Food & Drink

Portland's Best Pizzas, by Style

Published On 08/17/2015 Published On 08/17/2015
Roman Candle Baking Co.
Roman Candle Baking Co. | David L. Reamer

Hot damn! Or hot capicola! Hot whatever -- Portland's in a pizza boom, with new spots popping up quicker than bubbles on crust. Thing is, most of these new hot spots are wood-fired, Neapolitan joints (poor, poor Portland!), meaning the myriad other styles are hiding in the shadows. With diversity in mind, we took it upon ourselves to track down every style of pizza available in Portland and offer up your best option for each. It was an arduous process, but we are brave and strong. Below you'll find every style of pizza in Portland, and the best example of each.

But first, some caveats!

There is no St. Louis pizza in Portland: Because it's gross. Stick to fried ravioli at Bar Bar if you're getting nostalgic, Lou.

We've also excluded tomato pie: Mainly because it's just pizza without cheese. Which is fine, but until some dude from Philly or Trenton does it right, we're calling it like it is.

This list is perfect: But if you decide to be the first person on the internet to disagree with perfection, please tell us your go-to spot in the comments.

Ready? Mangia!

Courtesy of Ken's Artisan Pizza

Neapolitan: Ken's Artisan Pizza


Portland's unofficial pizza style is rooted in (but not completely beholden to) the Neapolitan tradition of wood-fired, springy, slightly charred, and conservatively topped pizza, with the pie taking over Portland faster than hipsters swarming Foster-Powell. Ken's has long led the pack, expertly blending simple ingredients to create a local legend. But the city’s most celebrated purveyor of pizza-that-sounds-like-ice-cream has some stiff competition coming out of the recent pizza boom.
Honorable mentions: There are tons of fantastic spots, but our favorites include
P.R.E.A.M., Life of Pie, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, Oven & Shaker, and Firehouse

Sizzle Pie

New York: Sizzle Pie

Lower Burnside & Downtown

Transplants insist it’s impossible to replicate New York’s famous, floppy, foldable contribution to Italian pie. They usually blame the water. Well, they also considered A-Rod to be clean as a whistle, and they’re missing out on Sizzle Pie, which slings slices day and (late-)night to crowds lingering Downtown and on East Burnside while blaring punk anthems. It’s the real deal. And the water in the joint doesn’t taste like the Hudson. Plus, there's beer and cocktails, so even if it did, you’d have options.
Honorable mentions:
Escape From New York Pizza, Atlas Pizza, Pizza A Go Go

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Chicago deep-dish: Thick


The whole debate about whether Chicago or New York pizza is better is super played out (especially since the answer is Chicago), but it does lead to a more important question: why has it always been so hard to find a decent slice of sauce-on-top, butter-crusted pizza with a pound of cheese in this town? Well, about a year and a half ago, Thick opened its cart, and all is now well and good. The sauce is sweet and chunky. The sausage is house-made. And one slice is just about the perfect lunch size. If it’s not, well, it has Chicago dogs, too... whiich are better than New York dogs. Not that we’re debating these things.
Honorable mentions: Via Chicago, Good Neighbor Pizzeria, and Midwest Pizza Company.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Chicago thin-crust: Bridge City Pizza


Thin crust gets lost in the conversation about Chicago pizza, mainly because a whole pie weighs as much as a slice of deep-dish. But at Bridge City, it’s all about the thin, square-cut, circular pies, which have a nice little crunch, but still enough bend to prevent shards of crust from cutting your gums. Bonus points: Bridge City also makes a hell of an Italian beef, which can be consumed via pizza, sandwich, or dripping fists.
Honorable mentions:
Eddie’s Flat Iron Pizza offers a thicker version, while American Dream Pizza and Satellite Dream Pizza come close. Unlike the Cubs.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Detroit: Midwest Pizza Company


Detroit pizza is an elusive cousin to the Sicilian, a rectangular pie cut into squares, with cheese melting and caramelizing over the corners, to achieve some sort of Italian alchemy. This new-ish cart outside Prost does it solidly, right down to the blend of mozz and Muenster stacked crazy-thick on top of an airy crust. It manages to upstage MWP's also-solid Chicago deep-dish. Get a slice with a bottle of Faygo. Trust us, the Red Pop is worth every stupid Juggalo joke you'll hear.
Honorable mention: The only thing even close to this in PDX is the
Little Caesar’s DEEP!DEEP! Dish, which, well, no.

