Portland, Oregon, Has a Brag-Worthy Pizza Scene
When most people think of quintessential American pizza cities, New York and Chicago jump out for their single-slice and deep-dish varietals. But in Portland, Oregon, the style of authentic, wood-fired, pizza native to Naples, Italy, rules, making it a notable pizza destination in its own right. Here, you’ll find pies with a thin but pliable crust sporting visible char bubbles on top, dressed with organic seasonal toppings that add a definitive local twist to the Italian classics. Ready to taste them for yourself? Our list has you covered.
This beloved eatery makes it onto every “best of Portland” list, so you’re risking long waits, and the possibility that they’ll run out of dough and close for the night before you can even scan a menu. But now you can avoid all that and go during their new weekend lunch service. They specialize in pork-centric pizzas (there’s the house-cured bacon Amatriciana and Bacon Bianca, while the Apizza Amore sports Olympia Provisions’ capicola, and the Pig and Pineapple takes Canadian bacon). The ricotta, herbs, and heavy garlic make the classic New York White pie as good as any from its East Coast namesake.
Ken Forkish (the James Beard-nominated owner) uses a Le Panyol wood-fired, igloo-shaped oven to bake pizzas in about two minutes. He started as a French-style bread baker, which is evident in his perfectly chewy crusts; try the spicy Soppressata or the Fennel, Sausage and Onion pie. Also check out the bar—it's built from wood salvaged from what was the Jantzen Beach Big Dipper roller coaster from 1923.
Using organic and locally sourced ingredients plus naturally leavened dough, Lovely's makes top-shelf, soft-crust pies. This summer, check out the squash and pesto pizza, dusted in a variety of edible flower petals; you can also add Calabrian chiles, anchovies, an egg, or a variety of Italian meats to any pie. Follow up with pizza's best friend, Lovely’s preternaturally creamy homemade ice cream.
The more-saucy-than-cheesy Margherita is life changing, the opposite of run of the mill, and served with dense metal scissors for DIY slice cutting. The six time James Beard-nominated chef Cathy Whims uses mozzarella made daily in-house, as well as an 800-degree oven from Tuscany that burns local apple or cherry wood; chefs also throw herb stalks into the fire throughout the night for extra flavor.
New on the scene since May, the Ned Ludd-trained chefs at PREAM (pictured) divide their focus between pizza and hip-hop. Portland loves its kale, so locals are rightfully obsessed with the pie dressed in salty-sweet kale, mozzarella, chili, and honey; there's also a pie topped with tomato leaves (which aren't poisonous) and impart a rich, tomato flavor. Tip: Crumble the sprigs of the house-dried oregano you're served on either one. Then, there’s the ode to hip-hop: PREAM means, “pizza rules everything around me”—a nod to the Wu-Tang Clan. The walls are decorated with more than 1,000 records and needlepoints of lyrics by Ice Cube and NWA.
Sarah Z. Wexler is on the Oregon beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in Portland, you can follow her on Twitter at @SarahZWexler.