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Is it a sicilian or is it a square?

nooyawka Jul 25, 2009 12:13 PM

I got a question and haven't seen any discussion of it. Where I grew up in Corona, Queens, when it was still predominantly Italian, there was no question that when you walked into the pizzeria and asked for a slice, it was by default a regular (triangular) slice. If you wanted a sicilian slice, you just asked for a "sicilian". But now I see people calling slices by various names, like: "round", "square slice", "regular slice" etc. You see, to me, that just complicates things unnecessarily. Why use 2 words when you can use just 1? But I can see the geometrical simplicity of it. You got Round and you got Square. But then I would argue "square" is a misnomer. It's actually rectangular. But I can see, if I asked for a rectangular slice in Brooklyn, I'd get my butt kicked back to Corona. Clearly, this practice varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. I'm just wondering...can we find any patterns here? Would it depend on whether you were from Queens or from Brooklyn, etc.? What did your old neighborhood call it?

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    son of a butcher RE: nooyawka Jul 25, 2009 12:26 PM

    Pre 1990, or thereabout,it was known as Sicilian everywhere. I don't know why it changed to square.

    1 Reply
    1. re: son of a butcher
      pizmet RE: son of a butcher Jul 25, 2009 03:47 PM

      I can top that by twenty years. To me, "sicilian" and "square" were synonymous -- the exact same thing --- since the 1970's! Walk into any pizzeria in NY and ask for either a sicilian or a square, and the proprietor knows exactly what you want. And no one ever made a big deal about the vernacular. What's the big deal here, by the way?

    2. t
      Tay RE: nooyawka Jul 25, 2009 12:29 PM

      I think someone has too much time on his hands, lol! j/k

      1. i
        irishnyc RE: nooyawka Jul 25, 2009 12:31 PM

        Sicilian! I think the "square" is the "not a native new yorker" vernacular.

        17 Replies
        1. re: irishnyc
          fourunder RE: irishnyc Jul 25, 2009 12:37 PM

          Let's not forget the * Grandma * pizza slice/square.

          1. re: fourunder
            irishnyc RE: fourunder Jul 25, 2009 12:53 PM

            At least the term "Grandma" denotes that it's something different than a Sicilian slice... and it's closer to what my Italian grandma did make.

            1. re: irishnyc
              planetjess RE: irishnyc Jul 25, 2009 01:03 PM

              Now I'm more confused--if "Sicilian" equals "square", what's "Grandma"?

              1. re: planetjess
                fourunder RE: planetjess Jul 25, 2009 01:06 PM

                According to:


                grandma pizza: Essentially a thin-crust Sicilian pie.

                1. re: fourunder
                  planetjess RE: fourunder Jul 25, 2009 01:08 PM

                  So I guess that's what I like most, as Adrienne's in the FiDi is my favorite pizza in the city, and it's a square, thin-crust pie. Haven't been able to find anything like it (of any quality) in PS... :(

                  1. re: planetjess
                    nooyawka RE: planetjess Jul 25, 2009 03:43 PM

                    If you ever make it out to New Hyde Park, Umberto's version is pretty good. I went there on another friend's rec.
                    Here's a link to a Newsday article:
                    Recently, I saw my friend ask my local pizzeria to make her a personal-sized grandma pie, and it was pretty good. I've ordered it twice since. You may want to try asking your local guy.

                    1. re: planetjess
                      irishnyc RE: planetjess Jul 26, 2009 10:11 AM

                      FiDi, eh? You must not be a native! ;)

                      1. re: irishnyc
                        planetjess RE: irishnyc Jul 26, 2009 10:38 AM

                        Nope, but I've been in NYC for almost fifteen years--"FiDi" is actually just a nickname that I've picked up on this board. I wouldn't even know how to pronounce it out loud--would it be "Fiddy", like "Fiddy Cent"? :)

                        1. re: planetjess
                          irishnyc RE: planetjess Jul 26, 2009 12:14 PM

                          planetjess - I think it's Fie-Die. But, I would never utter it out loud!

                    2. re: fourunder
                      bigjeff RE: fourunder Jul 26, 2009 10:29 AM

                      a grandma is a sauceless square, or, the cheese is under the sauce and little of it.

                      more dissenting-ish definitions here:


              2. re: irishnyc
                monku RE: irishnyc Jul 25, 2009 01:11 PM

                I always called it Sicilian and it was always cut into a square even though it was baked in a rectangular pan, but never heard it referred to as a "square".

