Buffalo’s Definitive Foods: Buffalo-style pizza

By Steve Cichon

We’re looking at Buffalo’s definitive foods this week…

An author recently referred to Buffalo as “The Comfort Food Capital of America,”¬†and there’s little doubt that Buffalo’s universal comfort food is take-out pizza.


a Bob & John’s-Hertel pie, 2015

That same writer, Arthur Bovino, writes in The Daily Beast that Buffalo just might be America’s Pizza Capital— or at least the country’s most underappreciated regional variety.

The sheer numbers bear that out. There are at least 600 pizzerias in the Buffalo area. Or to put it a different way, you could get pizza every night for 20 months, and not go to the same pie joint twice.

What makes a Buffalo pizza?

Santora’s was Buffalo’s first pizzeria. 1947 ad.

It starts with the crust. Tasty, doughy and golden, for those of us accustomed to it, it makes other crusts taste like cardboard. It’s doughy and soft, but it also stands up– literally. No floppy folding needed for a Buffalo slice.

1959 ad for Bison pepperoni, makers of Buffalo’s “cup and curl” pepperoni.

So there’s plenty of crust, and the crusts are bigger too. Order a large somewhere else in the country and you just might be disappointed.

On that bigger pizza, we pile on cheese in a way that would be considered extra cheese anywhere else.

Then there’s the pepperoni, which might be defined generally as flavorless, flat pink circles on your pizza. The best Buffalo pepperoni curls up a bit, gets a little charred on the edge, and makes the perfect meat vessel for the greasy goodness that adds so much flavor to our favorite pizzas.

Pizza became a fad around the country in the 50s, but we’ve been eating it here, and watching the perfect pie evolve since 1927 when Fioravante Santora started serving it. And then in 1946 when Dino started slinging pies at the Bocce Club on Hickory Street. And the Todaro’s started selling La Nova pizza in 1957.

Bocce Club announces new Bailey Avenue location. 1959 ad.

Pizza is an institution in Western New York, made up of hundreds of neighborhood institutions that make it a quintessential taste of Buffalo.

Santora’s was not only Buffalo;’s first pizzeria, but also among the first to deliver pizza. 1964 ad.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.