Cold Pizza Throwdown

We set out to try some of Portland's most popular delivery and take out joints—cold, the next day. No, we're not crazy, why do you ask?

By Nathan Tucker January 15, 2014

Leftover pizza can be a dicey proposition. With rare exception, any pie worth eating is going to be best very soon after it leaves the oven, its stock falling rapidly with its temperature.

The thinner the crust—and the more delicate the balance of toppings—the truer this holds.

So when it’s time to take a crack at those last few slices you couldn’t finish the night before (because you were saving room for beer, of course), your options are pretty limited. Microwaved pizza is both a soggy mess and an insult to common decency, so unless you have a toaster oven, you might be better off just eating it cold. Besides, some people even like cold pizza:

So in the spirit of inquiry, we present this survey of some of Portland’s popular delivery and take-out joints with one question in mind: how do their pies fare out of the fridge the next day? Because we here at Eat Beat are kindhearted souls who care deeply about leftover optimization, we have eaten a lot of cold pizza in the last few weeks. Some of it was great; some was terrible. Much of it was eaten for breakfast.

Before we dive head first into the world of congealed cheese and crust-related jaw fatigue, some notes are in order:

  • First, we only included pizzas that bear some resemblance to your average delivery pie, which means many perennial Portland favorites like Ken’s, Pyro, and Dove ViVi aren’t on this list. I could get into why (larger ratio of crust to toppings, whole different game when cold) but trust me, you don’t really want me to.
  • Secondly, the pizza pedant might point out that there was no topping consistency on the pies we tried, making any objective standard for our assessments hard to come by. It’s a fair point, to which I offer this slight cop-out of a response: we already ate more cold pizza than anyone ought to, can’t we at least be afforded some variety? Besides, objectivity in pizza is nonsense—you can’t use science to judge art.

Our Favorites

Pronto Pizza, 16050 SE 82nd Drive, Clackamas
Out of the box: The crust is generally great, with a bit more bready of a taste than some might be used to, but the cornicione (that’s end crust for you plebeians) is strangely inconsistent: in some places it’s massive and fluffy, a few inches tall, whereas in other places it’s more reasonably sized and sports excellent char. It seems like they have some oven issues that need addressing, but the toppings are excellent and applied with a deft hand.
Out of the fridge: 
Cold, it turns out that the only topping not so deftly applied is the cheese—there’s simply too much of it. That said, this is a fantastic cold slice: the toppings, particularly the veggies, have melded in flavor and the crust tastes a bit like good sourdough.

Sizzle Pie, Various Locations
Out of the box: This was pretty droopy pizza, as if the crust was almost too thin. The grease from a slice of Pepperoni almost soaked straight through the crust. Less greasy slices avoided this issue, and sported a crust with some pleasant yeasty sourness and good chew.
Out of the fridge: The crust was much denser, but still fairly easy to bite, and its pleasant flavors remained. Most slices had a bit too much congealed grease for my tastes, but if that’s your thing, I won’t judge.

Apizza Scholls, 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Out of the box: You’ve heard it before and it’s still true; they’re pretty much the best in town. Even after a short walk through sub-freezing temperatures to my car and a ten minute drive home, it was fantastic. The cornicione was perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the toppings are applied with craft and restraint.
Out of the fridge: A slice is significantly harder to bite through. But that crust! It’s still tasted amazing, the deep char giving it a whole other flavor dimension. If by some absurd effort of self control you don’t eat the whole pie hot, then you won’t be too saddened the next day.

The Rest of the Pack

♦21st Century Pizza, 1221 SW Jefferson St.
Out of the box: What most people probably expect from delivery pizza. Thick, chewy crust with little char or coloring, toppings and cheese that seem to want to slide right off. The sauce wasn’t half bad though.
Out of the fridge: It tasted much more like sauce, a sign of low-quality cheese. But it’s low quality cheese that actually sticks to the pie when cold, so there’s that. If someone forces some of this pizza upon you, go home and stick it in the fridge—you might be much happier.