                1. re: irishnyc
                  2slices RE: irishnyc Jul 27, 2009 07:26 AM

                  Sicilian is the proper term, and "corner slice" is the way to order it. However eating it is regrettable 99% of the time. Grandma slice is sicilian 2.0 and is better in every way imaginable. "Corner grandma", keep it brief.

                  1. re: 2slices
                    bigjeff RE: 2slices Jul 27, 2009 07:36 AM

                    with you on the corner! although I know some people who want the center. huh??

                    1. re: bigjeff
                      2slices RE: bigjeff Jul 27, 2009 09:16 AM

                      I don't trust those people. Communists probably.

                      1. re: 2slices
                        Silverjay RE: 2slices Sep 3, 2009 08:47 AM

                        I'm a non-communist centrist and you'll have to pry that slice out of my cold, dead, greasy fingers.

                        1. re: Silverjay
                          JMF RE: Silverjay Sep 7, 2009 06:16 AM

                          Ditto on what you said Silverjay.

                  2. re: irishnyc
                    lynnlato RE: irishnyc Jul 27, 2009 07:40 AM

                    I don't think the term "Sicilian" has much to do with native NY'ers. Unless they migrated from the city into NJ, PA, etc. like my family did. I'm from PA and we always referred to it as "Sicilian". It was the standard term at local pizza joints.

                  3. bigjeff RE: nooyawka Jul 26, 2009 10:29 AM

                    never heard of a round either; it's just a slice or a sicilian and I don't think it ever really changed. maybe when the grandma stepped on the scene you might ask for a grandma. or, you just point.

                    1. p
                      Peter Cherches RE: nooyawka Jul 26, 2009 08:09 PM

                      Sicilian when I was a kid too. But when I was in Sicily, sit-down pizzerias all seemed to make round pizzas--the only places you'd find squares are those little stand-up places you also find elsewhere in Italy that serve pizza al taglio--pizza by the slice--which is basically square pizza in a pan on a foccaccia-type crust. Interestingly, for some reason Verona has a bunch of NY-style pizza places--quick stand-up places serving slices from 18" round pies.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Peter Cherches
                        NYJewboy RE: Peter Cherches Jul 26, 2009 08:16 PM

                        I never find what we call 'Sicilian' pizza in Sicily, meaning New York 'square' pizza. The Sicilian immigrants who invented it did it over here, I guess, as an adaptation and modification of what they remembered from home.

                      2. m
                        MahatmaKanejeeves RE: nooyawka Jul 27, 2009 07:51 AM

                        Circa 1970, neighborhood pizzarias in The Bronx used the name Square or Sicilian. The use of Square became very obscure. Every 8 year old knew what Square was. They also knew that it must be better, because it cost 25 cents and not 20 cents. The less descriptive Sicilian makes the customer feel like an insider with sophisticated knowledge of pizza jargon. If Square is becoming popular again. then those shops must be attempting to appeal to pizza newbies (whoever they might be).

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves
                          Jeffsayyes RE: MahatmaKanejeeves Jul 27, 2009 09:45 AM

                          I always thought Square was an awkward term in the past, but now I'm warming up to it. Especially because of the varying heights of a Sicilian slice. To me, the higher the dough, the more sicilian it is. But I kind of like saying Square now. or, more accurately, "Sqweaah".

                          1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves
                            jen kalb RE: MahatmaKanejeeves Jul 28, 2009 12:37 PM

                            c'mon Ive been ordering squares my whole NY (since '69) life. simplicity is very appealing. Out at places like L&B people order squares, not sicialian slices. it would be interesting to know how, historically, the term sicilian got attached to the al taglio pizzas here.

                            1. re: jen kalb
                              NYJewboy RE: jen kalb Jul 28, 2009 01:14 PM

                              It was a Sicilian pizzeria owner cashing in, I imagine.

                              1. re: jen kalb
                                Peter Cherches RE: jen kalb Jul 28, 2009 01:39 PM

                                Maybe because Neapolitan was already taken. I think some NY pizzerias still list round pies as Neapolitan. When I was a kid, all had Neapolitan & Sicilian listed. I think ('60s & '70s in Midwood) we used Sicilian and square interchangeably, but nobody said "Neapolitan"--you'd just ask for a slice. I once mentioned on another thread that when I was in Salerno (near Naples) the pizzerias served pies that were the closest I've had in Italy to NY pizza--not unlike what you might get at Arturo's.

