Lesser-known regional pizza styles are becoming less “regional” every year. Pizza aficionados can now find Jersey tomato pies in Seattle, the New Haven style and Connecticut’s hot oil bar pie in Florida, and Motor City squares in Manhattan, San Francisco, New Orleans and, well, just about anywhere else nowadays.

Add the Quad Cities variation on pizza to that list of styles that have begun to catch on in unlikely places. Kim and Steve Ortiz introduced it to Atlanta in October 2019 with Generations Pizza in Acworth. And Quad Cities expatriates and locals alike have been flocking to the single-unit shop ever since.

“We had a couple that drove five hours from Florida just for our pizza,” Kim Ortiz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). “It’s fun to hear some of their stories as well and just to talk about your memories.”

Related: Who invented the weirdest pizza style in America?

The Quad Cities region consists of five (yes, five) cities on the Mississippi River, including Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in northwestern Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in southeastern Iowa.

Several factors make the Quad Cities style unique. It starts with a dough that contains malt and molasses for a nutty, sweet flavor, dark color and crunchy texture, followed by a thick, peppery sauce. Traditionalists expect finely crumbled, fennel-laced sausage and a thick layer of mozz laid over the toppings. In other words, first the sauce, then the toppings and then the cheese. Oh, and they want their pies cut into long strips—preferably with scissors.

The Ortizes hail from the Quad Cities region themselves. Steve Ortiz borrowed their dough recipe from an old pal in Rock Island, who brought the style to Harrisburg, North Carolina, when he opened Pub 49. The couple have turned Generations Pizza into a family-friendly joint with an emphasis on keeping the kiddos happy, including a monthly coloring contest for free pizza and parties for local youth sports teams.

One popular menu choice at Generations Pizza is the classic Taco Pizza laden with refried beans on Quad Cities-style dough and topped with ground sausage, shredded cheddar and mozzarella and piled with lettuce, tomatoes and crushed Doritos after the bake.

“Eating this pie reminded me of my own Midwestern upbringing in the 1970s and ’80s, believing that hard-shell tacos stuffed with ground beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and a packet of hot sauce was real-deal Mexican,” Ligaya Figueras wrote for the AJC. “Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I enjoyed this weird, crunchy pizza.”

The Ortizes came up with the name Generations Pizza in honor of pizza’s deep roots in Italy and the U.S. The restaurant’s success over nearly five years hints that regional styles have broader appeal than you might realize and that many potential customers are hungry for something more than the same old New York style that can be found pretty much anywhere in the 2020s.

Food & Ingredients