Quad Cities Pizza – What Is It And Why Is It Different

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Let us introduce you to the unique but mouthwatering quad cities style pizza. This is a pizza style that was born in the midwest in the quad cities.

This obscure traditional pizza has received very little attention as very few have ever heard about it.

This could either be because a quad city is a place that most Americans have never been to or, worse, never heard about it.

You may be interested in some other style of pizza below.

So what are the Quad cities?

The quad cities are cities located on the opposite bank of the Mississippi River. These cities face each other. Despite their name ‘Quad,’ they are five cities.

Quad cities

They include Rock Island and Bettendorf, both in Iowa and the Illinois cities: Moline, Davenport, and East Moline.

Despite the rich local culture that characterizes this highly industrialized and commercial region, it also presents its pizza.

What makes the Quad city-style pizza?

This pizza is unique with a crispy, chewy, yet non soggy crust. You make the crust with molasses giving it a beautiful, brown, sweetened taste.

It is a pizza made with mozzarella cheese, lots of lean sausage meatballs, and the right amount of spice to make you want to eat more and more. The pizza has a pleasant aroma, which is brought about by the fragrant tomato sauce.

Despite the dough’s sweet taste, the tomato sauce used has cayenne, which kicks it that the midwestern people love so much.

The Quad cities-style pizza is the pizza you eat once and live to talk about decades later.

It leaves you with a taste that you will never find somewhere else for the rest of your life.

Where did quad cities style originate from pizza?

The Maniscalco family started Quad city-style pizza in 1955. They had a place called Tony’s Club Capri, where the whole family worked. This was the only place in the area that allowed indoor dining.

In 1950, the family moved from Calumet city to the quad cities. Some believe that the quad-cities locals already knew the pizza before the Maniscalco clan arrived. But still, the success is attributed to the Maniscalco family.

Caramelized apple bacon and blue cheese

Tony Maniscalco started Tony’s club, Capri. It became successful. Tony’s brother later moved to the Quad cities after hearing how successful the handmade sausage pizza business was. His name was Frank. He opened up Frank’s in Davenport.

Later, the Serra family approached Tony for his recipe to start a restaurant in Minnesota. Tony gave it to them. However, the business failed in Minnesota.

You came back to Tony and asked if they could open up a restaurant in the quad cities and use his recipe. Tony obliged. This led to Frank’s Club Napoli Pizza in 1955. This restaurant still exists in Sirvil, IL.

Over time the Maniscalco homemade pizza became Frank’s signature dish. Soon there was a competitor on the other side of the cities. There is a rumor that the owners of Frank’s and Harris decided to stay in their side of the cities, an agreement that still holds to date.

Frank’s tried to open up new locations in the 1980s, but things got hard, which got him out of business. He remained with only one location.

He sold some of his recipes to Mama Bosso’s. Mama Bosso’s still sells frozen pizza in the Midwestern grocery stores.

What makes this pizza unique?

The midwestern people will tell you that this pizza is like no other. This is because of the sausage used, how the pizza is cut, the crust, the many variations available, etc.

You can only find Quad cities-style pizzas in the Quad Cities. These exceptional pizzas give you a reason to put on your coat and drive to the cities two and a half hours away from Chicago. These characteristics make this pizza unique:

The fennel in the sausage

The sausage used is supposed to have fennel according to the original quad city-style pizza recipe. Although some restaurants today add standard Italian sausage to their Quad city-style pizza.

The fennel is essential as it gives the pizza a licorice-like taste, which goes well when combined with the spicy tomato and malted dough.

Bacon sausage and eggs pizza

Additionally, this sausage is handmade, and no preservatives are added to the meat. At Harris, they use up to one pound of the sausage, which consists of pork bought from the meat’s local producers.

The pizza is cut with scissors.

Traditionally, this pizza is cut into strips using a pair of scissors. In the 60s, when Harris Pizza started, they used a set of blueprint shears to cut the pizza. Today, they use the custom-made scissors they get from their proprietary mold.

“Original Quad cities-style pizza” is copyrighted.

Harris pizzeria has copyrights over the phrase that says they are the original Quad cities-style pizza providers.

However, it is well known that Harris came five years after Frank’s, which was already selling this pizza. Therefore, Frank’s pizza has a legitimate claim over the method of cooking this fantastic, regional pizzeria.

