If you spend much time on the internet, you may have stumbled across a TikTok video touting Spokane-style pizza. Would it be the next great successor to a whole line of popular pizza types, from New Haven and Chicago to New York? Not so fast.
In short, it’s not actually a thing. The popular video has been debunked by many, picked apart especially hard by savvy Pacific Northwesterners who know their local cuisine. Some people got very mad on social media about something that was, let’s be clear, mostly just a joke. But maybe Spokane-style pizza should be a thing.
Seth and Laura Carey run Versalia Pizza in Spokane. They started the operation back in 2009, well before the most recent American pizza renaissance. It started as a two-person team making pizzas for farmers’ markets with a mobile oven, and has grown to become the top-rated pizzeria in Spokane. So, is it producing Spokane-style pizza? In a way.
“Spokane-style pizza is anything with fresh ingredients,” Laura Carey said. “The viral Spokane-style video used canned salmon, which would never be used in Spokane-style pizza. Canned meats in general would be frowned upon.”
If one pie summed up the current state of inland empire pizza, it might be one that Versalia makes quite a lot of. “One of our most popular pizzas has Brussels sprouts and bacon with a balsamic drizzle,” Carey said. You get the fatty goodness of the bacon, the herbaceous element of the sprouts, and some balsamic to tie it all together. It’s a great example of the Versalia style, which tends to showcase local farmers, some of which the team worked with way back when it was just getting going in the market circuit.
It makes sense, as the northwest is renowned for its proximity to freshness. Access to any number of great farms and growers is a major reason why cities like Spokane, Seattle, and Portland have become increasingly known for their pizza prowess. “Also, pizza and beer are like peanut butter and jelly,” Carey added. “I don’t think you can ignore the number of microbreweries that are in the area and that many of the local pizzerias serve local beer and cider.”
There are a handful of major pizza styles that have developed in this country since the pie gained prominence in the early 20th Century. There’s the New York-style, characterized by large portions of droopy pizza. There’s New Haven-style, often charcoal-fired and made atop a very thin crust. Detroit-style is thick and geometric, with those golden-brown caramelized crust corners. It’s a style that banks as much on the bread as the toppings.
Chicago-style is somewhat similar, often described as “deep dish,” with its filling makeup that can get you through a Windy City winter. While hunger-taming, this style is actually not as intense as some of the others. Then there’s the California-style, which is unsurprisingly a bit more health-conscious and involves more in the way of seasonality. Think thinner crust with a lot of veggies and healthier proteins as toppings.
In that sense, if there is a Spokane-style, it’s probably most along these lines (a west coast pizza, if you will). Yet, Spokane is a world away from L.A. and understandably uses different local ingredients to pull off its pies. As the regionality of pizza progresses, we may see a whole family of styles breaking off within the west coast umbrella, if they’re not doing so already.
What’s the next great pizza style? Who knows. It could come from anywhere, so long as there’s some regional flair to it. For now, the Versalia team is going to focus on consistency, as well as experiment with new crusts and cheeses. Carey said they’ll also work with more plant-based meats to meet the variety of evolving dietary needs out there. Spokane-style pizza circa 2025 might involve dough made with local grains, fresh produce, and Beyond Meat. We’ll have to wait and see. Just don’t be surprised if Phoenix style or Denver style become things, even if a little tongue-in-cheek.
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