Located two hours east of Pittsburgh and situated in the Allegheny Mountains, Altoona is a small Pennsylvania city perhaps best known for a picturesque section of railroad called the Horseshoe Curve. The city is also one of many in Pennsylvania that has its own unique style of pizza.

Altoona-style pizza is based on Sicilian-style pies in that it has a thick crust and is cut into squares. It is sometimes referred to as Altoona Hotel Pizza, as that’s where the Pittsburgh City Paper and other sources said the style was founded in the 1960s or 1970s. While the Altoona Hotel no longer exists—it reportedly burned in a fire in 2013—the tradition of its pies has been carried on by local businesses. Notably, 29th Street Pizza Subs & More appeared to be the leader in serving up Altoona-style pizza.

A photo of Altoona-style pizza, which is a Sicilian-Style pie with Yellow cheese on top.

If one is not familiar with Altoona-style pizza, the sight of it can be a bit surprising. The “cuts,” as they are called, look more like a grilled cheese sandwich than a pizza at first glance. But the components of pizza are all there: sweet tomato sauce, salami, sliced green bell pepper, all topped with yellow cheese. While the yellow cheese was originally Velveeta, modern Altoona-style cuts feature yellow American cheese instead.

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“It is a legendary pizza, even if you are not from Altoona,” Steve Corklic, owner of 29th Street Pizza Subs & More, told Pittsburgh City Paper. Corklic has owned the business for 19 years and regularly posts on the shop’s social media channels spotlighting how far tourists traveled to eat his Altoona-style pizza. “I think no one does it better than us.”

And yet some Altoonans have reportedly never even heard of the style. A tweet included in the Pittsburgh City Paper feature on the style read: “I spent two years at penn state altoona and at no point do I recall hearing the phrase ‘altoona style pizza.’”

A tweet that reads: “I spent two years at penn state altoona and at no point do I recall hearing the phrase ‘altoona style pizza.’” A photo accompanies the tweet.

After looking into other pizzerias aside from 29th Street Pizza Subs & More that serve Altoona-style pizza, PMQ came up empty. But the style has been reviewed by multiple food bloggers, covered by television channels, written up in a series of publications and has even inspired a minor league baseball hat. The Altoona Curve donned hats designed to honor Altoona-style pizza during “White Theme Nights” at their Double A ballpark.

A man sits donning an Altoona-style pizza-themed minor league baseball hat, about to dig into his altoona-style pizza.

One of the reasons Corklic believes his deli’s signature pizza is so popular is because he’s been able to stabilize the price of the pizza. As other restaurants have jacked up their prices to combat inflation, 29th Street has been offering Altoona-style pizza for $2.50 per slice for six years.

“It should be more than that,” he told The Takeout, “But we’ve kept our prices down. People realize that, and we’re pretty popular because of it.”

One tip the writer from The Takeout offered was for diners to add extra salami for 25 cents. He said the American cheese can be a bit overwhelming, and a little extra meat can create a better balance.

“Arrive with an open mind, and I think you’ll find Altoona-style pizza is quite good,” The Takeout wrote. “For $2.50 a slice, you can’t really argue with it.”

Food & Ingredients