What is 'Quad City-style' pizza? The rare 'za format has arrived in the Twin Cities

Even the cut of a Quad City-style pie is different.

Even the cut of a Quad City-style pie is different. QC Pizza

Pizza aficionados in the Twin Cities have a wealth of options, from New Haven-style pies to Chicago deep dish. There’s wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza, coal-fired pizza, and pizza cooked via renewable wind energy.

But according to QC Pizza owner Dennis Schneekloth, there was a major omission in the local pizza scene: the distinctive style of his native Quad Cities.

“I’ve lived here for 20 years, but had to go home to get pizza,” Schneekloth says. “Nobody [in the Twin Cities] makes pizza in this style.”

What is Quad City-style pizza? As the name suggests, it originated in the early 1950s in the Quad Cities, which rather confusingly consist of five cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois) about a five-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of the Twin Cities.

Nearly everything about Quad City-style pizza is a little bit different from what you’re used to. Malt is added to the dough, which gives the crust a nuttier taste and a crunchy texture. “On the ends, it’s almost like a breadstick,” explains Schneekloth. “Next day, it’s still a great crust. You can load it up with a lot of toppings and it doesn’t get soggy.”

In addition, the sauce is spicier, with paprika, red chili flakes, and cayenne. Toppings are cut smaller and are placed under the cheese. The sausage—which Schneekloth makes in-house from lean pork—covers the entire pizza.

“When I make a sausage pizza, there’s like a pound of sausage on the pizza,” he says. “In every single bite, you’re tasting sausage.”

Even the serving method is unique: Pies are cut into strips instead of wedges or squares. Traditionally, this was done with blueprint shears; in the modern, digital era, those are tricky to track down, so Schneekloth uses a regular pizza cutter.

While the style has garnered some recent media attention from Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine, it remains a rarity outside of the Quad Cities. Roots serves Quad Cities-style pizza at their two Chicago restaurants. And since early June, Minnesotans have been able to try Schneekloth’s version at QC Pizza in Mahtomedi.

In addition to a build-your-own option and the aforementioned sausage pizza, QC Pizza’s menu offers a variety of specialty pies. There’s a taco pizza with taco-seasoned chips (according to Schneekloth, the chips are a must). The Sour Pig features sauerkraut and Canadian bacon. A BLT pizza is served with mayonnaise and topped with crumbled bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce. The Diablo swaps in BBQ sauce for the traditional tomato and has a dusting of “XXX spices.”

While the novelty factor may get people in the door, Schneekloth is also putting in the extra effort to make a high-quality pizza. “I’ve taken basic Quad Cities pizza and elevated it. I cook my mushrooms in wine—who does that?”

“I don’t use sugar in the crust, there’s not sugar in my sauce, I make everything from scratch,” he continues. “It’s the way things used to be.” Dough is hand-tossed, and vegetables are cut fresh daily. Ingredients are sourced from small, local purveyors when possible, like Greg’s Meats in Hampton.

“Everything’s made to order how you want it,” Schneekloth says. “It’s old-school pizza.”

QC Pizza
3150 Century Ave. N., Mahtomedi