As a contestant on Family Feud in 1980, Andrew Gilich, now the mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi, was asked to name an ingredient commonly put on a pizza. Without a moment’s hesitation, he hit the buzzer and blurted out, “French dressing!”

To Gilich and his kin, it was the most obvious answer. “For me, I order a pepperoni [pizza], and I put French dressing on it,” Gilich recently told Garden & Gun.

The game-show audience, on the other hand, was shocked, he recalled. “They said, ‘What?!’ They’d never heard of that. Well, my family knew what I was talking about.”

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Strange as it sounds to most folks, French dressing on pizza is a thing in Biloxi, a seaside city on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. It has been since at least the 1960s, beginning at Hugo’s, a beloved but now-defunct Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Biloxi. In those days, Biloxi High School students thought French dressing—or, as they called it, “liquid cheese”—was nifty on a pie.

Is it safe to call it “Biloxi-style” pizza? Probably not, although that’s the term Garden & Gun uses in its March 2024 story’s headline: “What Is Biloxi-Style Pizza?”

Still, author Jim Beaugez treads carefully, writing, “Ask anyone from Biloxi, Mississippi, about the best way to enjoy pizza, and they’ll tell you it’s less about the style of the slice and more about what goes on top. Along the Gulf Coast, that distinguishing factor is French dressing, and it’s as common to local pizzerias and kitchen tables as ketchup on French fries.”

Even major chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut offer the sweet and tangy dressing as a side at its South Mississippi stores nowadays.

But Tom’s Extreme Pizzeria, an Ocean Springs eatery that offers more than 30 specialty pizzas created in honor of various U.S. states, takes it one step further. Tom’s mixes its own version, dubbed Hugo Sauce, as a base sauce—arguably, that could qualify as a true pizza style if it ever catches on. (Note: Tom’s offers other sauce flavors like BBQ, Thai and, yes, even ketchup.)

Even so, as pizza-dipping trends go, French dressing hasn’t spread further than the Gulf Coast just yet.

After Hugo’s Restaurant closed over a lease dispute in 2003, one customer told WLOX about his pizza-eating experience as a college student at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, just 75 miles north of Biloxi. “When I grabbed the French dressing off the salad bar for my pizza, all the students up there looked at me like I had just come from another planet,” he said.

If French dressing as a pizza drizzle or base sauce hasn’t spread to other parts of the country after 60-plus years, perhaps ranch lovers have nothing to worry about. But remember: Detroit-style pizza dates back to the 1940s and took off nationwide only over the past decade. Maybe your restaurant could take the lead in making Biloxi-style pizza the next big thing? Just make sure to give credit to Hugo’s.

Food & Ingredients