Pizzaiolo and pizza consultant Anthony Falco says Portland, Oregon, is the “greatest pizza city in America,” and since Falco hails from Brooklyn and co-founded the famed Roberta’s in the Bushwick neighborhood, that’s saying a lot.
Falco was in town for Feast Portland, a culinary throwdown that featured celebrity chefs, competitions, exclusive dinners and other events. He said he had concluded that Portland offered the best pizza in the U.S. after visiting three of its most popular shops—Apizza Scholls, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty and Scottie’s Pizza Parlor.
These pizza shops have mastered the universal basics and spun them into something wonderfully unique to Portland, Falco believes. “The things that are important in pizza are the quality of ingredients and the skill level represented in the dough,” he told OregonLive.com. “When you have somebody like Brian Spangler (of Apizza Scholls), who has a background as a baker, or Ken Forkish (of Ken’s Artisan Pizza), who has a background as a baker as well, and then you look at what Lovely’s is doing with local and seasonal ingredients—and her dough is remarkable as well—[these] are the things that are impressive to me.”
Evidently, Falco’s pronouncement about Portland’s pizza superiority touched off a controversy when the OregonLive story came out. But Falco stuck to his guns in a follow-up call to the story’s author, Michael Russell.
It doesn’t hurt that Portland pizzaioli have the freedom to experiment and to find better uses for local ingredients, he noted. “There is no Portland-style pizza, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s great,” he told OregonLive. “It’s unhindered by any kind of tradition, and people are just doing what was done in the beginning of pizza: They’re using what’s around them. That’s originally what made Naples pizza so great: the mozzarella, the tomatoes, the basil, the flour. The surrounding area of Oregon, with just what’s happening with wheat and vegetables, it’s awesome. And people are actually using them on their pizza, because they’re not encumbered by their style.”
Scottie’s, a slice joint, offers a good example of a popular pizzeria in Portland that capitalizes on the region’s natural resources. Its pizza dough is naturally leavened with wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest, while the tomatoes are grown in California, and most other in-season ingredients come from local farmers.
Meanwhile, a sourdough starter named Jake is the secret weapon at Lovely’s Fifty Fifty (see pizza photo above), a farm-to-table enterprise praised by Portland Monthly for offering “Portland’s best pizza.”
Although the neighborhood around Lovely’s boasts lots of top-notch restaurants, Portland Monthly reports, “Lovely’s has something else: a near-spiritual connection to Oregon’s most adventurous farmers and seed breeders.” Recent menued pies have featured summer chanterelles with spicy padron peppers, melted onions and gremolata, and sungold tomato confit with shaved summer squash, Reggiano, orange agrumato and flowers.