Baby Doll Pizza, 2835 SE Stark St.
Out of the box: This was pretty close to perfect pizza. The edge crust was crispy and charred on the outside with an airy interior and impressive hole structure. The bottom had some excellent char, the sauce added a bit of sweetness without being cloying or unbalanced, and the toppings were just right.
Out of the fridge: Like Apizza, it was much harder to bite through. The cornicione was particularly tough, and just not quite as good as Scholls’—you’re more likely to just be kicking yourself for not having gorged the night before.

Hammy’s Pizza, 2114 SE Clinton St.
Out of the box: I’ll be honest, this pizza had way more going for it than I expected. Sure, the crust was pretty tasteless, but it sported decent char, and the cornicione had remarkably crispy outsides with a nicely pliant, airy interior. The sauce was too sweet for my tastes, though, and the cheese didn’t really cling to the pie.
Out of the fridge: It was actually better. The crust tasted more like something, and was easy to eat despite the charring. Per the suggestion of the nice lady at the counter the night before, I dipped a barbecue chicken slice in some ranch dressing, and you know what? I didn’t hate it. Sue me.

Hotlips Pizza, Various Locations
Out of the box: I don’t know how you under-season pizza crust, but Hotlips does it expertly. I’ve never had a slice of cheese pizza that tasted so much like sauce and so little like cheese or crust.
Out of the fridge: The crust was even more bland. They weren’t skimpy with the bacon on a bacon/potato pie though, which was a saving grace for this cold slice.

Lonesome’s Pizza, 300 W Burnside
Out of the box: I was disappointed to see the pizza from this late-night joint bearing the crosshatching that comes from being cooked on a grate, and as I expected, the crust was extremely chewy and soft. But it tasted surprisingly good for having no char to speak of. This is probably the best the grate-cooked pizza can be, and I could already tell it was going to be great cold...
Out of the fridge: ...It wasn’t quite as great as I’d thought. I’m not the pizza whisperer I thought I was, as the crust was much tougher than I’d expected and even chewier, like it had compacted overnight. Still though, If you wake up at noon the next day with the remnants of this 3 AM delivery awaiting you, you won’t be too bummed about it.

Rovente’s Pizzeria, Various Locations
Out of the box: Though the crust was very dense and chewy, it couldn’t withstand the deluge of toppings. This was basically a gussied-up Costco pie, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if I didn’t suspect that Costco was better.
Out of the fridge: The classic “supreme” slice (three different meats, veggies) was actually better cold; the flavors seemed to have meshed over night and the crust didn’t fall apart.

Straight From New York, Various Locations
Out of the box: This suffered from the same structural issues that Rovente’s pizza, but the crust that didn’t fall apart tasted like good bread. Their red sauce essentially tasted like marinara; some people might like that, but I’m not one of them.
Out of the fridge: The crust turned rock-hard when cold, resembling in both taste and texture the outer crust on a piece of slightly stale ciabatta. But it didn’t matter, because it was completely overwhelmed by overbearing toppings. I didn’t know anything could make me not like cheese as much as this cold slice could.

Pizza Nostra, 4831 NE Fremont St.
Out of the box: Honestly, the most remarkable thing about this place is that they somehow scored the “www.portlandpizzadelivery.com” URL.
Out of the fridge: This was a hearty cold slice, but which I mean it had a lot of toppings to overpower a simultaneously soft, dense, and tasteless crust.

Pizzicato Pizza, Various Locations
Out of the box: The remarkably high quality toppings on these pies would be applied much too liberally if the crust was any better. But without much chew and too dense a cornicione, I don’t mind the crust not being the focus.
Out of the fridge: The cold crust was both tastier and easier to bite through, but the abundance of toppings made for a slice that ate more like some sort of bread-based casserole. That said, not a bad option at all: a potato and prosciutto slice made for a surprisingly comforting breakfast.

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