Many variations of the pizza are available.

Today, some other spots sell this traditional pizza apart from Harris and Frank’s. The former employees of these two pizzerias opened most of these places.

When they left and started their place, they made a tweak or two on their pizza. This means that the Quad cities pizza at one spot will not taste the same at another.

For instance, people say Greg Mohr’s pizza is the best. He grew up in Rock Island. They have two locations in Chicago, and they serve Quad cities authentic pizza. Yet, according to Harris and Frank’s, they have never given away the recipe.

Clint’s DraftHouse Pizza, a grill owned by Clint Doran, was started a quarter-century after the Harris pizzeria. Clint Doran used to work at Harris. Their pizza is quite different, too, and is a place you might want to check out.

Cooks on a rotating deck

To get a perfect quad cities-style pizza, you have to bake it in a rotating deck oven. You then have to ensure that temperatures of at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit are met.

You cook it for 8 minutes tops. This time is just enough to give the pizza a gooey top while the crust remains dry and crunchy. This is what makes the quad-cities style pizza unique.

The crust has molasses and malt.

The original recipe includes putting molasses in the dough. This gives the crust a delightful taste.

It also gives the crust a brownish appealing appearance after baking. Because of the sweet taste of the dough’s molasses, the part with the most crust has the richest flavor in the entire pizza.

This is the reason why the locals tend to fight over the four corner edges of the pizza.

Use only fresh products.

According to the manager at Harris, you have to use only fresh products to have the authentic quad cities style pizza. They use products from the locals.

For instance, the sausage is handmade, and the pork is bought from farmers within the quad cities. Secondly, the cheese they use, they produce it themselves.

Even the dough is never frozen. The dough is made from scratch. This gives the pizza a pleasant fresh taste that is hard to find using frozen products.

After making the dough, you need to let it rest for a while on top of a cornmeal-dusted surface.

Peppered tomato sauce

The traditional quad cities style pizza has paprika added to the sauce. This makes the sauce a bit spicier than in other pizza types.

Secondly, this sauce added is quite limited and thin. This is because the crust is thin. If you added a lot of sauce, there would not be enough room for the one-pound sausage, other toppings, and cheese.

Oregano is added

Traditionally fresh or dried oregano is dusted to the pizza after baking. This gives the pizza a nice flavor. For some spots, they add different types of fresh herbs to the pizza. This gives the pizza a twist in the flavors that is delightful.

How do you make a quad cities-style pizza?

This pizza is unique as its crust has molasses and malt that give it a nice look and taste.

  1. You add a blend of malt and molasses to the dough. The dough is stretched to 16 inches. Cornmeal is dusted on a board, and the dough is left to rest on it.
  2. The malt gives the dough a  strange but nice sweetness, while the molasses makes the crust have a natural, in-depth brown toasted look when the pizza is baked. It is then baked in a heated oven of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes.
  3. After that, you add just enough spiced tomato sauce. This conceals the sugars in the pizza. It also brings a unique kick to the delicious pizza. Then you throw in some seasoned sausages. To season the sausage, you can use red pepper, fennel, and black pepper. These sausages could either be in the form of meatballs or minced if that is what you prefer.
  4. Then comes mozzarella. You do not shred the mozzarella. Instead, could you put it in chunks? Mozzarella is not shredded to stop the toppings from sticking together.
  5. Finally, dust oregano on the pie as this will help you know when the pizza is ready. You should have your pizza browned and ready in just 8 minutes.
  6. Finally, it is time to cut the pizza the quad cities-style pizza way. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the pizza into an equal half. Then snip each side into strips as shown below.
  7. Finally, enjoy your pizza. You can eat it with a glass of your favorite drink.

You might wonder why the Quad cities-style pizza is cut in strips, yet other pizzas are usually cut in slices and squares.

Why cut the pizza into strips?

The Quad cities locals started cutting their pizza into strips earlier than the 50s, just as immigrants introduced the pizza. This is because the residents felt fairer to divide the pizza into equal and uniform parts hence cut in a straight line.

Over time this became the norm and a signature look for the quad cities pizza.  

Where do you get Quad cities style pizza?

