April 13--When I was young, my mom had a sure-fire trick for knowing whether I was actually sick, or just faking it to get out of school.
If I refused to eat pizza, she would say later, she knew it was time to call the doctor.
As I got older, pizza became an obsession, and I sought out the best pies in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, the Southwest, the Northeast, Italy (I still haven't made the Naples pilgrimage) and of course Portland. The year I moved to New York, I gained at least 10 pounds in search of the best oil-dripping, foldable slice and the best crisp-crusted, coal-fired pie the Big Apple had to offer.
But my pizza love was sorely put to the test over the past few weeks.-- For this week's A&E pizza cover story, I ate dozens of pies from Hillsboro to Oregon City, from Camas to Beaverton and all over Portland. The final count approaches 40 separate pizzerias, although there were others that I knocked off my list based on sight/smell/spider sense alone.
There were some surprises. I liked the Italian-style pie at the under-the-radar Firehouse Restaurant more than the one at the venerable Nostrana. Gladstone Street Pizza, I found, turns out some truly delicious pie from a neighborhood-friendly space. Wy'East became my favorite cart pizza, topping previous favorite Pizza Contadino (not really a cart right now anyway). I fell for Tastebud's wide, scorching-hot, whole-milk mozzarella pie, despite the awkward dining room and odd all-you-can-eat pizza night ($19 per person for quickly-cooling-to-room-temperature pizzas? I'll take my pie to go, thanks). Most of the city's late-night pies didn't do much for me, but I liked Lonesome's, with extra marks for their awesome box art (each delivery comes with a CD).
For A&E (and our online pizza week extravaganza), we broke down our favorite pizzas into different styles -- East Coast, Authentic Italian, a still-being-figured-out Portland style we called Wood Fired Wonders -- which only makes sense. Some people demand the pizza they grew up with in Chicago or New Haven. Others love the saucy, fork-and-knife pies that pay homage to Naples. Others want more cheese. (I'm squarely in the latter category, as you'll notice below). Your favorite pie will likely be different than mine, and that's alright. Or, as reader Andy Holland wrote on Twitter last night, "the best pizza in PDX is the one you're currently eating."
With those caveats etched in your mind, here's my personal ranking of Portland's top ten pizzas:
1. Apizza Scholls--
2. Dove Vivi
3. Lovely's Fifty-Fifty
5. Ken's Artisan
6. Firehouse Restaurant
7. Oven & Shaker
8. Via Tribunali
10. Gladstone Street Pizza
-- Michael Russell Follow @tdmrussell
-- Unlike my burger story from last December, since which I've barely touched a burger, this project hasn't killed my love for dough, sauce and cheese: I ate pizza on Wednesday.
-- Even in the midst of this glutton's pizza marathon, and despite, yes, the awkward dining room and, of course, the service (soup nazi-ish), it was so obvious, yet again, that Apizza Scholls serves the best pizza in the area: the competition is really only for second place.