Why California-Style Pizza Doesn't Have A Signature Crust

We know the pizza big dogs. There's New York-style pizza with a thin crust, Chicago-style with a deep dish, and there's Detroit-style with a rectangular thick, airy crust. They're all delicious, all distinct, and all on the east side of the country. So, what about the west side? We're looking at you, California.


We all know California is known for its creativity and health-conscious diet, so it's no surprise that its pizza has a creative flair. California-style pizza originated in the late 20th century when chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Ed LaDou started experimenting with traditional Italian pizzas by infusing them with local ingredients and using influences of the diverse cultural landscape.

Today, the pizzas are known for their many flavor combinations, non-traditional toppings, and fresh local produce. But when it comes to the crust, a signature style doesn't come to mind, mostly because it doesn't have one. Instead, California has taken a more relaxed and laid-back approach to pizza.

The skinny on crust

There are no hard and fast rules, especially when it comes to being a stickler about crust. Generally, California-style pizza can be New York or Italian-style thin crust. (We get it, not a lot of carbs). The crust may be unleavened or leavened with a light, airy texture. Given California's reputation for health-conscious living, California-style pizza tries to incorporate healthier options. This can include the use of whole wheat crusts, lighter cheeses, and a focus on organic or locally sourced produce.


California Pizza Kitchen, which opened in Beverly Hills in 1985, popularizing California-style pizzas worldwide, says its dough is hand-tossed and thin. They also offer a cauliflower crust for those searching for a healthier option. Traditional wood-fired ovens are used to bake the pizzas, which adds a distinct smokiness and char to the crust. The rest of the magic happens with the toppings.

Cali-style toppings

One of the defining aspects of California-style pizza is the use of creative and diverse toppings. Ingredients are often fresh, locally sourced, and reflect a variety of flavors. This can include unconventional toppings like arugula, figs, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, and other fresh vegetables and herbs.


California is also unafraid to embrace a fusion of flavors and ingredients inspired by the state's multicultural food scene. Take CPK's Thai Chicken pizza as an example, which comes drizzled with peanut sauce and topped with crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots, slivered scallions, and fresh cilantro. There are even venues that include flowers from local farms and strawberries on their pizza menus.

California-style pizza is a thing. The popularity of this style has grown, and other pizzerias in California have adopted similar approaches, contributing to this very recognizable California-style pizza trend.