The debate about which American region’s pizza reigns supreme has raged for decades, a schism in our national psyche. But we wondered: what else is different about the pizza experience across the country. Beyond the thickness of the crust, beyond the toppings, what do we eat with our pizza? Do Alaskans prefer salad or garlic bread delivered with their pizza (or even smoked salmon, which appears on Anchorage’s Moose’s Tooth Pizza’s menu)? Do Californians eat kale with everything? (Yes.) It turns out, pizza accompaniments are just as diverse, and just as vital, as the pizzas themselves.
We performed a wildly unscientific analysis of the menus at famous regional pizza joints in order to discover some fundamental truths about what pairs best with pizza across the country.
Everywhere: It is a truth universally acknowledged that garlic cheese bread is an essential component of a pizza delivery order, coast to coast. At least we can all agree on this one delicious thing.
Northeast: Garlic knots are served predominately in the northeast. Invented in Queens in 1973 as a way to use leftover scraps of pizza dough, the rolls are a quintessential part of the northeastern pizza diet. Greek salad is another staple, with tangy dressing and crisp vegetables providing just the right counterpoint to the topping heavy pies served from New York to Connecticut. Pizza parlor menus in the northeast tend to be no nonsense, with few extraneous sides. New York pizza is a classic for a reason and requires no distractions.
South: The South has fewer distinctive regional pizza styles, so the region is dotted with pizzerias serving deep dish, thin-crust, Detroit-style, and wood-fired pizza, a style for every taste. When it comes to sides, however, Southern flavor shines through. Spinach artichoke dip appears quite often, as does Tex-mex favorites like jalapeno poppers. In Alabama, regional specialties like boiled peanuts and pimento cheese are served alongside pizza just as they would be with fried green tomatoes or other more traditional southern dishes. The south is truly a patchwork of unique culinary treats and regional recipes, even when it comes to pizza.
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Midwest: Ah, the Midwest. Home to deep-dish pizza and recent darling Detroit style pizza, the Midwest also doesn’t mess around when it comes to pizza sides. French fries take pride of place here and honestly, we’re on board. And despite their origins in Buffalo, wings have achieved market dominance in the Midwest. Frigid winters require hearty food to endure, so it makes sense that pizza restaurants in the region have enormous menus full of sides, appetizers, snacks, and more. The farther north you travel, the greater the chance of the availability of cheese curds. Truly, a winter wonderland of pizza, spice, and everything nice.
West: They eat pizza, too! Even if it is often accompanied by a kale Caesar salad or calamari. Light, crispy wood-fired pizza often takes center stage here, and side dishes are appropriately light and fresh as well. In San Francisco, in addition to the salads and vegetables, several iconic pizzerias, like Berkeley’s legendary Cheese Board, serve soft serve ice cream.
What is your favorite pizza side dish? Let us know!
— Alyssa Morris