Apizza Scholls

New Haven: Apizza Scholls


Rooted in Neapolitan tradition  -- but springier, more oblong, and more generous with the cheese -- New Haven apizza originated in coal-fired ovens. Apizza Scholls does it in an electric oven, yet tradition is in every bite. Consistently named one of the best pizzas in the PNW -- and the US -- it’s got a ciabatta bounce to die for. And while the place is equally famous for its omnipresent lines and strict rules (no more than two meats?!), we’d endure a hell of a lot more for a bite of this beauty.
Honorable mention: If there’s another New Haven pie in Portland, we have yet to try it. But in Hood River, Double Mountain vies for supremacy with Scholls.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Sicilian: O'Malley's Saloon & Grill


The thick, focaccia-style variety of Sicilian is huge in New York, but not so much here. Weirdly, one of the only spots to score a slice is O’Malley’s, a gem of an Irish dive in FoPo that makes thick slices to order at the bar. Pro tip: have them throw it in for a few extra minutes to get that NYC crispiness, which otherwise eludes the doughy base.
Honorable mention: With Tributes closed, we’ve come up blank.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Nonna: Baby Doll Pizza


“Grandma” pizza -- popular in Long Island -- is basically a thinner version of Sicilian. Or a thicker version of Detroit. Either way, it’s delicious. Most often found in Italian bakeries, its anatomy includes bready crust, with cheese teetering over the edges and caramelizing against the pan. At Baby Doll -- which was about to win the New York title until we found out about dude’s grandma -- it's not a permanent fixture on the slice display. But when it’s there, it’s overloaded with the kind of tiny pepperoni that curls up into crispy grease-Jacuzzis when hit with heat. And it’s perfect, as are all of grandma’s recipes.
Honorable mention: We’re sure somebody has an amazing Italian granny out there. We wouldn’t decline a dinner invite, and would bring a nice
can of wine.

David L. Reamer

Pizza bianca: Roman Candle Baking Co.


Occupying a strange space between flatbread and what we’ve come to know as focaccia, bianca can be served in a number of ways: topped with tomato sauce, loaded with regular toppings, or just served plain with salt. Oh, and as far as we can tell, it’s only served at Roman Candle, which cooks up the remarkably singular pizzas in huge slabs, and sells them in squares the size of small plates.
Honorable mention: Somewhere on Tinder, you can likely find a gal named Bianca who loves pizza. Otherwise, we’re pretty sure you’re S.O.L.

Lonesome's Pizza

Late-night: Lonesome's Pizza


There are two types of late-night pizza: the one you wander up to after a night of drinking, and the one you have somebody else bring to you after a night of drinking. Lonesome’s does both, with delivery to a huge swath of Portland until 3am, plus a walk-up window at Dante's, just in case a night of light bondage makes you hungry.
Honorable mention:
Hammy's Pizza delivers big-ass pies to the majority of PDX until 4am nightly.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Movie theater pizza: The Academy Theater/Flying Pie Pizzeria

Portland is blessed with a wealth of theaters that specialize in second-run movies, cold beer, and pizza slices. At Montavilla’s Academy -- also our No. 1 beer theater -- location gives the spot an unfair advantage, since it’s next-door to Flying Pie, home of salty, cheesy slices loaded with an impossible amount of toppings. It’s old-school pizza at its finest, and manages to out-cheese even the campiest cult movies the theater can unearth.
Honorable mentions: Hollywood Theatre/Atomic Pizza, Cinema 21/Escape From New York, and Laurelhurst Theater/New Deal Cafe

Old Town Pizza

Best... um? We're not sure: Pizza Jerk


When Bunk Sandwiches mastermind Tommy Habetz announced he was opening a pizza joint right across from Red Sauce (our pick for last year’s best new pizza), well, we knew it’d be good, especially when he promised something akin to New Haven-style pies, but not beholden to it. But we’re not sure what to call pies like the Sunday Sauce, which is like a full Italian dinner on a pie, including ribs. Or his clam pie with bacon. Or one with kimchee and BBQ sauce. A while ago, he was rumored to be messing with a stuffed-crust pizza... with meat in the dough. Pies come served with everything from homemade Hot Pockets to dandan noodles, and you can eat them in the pizzeria or on the huge-ass patio out back. The pizza defies classification. The only adjective that works across the board? Incredible, right down to the homemade ranch.

Just pizza: Old Town Pizza

Downtown & King

This list is bound to be controversial. But this category is a tinder box, because generic Greek/pizzeria pizza isn’t about ingredients. It’s about nostalgia. To me, Old Town tastes like childhood. That greasy pepperoni, bready crust, and chin-burningly stringy cheese remind me of family Fridays, sleepovers featuring USA Up All Night!, and lost track meets (that were probably lost because of pizza). When nostalgia is an ingredient, there is no right or wrong. There is just pizza. And your go-to is always perfect. Except when it's not Old Town.
Honorable mention: Totinos, Hot Pockets, Red Baron, and Bagel Bites

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Andy Kryza is a senior editor at Thrillist. If you need him, he'll be at the gym. And by "gym" he means literally anywhere except the gym. Follow him to the doctor's office @apkryza.

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1. Ken's Artisan Pizza 304 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97124 (Buckman)

KAP in Southeast Portland serves thin-in-the-middle, thick-on-the-outside masterpieces topped with high-end meats (like soppressata, prosciutto, fennel sausage, etc.), tangy sauces, and the freshest cheeses imaginable. Ken Forkish wrote the book on pizza. (No, for real. It’s called Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.) With locally sourced ingredients fired up in the rustic pizzeria’s centerpiece wood-powered oven, each pie packs an explosion of flavor. Whatever you order, drop an extra $2 for a pile of fresh arugula up top— the nutty, bitter, salt-sprinkled greens transport the simple pie into a complex flavor symphony.

