The apple pizza that Pittsburgh’s oldest residents are obsessed with

It's a delightfully simple, yet flavorful play on classic apple pie

Published November 5, 2022 4:29PM (EDT)

 (James Ransom / Food52)
(James Ransom / Food52)

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When I get older, I'd like to believe that there will be very few things I need to make me happy. Give me carbohydrates, a good painkiller cocktail, Beyoncé's farewell tour album, Scrabble, and somewhat frequent social interaction.

My grama, who just turned 90 in September, wholeheartedly agrees, arguing that it's life's most simple and unassuming pleasures that keep her so upbeat and optimistic. But as we celebrated her monumental birthday, I learned that her happiness came in the form of an apple pizza, prepared only a block away by a red-brick home-turned-"specialty shoppe" called Country Style.

This humble dessert has become so beloved, so renowned among her assisted living facility's residents that you'd think it was a pseudonym for a celebrity or mythical creature who roams the halls and gifts everyone flowers and hundred-dollar bills on a daily basis.

Of course, as a food writer and connoisseur of all things delicious, I had to try this famous dish for myself, so I walked over to the store and ordered a pie to bring back to my eagerly-awaiting grama, her friends, and my extended family.

The verdict? A delightfully simple, yet flavorful play on classic apple pie with a uniquely flaky and crunchy crust, sweetened cream cheese base, apple pie filling topping, and a layer of streusel that coated the mouth like a buttery sand. It was gone within minutes, enjoyed by cousins who "mmmed" and "ahhhed" in unison and agreed that this was, indeed, "really, really good pizza."

So in the spirit of journalism (and my relentless curiosity), I reached out to the establishment that brings so much joy to my grama and her neighbors. I wanted to get its backstory and, at the very least, I needed the employees to know just how much of a positive impact a seemingly insignificant menu item had on a group of hungry elders.

Zachary Adams, owner of Country Style, confirmed that he and his family are well-aware of my grama and her pizza-loving posse's obsession with his pizza.

"We have a long history [with the building]," he says. "It brings us much satisfaction to provide comfort food for our neighbors. Lots of pizzas and friendships have been made."

In fact, the Country Style brand has provided this aforementioned comfort to the Bridgeville community for almost 30 years. Adams and his family purchased the shop in 2008 to "bring it back to its old glory" and update the local staple to compete with surrounding businesses.

"We implemented better technology and improved customer service," he adds. "This has really helped our small shop compete. We have our own branded AP for ordering on-the-go. We also host our menu on every third-party delivery platform."

Despite modernizing the day-to-day workflow and operations, Adams still credits most of the restaurant's success to their original recipes.

"We haven't changed," he says. "We prepare our pizzas the same way as they did 30 years ago."

When asked about the apple pizza specifically, which reflects a trend among fast food joints venturing into dessert pizza territory, Adams claims that it is a Country Style-original.

"It was created in the early '90s by the original owners and we have eight more [sweet] flavors ranging from blueberry to Oreo," he reveals.

But what really sets the pizza apart from neighborhood competition is its distinct crust that flakes like a brioche, yet crunches like a cracker.

"Our crust is a raised Syrian flatbread made in-house every day. Even better, you can purchase our pizza crusts at select grocery stores throughout the area and make pizza at home."

This same crust is also used as a foundation for some of the store's creative savory pies, like the Italian Pierogi which includes potato, butter, romano cheese, spiced tomato, and sautéed onions, or the Broccoli and Cauliflower, a six-cheese sauce topped with the vegetable stalks mozzarella, and provolone.

Country Style also prides themselves on having one of the "most extensive vegan pizza menus" in Pittsburgh — quite an accolade in a town that loves meat and is the birthplace to the famous condiments that top them.

In a social media-dominated era where everyone seemingly rushes to get in on the latest food trend or innovation, sometimes it's worthwhile to pause and appreciate treasures that aren't concocted for the sake of going viral. Or at least that's what grama taught me during my last trip. After all, while the apple pizza could join the ranks of unicorn Frappuccinos, corn ribs, and baked feta pastas on TikTok, that's not its purpose. Instead, it exists to humbly bring joy to a community that finds pleasure in the small stuff. And when I get to an age where I'm too old to tie my shoes, it's the small stuff, like an apple pizza that brings an entire community together, that I hope to never take for granted.

By Joey Skladany

MORE FROM Joey Skladany

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Apple Pie Apples Desserts Food Food52 Pittsburgh Pizza