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Puttanesca pizza

Image: Karen Brooks

Editor's Note: Since this piece was published in May 2017, Pizzeria La Sorrentina has relocated to 9811 NE 15th Ave., Vancouver.

Joe Revis vividly remembers the first time he “dined” at Pizzeria La Sorrentina. It was December 4, 2016. He had seen an unusual sign in his Hazel Dell hood in Vancouver: “Wood Fired Pizza Napoletana.” His family drove straight from church in their Sunday finest, untucked their paper napkins, then dispatched a 12-inch pie according to the house style: hot from the tiny, 900-degree oven—and eaten in your car. He returned that night for three more; by week’s end, the tally was 13 pies, down the hatch. Now a regular, Revis comes about “every other day” to a most improbable food destination: a cart serving true flash-cooked Neapolitan pies in a parking lot that looks like a dystopian set from I Am Legend. It’s like finding an orchid in an open pit mine.

Behind the window, owners Daisuke and Amy Hernández Matsumoto live their dream. Kids munching their first margherita pizza call it “the happy food cart.” From the royal blue metal box comes endless banter and more than a dozen different pies strewn with ingredients you know make it hard to cover costs: artisan La Quercia prosciutto lovingly draped over an $11 pizza; gold-standard, Naples-imported Caputo 00 flour; lovely Italian olive oil drizzled over a puckery puttanesca.

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From left: limoncello cake; La Sorrentina’s “Dice-K" Matsumoto

Image: Karen Brooks

Daisuke (a.k.a. “Dice-K”) is a charmer and crack-up with a George Clooney laugh. But he’s dead serious about his craft, honed in Sorrento and at his father’s Italian eatery outside of Osaka. It’s all in the heat and the melt, the soft-crisp crust, the simple, vibrant toppings. An even bigger surprise? Primo Italian bakery desserts, from tarts to limoncello-soaked cake swathed in vanilla bean pastry cream. I can’t stop thinking about his humble mezza luna, a foot-long, thin-crusted crescent oozing warm Nutella and ricotta (despite my recent dessert bender at SF's triple-Michelin-starred Quince). 

I heard about La Sorrentina from my friend Christopher, a die-hard Naples pizza guy, who tipped me off as I was wrapping up research for a Portland pizza manifesto for May’s issue. Now, I’m ready to join the staunch regulars, among them families, blue-collar workers, gluten-frees wheeling in for the day’s limited allotment—plus, increasingly, Italians who tell other Italians. No one seems to mind the lack of creature comforts. Amy, in her dangling pizza earrings, turns people who have never seen cannoli into instant family members. Everyone is part of this story: the idea that community can rise any place, one ingredient, one conversation at a time. I hear a TED talk hatching.

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Pizzeria La Sorrentina

$ Pizza 9811 NE 15th Ave

La Sorrentina is a true anomaly: a food cart serving flash-cooked Neapolitan pies in a parking lot that looks like a dystopian set from I Am Legend. From the...