The only place you can get authentic quad cities-style pizza is within the cities themselves. Fortunately, you will not have to move from one pizzeria to another in search of good pizza. The famous Harris Pizza is widely known.

Harris Pizza

This is a classic family-owned pizzeria that has been there for decades. It has four locations, all within the quad cities.

They have different types of pizza that you can sample. However, it would be best if you tried their traditional sausage pizza. They use only lean, fresh pork meat.

They never freeze their meat. According to Meeker, the Harris Pizza manager, they use about 179000 pounds of sausage on average every year.

The harris pizza has about a pound of sausage, and the pie weighs up to 4 pounds. Their pizza is also dry and crispy, with no grease at the bottom. This is due to their lean blend and a thorough drainage process.

Interestingly, they make their Midwestern mozzarella from scratch with no preservatives. Every bite of the pizza for you is just a bite of purity, simplicity, and full of Midwestern freshness.

Next time you are on a road trip through Illinois or Iowa, you might want to pay a visit to this legendary place and taste their more legendary pizza.

Frank’s Club Napoli

This pizza place opened around the same time as Harris. Frank’s has only one location on the east side of Moline. The locals believe that in the 50s, Frank’s and Harris agreed to stay on their side of the cities.

Today Frank’s is still on the east side of Moline, and Harris has expanded into 4 locations but is still on their side, still holding the agreement.

Their sausage pizza has just the right amount of sauce, lots of sausage and cheese. They still offer indoor dining but also have options for takeouts and deliveries. The restaurant is kids friendly hence you can have a family dinner or even birthdays there.

Locals love this place, so when you go there, expect a line and a little wait. However, the wait is worth it.

Roots Handmade pizza

If you are in Chicago and would love to taste the Quad City-style pizza, then this is the place for you. They make the pizza with lots of love, and they import all their ingredients from the Quad cities.

You can order your pizza, and it will be delivered, or make reservations at Roots.

Roots Handmade Pizza prides itself as the spot for parties. You can make arrangements and have the party at the restaurants or book to have a pizza party at your place of convenience.

This restaurant has 5 locations: West Town, Printer’s Row, Lincoln Square, and Second City.

QC Pizza

This pizzeria is located in Mahtomedi.

Currently, they do not allow indoor dining. To get pizza from QC, you can either takeout or have it delivered.

QC prides itself as the home of the Kinda Big Dill Pizza. This is their signature pizza. It exists in sixteen inches for twenty dollars only. It has Canadian bacon and dill pickles, which brings about a dreamy combination. This pizza has a fantastic crust too. Delicious!

They also serve Roni Cup Pizza for twenty dollars. It only comes in the size of sixteen inches. This pizza consists of delicious crispy pepperoni. The pizza has an inviting appearance.

QC Giant Pretzel is also one of their specials. It is frozen ten by ten inches, which comes with a container of cheese dipping sauce and pretzel salt. If you are in a hurry, you can buy this and finish baking it at home—Thaw the frozen pizza and bake at 350 degrees or above for twelve minutes.

They also serve different pizzas including Regular Cheese Pizza, Kinda Big Dill, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Diablo Pizza, QC Garbage, Kinda Big Dill, Mango Tango Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, BLT Pizza, and Sausage King.

They also have vegetarian options and cauliflower crust pizza.

The service at QC is impressive. The staff is so friendly and hospitable. However, the restaurant is a bit small. Hence it is better to have a takeout.

QC opens at eleven pm and closes at nine pm.

Want to learn how to make the perfect pizza at home? Check the articles below.


To get a quad cities-style pizza within the cities might be quite challenging unless you visit the Harris pizzeria or Frank’s.

There are some other spots like Roots in Chicago, Fat Jack’s Pizza in Peoria, Knuckles Pizza and Sports Bar in Dunlap, and QC Pizza in Mahtomedi.

The main difference between the original recipe from the Maniscalco family and what we have today in most spots is the tomato sauce’s spiciness. The Maniscalco pizza was a bit spicier.

The history of the quad cities style pizza is quite unclear. Was the quad cities style pizza there before Tony brought it to Rock Island? Is Harris Pizza the original creator of this pizza? This you will never know. But what we know for sure is that you need to try the pizza to know if it lives up to your expectations.

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