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2. Sizzle Pie 624 East Burnside, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

Sizzle Pie slings NY famous floppy, foldable slices day and (late-)night to crowds lingering Downtown and on East Burnside while blaring punk anthems. Plus, Sizzle serves beer and cocktails. The joint is a high-ceilinged 'za emporium centered around a lit sculptural column that actually resembles pizza boxes. Plus, there’s a killer jukebox thanks to a co-owner who’s also behind the record label Relapse.

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3. Thick 519 SW 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

At this food cart permanently perched at SW Washington and 9th Ave, slices of sauce-on-top, butter-crusted pizza with a pound of cheese are generously served up in perfect lunch size portions. The cart has Chicago dogs too, which are better than New York dogs. Not that we're debating those things.

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4. Bridge City Pizza 5412 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, OR 97206

No bells and whistles at this unassuming local 'za haunt, just pure, unadulterated Chicago thin crust. Here, the pies come with a nice little crunch, but still enough bend to prevent shards of crust from cutting your gums. Bonus points: Bridge City also makes a hell of an Italian beef, which can be consumed via pizza, sandwich, or dripping fists.

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5. Midwest Pizza Co. 4233 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97217

Hot, crusty deep dish pies rep the Midwest at this hip Mississippi Ave restaurant. Forget New York style; order up a square cut slice, with cheese melting and caramelizing over the all corners, and you'll forever be a Detroit pizza convert. The spacious outdoor patio area is a great place to dine with a group.

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6. Apizza Scholls 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215 (Montavilla)

This Hawthorne pizza shop is so focused on making you the perfect pie that if they run out of dough, they'll close early if they have to, to preserve the quality of their ingredients. Serving up quality pies rooted in Neapolitan tradition, Apizza goes heavy on the cheese, generous with the sauce, and hearty on the toppings.

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7. O'Malley's Saloon & Grill 6535 SE Foster Rd, Portland, OR 97206 (Se Portland)

This gem of an Irish dive bar in FoPo makes thick focaccia-style slices to order at the bar, and is decked out with a foosball and pool table, video games, and pinball. The beer selection is impressive as well, and for the suds-averse, stiff cocktails and wine will have you reaching for a second slice in no time. Pro tip: have them throw it in for a few extra minutes to get that NYC crispiness, which otherwise eludes the doughy base.

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8. Baby Doll Pizza 2835 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97214 (Lower Burnside)

Posted-up on a stretch of Stark St that's more popular for its dive bars than quality pizza, Baby Doll Pizza still manages to turn out a sweet slice with bubbly cheese and a thin, but foldable, crust that's chewy, but not bready. It offers gluten-free and vegan options, and grandma pizza overloaded with the kind of tiny pepperoni that curls up into crispy grease-Jacuzzis when hit with heat. And it’s perfect, as are all of grandma’s recipes.

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9. Roman Candle Baking Co. 3377 SE Division, Portland, OR 97202 (Clintondivision)

This Clinton/Division bakery and cafe makes tasty pizzas that straddle the line between flatbread and focaccia-- neither too crunchy nor too fluffy, these pies have the crust to filling ratio on lock. Fresh baked bread, green salads, and pastries are also on offer inside their stylish, Euro-chic digs.

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10. Lonesome's Pizza 350 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209 (Downtown)

It's hard to decide what's best about this brick-walled pizzeria. Maybe its that their delivery runs from 11am to at least three in the morning (4am Thursday through Saturday!) or maybe it's their always changing, whimsically named pies of the week. Friendly service and funky decor added bonuses when dining in.

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11. Flying Pie Pizzeria 7804 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 (Montavilla)

PDX is home to a plethora of dine-in theaters that play old movies and dole out copious amounts of cold beer and pizza slices to movie-goers. Flying Pie, home of salty, cheesy slices loaded with an impossible amount of toppings, is old school pizza at its finest, and it tastes even better while watching second-run campy classics.

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12. Pizza Jerk 5028 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97218

There's no way to describe the pizzas at Tommy Habetz's Cully restaurant other than eclectic. The pies loosely adhere to the New Haven school, but they come with a crazy array of toppings that puts them in a class of their own. The menu is subject to change, however the Sunday Sauce pie, which is essentially pepperoni, sausage, meatball, and ribs on top of a pizza, is a hit, as is the dan dan noodle pie. The menu also includes thick-crust cast-iron pizza and a build-your-own option, plus pasta and beer.

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13. Old Town Pizza 226 NW Davis St, Portland, OR 97209 (Old Townchina Town)

In addition to turning out gold medal winning beers on the regular and delivering said beers all over the city by bike, this pizzeria slash brewery makes its own pizza dough, ensuring the yeast is still alive when it’s baked. What results is a delicious fluffy, almost sourdough-like, crust. Oh, and they do it all in a building that's allegedly haunted. How very Portlandia.



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