Serhan Ayhan’s Detroit-style pop-up

Serhan Ayhan's Detroit-style pizza slice
Detroit-style pizza is essentially a type of Sicilian pizza with a couple notable characteristics. It’s baked in what were once steel auto parts pans—the type of pan used in the auto industry for sorting and cleaning parts. Since those pans were much taller than typical Sicilian pizza pans, Detroit pizza makers could cheese their pies all the way to the edge of the pan, where it browns and crisps into a frico-like perimeter. Detroit-style is also known for the distinctive stripes of red sauce streaking the top. Some places sauce pre-bake, some do it post-bake.

Stick with me here. This is Detroit-style pizza from a pop-up in Queens at a place called Boston Pizza.

Wait, it gets better.

Popper-upper Serhan Ayhan’s family is originally from Turkey, and Boston Pizza ordinarily sells Greek-style pizza.

If that’s not the most Queens thing there is when it comes to a pizza story, I don’t know what is.

So how’d this come to be?

Serhan’s late uncle Orhan came to the US in the ’60s for a PhD in politics at NYU. After earning it, he decided to stay—and opened a chain of fast-food salad restaurants in Manhattan and Queens. Eventually other family members joined in.

In the mid-’90s, they opened a fine-dining Turkish spot in Astoria called Cappadocia. But, Serhan says, since they were more accustomed to the fast-food business model, they eventually converted it into Boston Pizza, having learned to make New England Greek–style pizza from a family friend in the Boston area. (New England Greek is a common genre there).

Serhan’s parents, Tony and Rose, and his uncle Charlie own Boston Pizza, with Charlie working days and Tony and Rose working nights. Serhan himself didn’t really get into pizza-making until recently, though.

He started popping up in my IG feeds a couple years ago, where I sensed that he was a 2nd- or 3rd-generation member of the Boston Pizza family and that he was doing that thing younger-generation restaurant owners often do—adding a new twist on a classic.

So here he is, experimenting with Detroit-style pies in a series of pop-ups that he does on the occasional Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis. This plain slice is from a few weeks ago (I’m catching up on a backlog of photos…)

Follow him on Instagram @serhan_ayhan for info on his pop-ups. He just announced his next one will be December 16, 2018. Beyond the pop-up info, Serhan’s super active in the NYC pizza scene, so you’ll learn a ton from him, too.

Until next post, folks, hasta la pizza!

Boston Pizza: 37-05 Broadway, Queens NY 11103; 718-545-6001;; @bostonpizzagram