                                1. re: Peter Cherches
                                  Jeffsayyes RE: Peter Cherches Jul 28, 2009 04:13 PM

                                  I always thought a round was just a regular pie. or just a pie. I would never ask for a "round" pie, unless I was talking to someone who was speaking an entirely different language. yeah, i would never say "i want a neapolitan pie" that's just ludicrous.

                                  1. re: Peter Cherches
                                    Steve R RE: Peter Cherches Sep 8, 2009 08:10 AM

                                    I'm with Peter on this. Same neighborhood in Bklyn, although he's several years younger than me. Back in the late '50s/early 60s, pizza places were mainly Neapolitan and listed their round pizza as such. But, since round was the standard, it became just "I'll have a slice" or "regular".... no one ever said "I'll have a Neapolitan", that would have been weird. Square pies were secondary (although loved by many) and were listed as "Sicilian". We just said "I'll have a square slice" or "Sicilian". You can get much the same type history on cups of coffee ("regular" in my neighborhood always meant a moderate amount of milk and sugar & anything else had to be specified). Brooklynese (although not everywhere... it's a big borough). Corona was a foreign country... I have no idea what strange customs and ways different from our own that they might have had.

                                    1. re: Steve R
                                      thew RE: Steve R Sep 8, 2009 08:38 AM

                                      regular coffee was milk and 2 sugars all over new york in my youth (or yout if you prefer)

                              2. norah_j RE: nooyawka Sep 2, 2009 07:43 PM

                                slice is a slice of neopolitan (triangle) pizza... sicillian is and always will be to me a square slice... one thing that always confused me is how some ppl say gravy instead of sauce... wtf is that about?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: norah_j
                                  fourunder RE: norah_j Sep 3, 2009 05:13 AM

                                  *gravy* is made with meat....pork or beef cuts, sausage, meatballs, neck bones, braciole and sometimes chicken. Some call this their "Family Sunday Gravy".

                                  1. re: fourunder
                                    norah_j RE: fourunder Sep 3, 2009 05:34 AM

                                    gotcha... however i know a few ppl who call their tomato sauce gravy... i just found it odd growing up, to us gravy was always a meat product never a tomato sauce.

                                    1. re: norah_j
                                      Tay RE: norah_j Sep 7, 2009 07:13 AM

                                      Same here. A lot of my friend's parents/grandparents refer to any mainly tomato based sauce as 'Gravy" I've gotten used to it but when I think of gravy, it's some shade of brown and it's meat based. :-)

                                2. thew RE: nooyawka Sep 7, 2009 07:34 AM

                                  i never heard "square" until i came to chowhound

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: thew
                                    bob96 RE: thew Sep 7, 2009 11:56 PM

                                    Way back in my Brooklyn--the 50s and 60s--it was always either "square" or "regular". I suspect, to answer the question about why square became Sicilian, that after 1965, when immigration quotas changed and tons of Italians (a huge slice from Sicily) came in, they opened a slew of pizzerie and started using the term more common to them. A typical Palermo pizza is a sfincione--a thick rectangle often topped with bread crumbs and anchovies and onions. Then there was an even more fugitive (and delicious) treat, Italian bakery pizza, or cold square slices smeared with tomato, to make use of excess dough, always a quick bite when shopping for bread, as we did everyday. BTW, my Calabrese grandma never made pizza.

                                    1. re: bob96
                                      thew RE: bob96 Sep 8, 2009 05:30 AM

                                      maybe so, i probably didnt start buying pizza myself until '68 or so.
                                      in manhattan that was sicillian

                                  2. m
                                    MoxieBoy RE: nooyawka Sep 8, 2009 09:38 AM

                                    In Brooklyn Tech H.S. in the 60s, they taught us that the area of a circle is PI R Squared.


                                    Sicilian Pi are square.
                                    Neapolitan Pi are round.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MoxieBoy
                                      Amy Mintzer RE: MoxieBoy Sep 8, 2009 02:25 PM

                                      That is the single best pizza equation I ever heard. Can't wait to tell my kid.

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