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What Is Quad City-Style Pizza?

Everybody get up, it’s time to eat now. 

Long before the Quad City DJs put Illinois and Iowa on the map with its iconic “Space Jam” anthem, the Quad Cities gave the world a unique and beloved twist on pizza. With malt in the dough and rectangular slices that are more akin to a mille-feuille than a typical pizza porton, Quad City-style pizza is unlike any other pie you’ve had before.

What are the Quad Cities again?

Quad Cities postcard

The Quad City region is made up of five cities: Iowa’s Davenport and Bettendorf and Illinois’ Rock Island, Moline, East Moline. 

That’s right, there are five cities in the Quad Cities area, and the history behind that could be an article all on its own. But, since we’re focused solely on the pizza, the important thing to know is that Quad City-style pizza is a Midwestern phenomenon that has little in common with better-known Chicago-style pies. 

What’s different about the crust?

Quad City-style pizza crust

Typically, pizza crust is defined by its thickness, crunch, and the depth of flavor provided by the dough’s fermentation process. In Quad City-style pizza, the dough is sweetened by the addition of malt and, in some cases, molasses.

Fear not, the crust is not overly saccharine. Instead, the malt mixture gives the dough a mild, nutty quality that is easily recognizable without being overpowering. And, in cases where molasses is added to the mix, the crust looks extra-toasted, despite spending less than ten minutes in the oven.

What’s in the sauce of a Quad City-style pizza?

The sauce of a Quad City-style pizza gets a noticeable kick from a healthy dash of cayenne pepper, crushed red chili flakes, and other spices. The sauce is more spicy than sweet, and that makes for a good counter to the gentle sugariness of the crust.

What happened to the toppings on my Quad City-style pizza?

Quad City Pizza toppings

The toppings (underneathings?) are placed on the pizza before the cheese, meaning that you’ll find most of the add-ons below the cheese with some pieces poking themselves out for air.  

This may cause confusion for Quad City-style neophytes, but there is little chance that the pizza is light on toppings. Lean, fennel-heavy sausage is the most popular topping for Quad City-style pizza, and famed outpost Harris Pizza is rumored to put one pound of it on every pie.

Where can I get Quad City-style pizza?

Quad City Pizza Cheese

Quad City-style pizza is slowly gaining popularity outside of the Midwest’s Cinque Terre. Roots Pizza, for example, brought Q-C ‘za to Chicago in 2011 and opened multiple locations in a city that is very particular about its proprietary thin-crust and deep-crust pies. 

But, generally speaking, your best bet to find Quad City-style pizza is in the region that gave birth to it. If you’re in the area, we advise you to save some belly room for a block-shaped slice.  

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