Prague's sauciest new opening: Detroit-style pizza finds a home in Žižkov

A group of American expats brings Motor City rectangular deep-dish pies (sauced to the edges!) to the Czech capital.

Christopher Sebastian

Written by Christopher Sebastian Published on 23.09.2022 15:30:00 (updated on 23.09.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

The birthplace of modern pizza may be Italy. But like many other things, Americans played a role in its claim to fame. While battles have raged on between New York-style and its Chicago rival, Detroit pizza has been secretly toiling away in the background, gaining a cult following. And now it’s snuck out of the U.S. Midwest and staked a space in Prague. 

Like an Instagram influencer teasing a new boyfriend, Third Coast Pizza has been soft launching all summer with pop-ups and weekend hours. Finally, they backed up enough crowd-pleasing dough to justify fully opening. Having taken over the U Kurelů space in Žižkov, they’ve given it a cool redesign while keeping much of the familiar aesthetic. 

If you don’t know what Detroit-style pizza is, you’re not alone. Detroit pizza is a rectangular pizza baked in a high-sided heavyweight pan. It’s traditionally topped with Wisconsin brick cheese. And instead of having a normal crust, that cheese goes all the way to the edges, where it caramelizes against the pan to become mouth-wateringly crisp and chewy. 

To achieve that, however, actually requires some hardcore science. We talked to co-founders Ross, Mike, and Cameron, who explained the painstaking process of crafting that perfect pizza. First, they pre-ferment the dough for 48 hours. In order to finish the dough, they ferment it for another 48 hours. Then every pizza ball is weighed, put into special rectangular pans, and left to rise for six hours before parbaking those shells.

Third Coast Pizza
Third Coast Pizza

Ross also broke down the science of hydration. “The dough is very thick, and it has a high hydration. Ours is about 75 percent, whereas a normal Italian pizza is usually between 50 and 62 percent. We go higher to make it a little bit crunchier, bumpier. You know, the traditional Detroit style elements. Outside of that, we can pretty much do whatever we want with the pizza.”

And they really do whatever they want. The recipes would make a pizza traditionalist blush. They have Ruben pizza, Buffalo chicken pizza, peanut butter, maple syrup and bacon…they even have a pie with plant-based cheese to satisfy the vegans. 

Surprisingly, however, none of the three founders are from Detroit. The trio of friends moved to Prague from the United States about 10 years ago. But Mike is from Florida, and Cameron is from Vermont. The closest one to Detroit is Ross, who is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 2 hours away from Detroit by car.

The original Buddy's location on Detroit's Six Mile is where the Detroit pizza was born.
The original Buddy's location on Detroit's Six Mile is where the Detroit pizza was born.

When asked about the hardest part of getting started, co-founder Ross thought for a moment and laughed before he said, “Getting the pans! These would run like 40, 50 euros a piece on Amazon, and sometimes it's hard to get shipping here from the UK.”

Lloyd Pans, the company that makes them, is the industry standard for the premium Detroit style. It’s so hard to acquire them that they briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a distributor in Europe. Because they cost about a third less in the United States, they just had friends and family gradually smuggle them over until they had a full kitchen.

Their origin story for starting Third Coast is also quite familiar. Ross said he had long toyed with the idea of starting a pan pizza business. But for years it wasn’t much more than a pipe dream.

“I think pizza in Prague follows a similar, Neapolitan-style pattern. So coming from America, there isn't much variation from that here. That was a big motivation for why we began this. But one day Cam called me up and he was like, ‘Hey, check out the Instagram of [a friend of ours in the UK]’ who was a chef in a Michelin star restaurant. He had lost his job during the pandemic, and he started a popup of Detroit-style pizza, which was getting all kinds of press in Sunderland [UK]. It was just the right motivation for us to say, ‘Okay, let's do it.’ Then Mike jumped on board with social media. And since then, it just kind of grew.”

Ross said Third Coast also prides themselves on using local ingredients. “That's one of the things that I think is really part of our identity—the local products, the local ingredients.” 

He looked up at the ceiling and started rattling off vendors on his fingers. “World of Chilli" in Karlín…we use Take Eat EZ BBQ’s pastrami and bacon…The Tavern here [in Žižkov], we've used their pulled pork and other ingredients…Cheese House in Vinohradská. I mean, you know the whole ‘It takes a village' kind of thing? We plugged into the community, and they helped us so much. So being able to have those connections and to make it work, I mean, we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Third Coast Pizza
Third Coast Pizza

Of course, quality ingredients and nailing pizza chemistry doesn’t come cheap. The price tag may discourage some enthusiasts. But Ross stressed that each pizza is enough for two people. So ordering their pizza on a date night isn’t going to break the bank. One pizza is still equivalent to or less than two main courses at another restaurant. 

Cost notwithstanding, Ross was confident of their future. “Sometimes I think whenever you're trying to enter a new space or an industry, there can be resistance, right? Especially if you're doing something disruptive, you can ruffle some feathers. But the response that we got couldn't have been more loving and welcoming.”

As food trends go, bread and cheese are always a safe bet. But we also asked Ross to look into his crystal ball to predict what the next big thing in Prague would be. He answered with zero hesitation. “Bagels. You heard it here first.” 

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