I'D LIKE TO TAKE this opportunity to speak to a certain brand of East Coast pizza snob. I understand back in New York you had some great pizza. Okay, maybe even transcendent pizza. Good for you. Now you live in Portland and, I hate to tell you, you're in the worst kind of long-distance relationship. You may be roaming our streets thinking fondly of your favorite slice back in your old neighborhood, but right now, that pizza is having a grand old time with someone else. It's never going to return your phone calls. It's never going to visit—even if it did, it'd be cold, different.
Sure, you can go back, spend a blissful evening, just you and the pie, behind the fogged windows of the pizzeria. But you're never going to find that same pizza in this town. It's not just the flavor, it's the smell, the look, and the accent of the guy tossing the dough—there's so much informing your pizza love.
Let me give you some advice. Cherish the memory of that pizza, but get over it. Frankly, all of your whining is getting tiresome. I might understand if Portland didn't have a robust pizza scene, but it does. So, when you say something along the lines of, "There's no such thing as good pizza in Portland," that's just memory making you an idiot. Snap out of it! Go out and enjoy a local slice for what it is: amazing pizza... in Portland.
Why not try Al Forno Ferruzza? Since opening their NE Alberta shop earlier this year they've received a reputation as one of the better, and stonier, pizza joints in the city. Believe it. The first time I encountered their magic pizza bus, they had just run into the side of a building at about one mile an hour. In another instance, they'd forgotten I'd paid less than a minute after handing them my money.
So, there's a small chance your pie will arrive with toppings different than what you'd ordered from the regularly changing roster of fresh, seasonal ingredients, and though the flakiness of the fully baked staff can be annoying, they bring consistently outstanding pizza to the table.
First, their sauce is bright and fresh, with a lush tomato tang, just enough fragrant garlic, and lovely oregano herbaceousness. Second, the dough is superb. It's a good thing that the ceiling of Al Forno's Alberta shop is so lofty. These guys toss their dough to great heights until it's impossibly thin—the glutinous elasticity creating a pie with a just-chewy-enough center and a light, crisp outer crust yielding a pleasant crackle between the teeth.
While the pizza is outstanding (try the classic, basic pizza margherita), other options are just as good. Among them is the calzone. The crisped sleeve of dough has that crusty crackle, but inside are creamy pockets of slightly sweet ricotta melding with gooey mozzarella. It's completely satisfying with your choice of two additional ingredients.
Al Forno Ferruzza is a necessary stop in the Portland pizza scene, but if that isn't enough (along with all the other fine pizza in town) to stop you from pining, there's a humble pizza cart in Southeast Portland on the rise.
Wy'east has a five-pie menu (each 12 inches) and a small gas-powered brick and adobe oven that can reach up to 800 degrees. Created in the humble trailer painted to resemble the alpine slopes of Mt. Hood (the Native American name for which is Wy'east), the pies are baked fast and hot. In fact, at times maybe too hot, too fast—one recent pie had a portion of the crust over-charred for my taste. However, that's a small quibble, and one I suspect will be solved after they dial it in a bit more. As it stands, just shy of three months after opening, Wy'east is making a fantastic pepperoni pie.
It doesn't hurt they're using pepperoni from Otto's Sausage Kitchen, blending the artisanal sausage funk of the meat with pungent Pecorino Romano and mozzarella. The result is a salty, gooey pie, both familiar but startlingly skewed with tangy tones.
The dough at Wy'east is very good (though not as good as Al Forno), with a chewy center and a crisp but resilient crust. If you prefer a crust with less give, this is your place.
I expect the future is bright for Wy'east, as they already have a pack of rabid regulars and tend to sell out of pies.
Could these two Portland pizza joints garner the support of all you transplanted New York pizza snobs? I believe it's possible. But first, you'll have to have a good cry, mourn the loss of your East Coast favorite, pick yourself up, and get back out in the game. I assure you there's pizza to love in this town, and it'll love you right back.