reality! And you can find this style at two stellar pizzerias in Seattle: Breezy Town Pizza on Beacon Hill and Dino’s Tomato Pie on Capitol Hill. Let’s investigate.

When the Clock-Out Lounge opened last year on Beacon Hill, many had high hopes for the 250-person music venue. The south end needed a new live-music option and the bar/restaurant seemed to fill that vacancy. But no one knew at the time what feastworthy culinary magic might come with the venue. Well, no one besides local pizza chef Dave Lichterman.

Lichterman, who also owns and operates Seattle’s Windy City Pie, opened Breezy Town Pizza inside the Clock-Out Lounge and has been supplying premium slices and pies to patrons ever since. As these names suggest, Lichterman considers his products largely Chicago-style, though they are not what you might first think. They are not stuffed inside with cheese, sauce, and “toppings.” Rather they are thicker, taller, circular pies with a unique, mind-blowing crust.

“There are a lot of different types of deep-dish,” Lichterman says. “But in the end, none of this stuff has any official standardization—so, whatever. There’s no New York-style pizza standards, no Chicago-style standards. And that’s what makes things interesting, right? Breezy Town, to me, is both Chicago- and Detroit-style.”

What Breezy Town serves is also known as a deep-dish pan pizza. The crust is made from 100 percent wild yeast sourdough and involves a super-slow cold fermentation. The result is a savory, inch-thick bed of chewy, buoyant bread, perfect for the succulent cheese and pleasantly greasy pepperoni on top. But the pièce de résistance at Breezy Town is the crust’s outer rim—a blackened layer, which you can almost peel off and eat like a God-given delicacy. “It’s called a maillard browning reaction,” Lichterman says of his pies, which come in pepperoni, cheese, spinach and mushroom, or meatball. “It’s not just a simple caramelization, which only involves sugars. Maillard browning involves, like, a thousand different reactions of both amino acids and sugars.”

Whatever it is, it’s amazing. And it’s served not only at Breezy Town. On Capitol Hill, Dino’s Tomato Pie—which rose several years ago from the minds of pizza power couple Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg, who own Delancey in Ballard—also offers slices with this divine-style crust. But while Lichterman considers his offerings Chicago- or Detroit-style, the folks at Dino’s call theirs New Jersey-style—which in the Garden State is often referred to as Sicilian-style pizza.

Unlike Breezy Town, which serves its thick slices cut in triangles, Dino’s serves its as squares, traditional for Sicilian-style. And while you can order triangle slices at Dino’s, those slices won’t have the chewy maillard browned crust (so why bother?). Dino’s slices, about 5 x 5 inches, are best ordered in classic fashion: plain cheese or topped with pepperoni. Their rich bacon and onion slice is excellent, too.

Despite not having a reputation for our own pizza style, Seattle sure is saturated in the stuff—chalk it up to all the transplants here, perhaps. From the ultimate East Coast pie from a place like Italian Family Pizza in First Hill to the authentic stuffed deep-dish from Ballard’s Patxi’s or Capitol Hill’s Olympia Pizza and Pasta (which you do need a knife and fork to eat), there are many options for pizza fanatics. But to get the toothsome slices you can eat with your hands with the unforgettable crust, you have to hit Breezy Town or Dino’s before they sell out for the day, which often happens.

“To see people who used to be my regulars at Windy City come to Breezy Town is really heartwarming,” Lichterman says. “And there are people who’ve never had our pizza before who come into the Clock-Out for a show and they really take to it. We’re very proud of the strides we’re making.”

Courtesy of Dino’s Tomato Pie.

Courtesy of Dino’s Tomato Pie.