Everyone’s abuzz with their own hot take on Bloomberg’s drop yesterday of some pretty BIG news: the best pizza city in America according to a new, exhaustively researched book, is Portland.
Apparently, this decision from Modernist Pizza authors Nathan Myhrvold (a former Microsoft chief technology officer who, when he's not writing cookbooks, is also the CEO of Intellectual Ventures, which was profiled by This American Life and has been called "the ultimate patent troll") and Francisco Migoya—arrived at after ingesting 400 pizza pies from all over the country—is bad news for New York, Jersey City, and a bunch of other spots who would have liked to claim the crown. But guess what? We’re not surprised. (In fact, we called this back in 2017.) And as a reminder, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite local pizza joints so you can jog your memory (and pizza palate) too.
Gracie’s tomato pie made our food editor Katherine Chew Hamilton reassess her belief in what a good pizza should be. She was wowed by the “tangy, nutty, naturally fermented dough cooked to a crackly, charred crisp in a wood-fired oven, then simply topped with robust sweet-savory tomato sauce, slices of garlic, a smattering of oregano, and a delicate sprinkling of grated pecorino.” Apparently the ice cream isn't half bad either.
Jerry’s Chicago tavern style pizza had writer Jordan Michelman enthralled, with a shoutout to “The Works” pizza, “a vividly neo-classical expression of modern artisan pizza laden with sausage, pepperoni, onion, green pepper, black olive, and mushroom. Apparently the crunchy, cornmeal-dusted thin crust is the best part.
Back in 2016, Tommy Habetz “fundamentally changed the notion of what a pizza might be”, says food critic Karen Brooks. He also managed to perfect one of the city’s best pizza crusts to boot. (Part of why Bon Appetit crowned this joint one of its 50 Best New Restaurants later that year.) A fire shut it all down, but thankfully Pizza Jerk was reborn not long afterwards, and continues to thrive and throw out punk rock pizzas at its NE 42nd street locale.
Food critic Karen Brooks called Lovely’s Fifty Fifty’s pizza “enchanting, idiosyncratic, and complex.” “You’ll find yourself eating things you’ve never heard of, or digging into combinations that would be considered tantamount to war crimes in a Jersey ’za shop,” she opined back in 2016. No surprise then that this N Mississippi joint impressed the Modernist Pizza duo.
A “hodgepodge of pizza ideology,” Scottie’s boasts “poofy-rimmed, leopard-spotted Neapolitan pies cooked in a 900-degree Swedish electric deck oven but served New York–style, in cheap 18-inch rounds or big, foldable slices.” Extra points for the pizza bianca.
This is some echt Portland fare, with a flavorful, tangy dough made with locally grown whole grains, and regular specials named after local community legends, from KMHD jazz DJ Isabel Zacharias to photographer (and regular customer) Takaaki Okada to Tabor Bread’s Tissa Stein. The preserved lemon alone vaults this into singular flavor territory, but almost every experimental combination this creative team puts together is a winner, with a gamut of toppings introduced that include pickled apple and ginger, potato chips, hot dogs, and cilantro-mint-ginger salsa verde.
"Seven nights a week, arguably one of America’s top 20 pizzas is emerging from an electric oven on SE Hawthorne," says Brooks. Enough said.
Ken Forkish has been called "one of the world's great pie men," and we do not disagree. "No bones about where his heart lies—these 12-inchers demand engagement with their rustic crust," says Brooks. (Fancy making one of these at home? We've got a recipe for you.)