The Unexpected Condiment That Tops Biloxi-Style Pizza

Because I was a pizzamaker in a former life, I've long since taken it upon myself to become a bit of a pizza scholar through the years. And part of the joy of pizza is just how diverse it can be, as evidenced by our exhaustive guide to pizza styles in the U.S. As much as I've learned, however, I'm still picking up on new-to-me hyper-regional styles.


One of them includes a version that's flown beneath most people's radar, including mine, and this one hails specifically from Biloxi, Mississippi. While most pizza styles are dictated by characteristics such as their types of crust, sauce, shape, and the manner in which they're baked, Biloxi's style of pizza is unusual in that its main differentiator lies not in the pizza itself but a condiment that goes on it.

That's because this sauce is typically associated with the salad bar, and before you hazard a guess, no, it's not the Midwestern favorite ranch dressing. It's French dressing. Yep, the sweet, creamy orange-to-red stuff you're thinking of right now. You can let that sink in for a minute.


The history of French dressing on Biloxi pizza

The origins of French dressing on pizza in Biloxi can be traced back to one place, and that's an Italian restaurant called Hugo's, which was founded in Biloxi in 1951. The owner, Hugo Rungo, was a New Yorker who'd settled in the Biloxi area after having been stationed at Keesler Field (now Keesler Air Force Base). Pizza was such a rarity in Biloxi back then that key pie ingredients like pepperoni and mozzarella had to be shipped in from the East Coast.


The actual story about how French dressing first came to be added to pizza (and affectionately nicknamed "liquid cheese" even though there's no cheese in it) varies, but the practice is believed to have become popular during the 1960s, at which point other local restaurants began to adopt it. Hugo's itself closed in 2003, but French dressing on pizza stayed in the area. Even Biloxi's Domino's locations stock Kraft's similarly flavored Catalina dressing to meet local tastes.


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Clearly, this topping hasn't caught on across the rest of the country, because if you were to ask for a side of French dressing with pizza in any other city, it's likely you'd be met with a puzzled look. But if you just so happen to be traveling through Biloxi, you'll know why your server brought out a side of French dressing with your pie without you asking for one. I should try eating it this way sometime — there's got to be a good reason why Biloxi natives love it so much.