Detroit-style pizza shop opens in the island country of Malta

Detroit Style Pizza opened Friday in the Republic of Malta.

Detroit style pizza in Malta

Detroit style pizza – pizza served on a thick focaccia-like crust with toppings first, then Wisconsin brick cheese and finished with stripes of red sauce – is a global sensation.

Not only is it served up across the U.S. in cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Gainsville, Fla., but Detroit-style pizza can be found abroad as well.

The latest international location to offer this regional favorite is in the Republic of Malta, an island slightly smaller than the size of Detroit, located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa. The restaurant is called Detroit Style Pizza and opened Friday, selling out all its pizzas on day one.

“We did a lot of research in Detroit with Buddy’s, obviously,” Bjorn Bartolo, the shop’s owner says.

Related: CuriosiD: Who made Detroit-style pizza first?

Buddy’s Pizza is credited with creating Detroit style, but Bartolo isn’t planning to just copy the original.

“We’re giving it a Maltese twist when it comes to the toppings,” Bartolo shares.

Bartolo says patrons can expect to see gbejna (Maltese goat cheese) and Maltese sausage, in addition to pepperoni and traditional stripes of red sauce. The pizza will be cooked in steel pans modeled after the automotive parts trays that Buddy’s is said to have used when it first started.

Bartolo opened a Detroit-style pizza location in Malta, “because there’s nothing like it and I think people should know about it because it’s an incredible pizza.” He first tasted Detroit-style pizza at a shop in London, but has yet to taste it in the city where it was born. Bartolo planned to visit Detroit during the pandemic but had to cancel.

There is actually a sizable Maltese population in Metro Detroit. There are about 10,000 Maltese people living in the tri-county area, according to 2015 American Community Survey estimates. That’s about 1/3 the size of Malta’s biggest city San Pawl il-Baħar.

“I didn’t know there was a big community in Detroit to be honest,” says Bartolo.

He didn’t find out about Malta’s ties to Detroit until he launched a Facebook page for the restaurant and found comments from Maltese people who used to live in Michigan.

“They were so excited about it.”

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.