Like many Portlanders, Leo Brill sprung into action in the summer of 2020. That June, the pizza chef, who had been laid off from his job at Oven & Shaker at the beginning of the pandemic, decided to start making pizzas in his backyard, donating the proceeds to nonprofits and mutual aid organizations including For The Gworls, Don’t Shoot PDX, The National Black Justice Coalition, The Okra Project, and The Minnesota Freedom Fund. He called the pop-up Paladin Pie, named after the paladin class of characters in Dungeons & Dragons who prioritize goals and personal morals. He returned to backyard pizzas last summer while juggling a full-time job making pizza at Nostrana. Now, he and business partner Flynn McEchron are gearing up to open a Paladin Pie food cart on Alberta & 23rd in March.
The cart will feature a wood-burning oven; Brill plans to decorate it from the outside so it looks like a D&D 20-sided die. He’ll continue serving pies on his carefully refined crust, a two-day fermented sourdough style that he describes as a hybrid between New York and Neapolitan. Toppings will be mostly cravable and classic, including marinara, cheese, pepperoni, Hawaiian, buffalo chicken, mushroom parmesan, and vegan options. “[I’m going to] keep it simple, but in the same spirit of really well done, lowbrow—the late night-style food that people crave,” Brill says. He’ll also continue making his signature Mouthbreather Hot Sauce—a blend of Mexican chocolate, chili, and pineapple that also shares a name with his band—while adding homemade ranch, salads, and grilled veggies to the menu. He hopes to add nostalgia-filled ice cream flavors, from blueberry pie to cookie dough, to the menu later on.
Paladin Pie’s original mission of giving back will continue, too. Brill plans to contribute food to shelters and free fridges, and will also offer specials with a portion of proceeds going toward local mutual aid organizations such as Mxm Bloc PDX and PDX Free Fridge.
“I look forward to having a legitimate space to do this stuff, because I feel confident that my pizza is gonna be better than it ever has been,” says Brill. “I want to get in there and start cooking. I'm very hyped and looking forward to launching.”