Restaurant Review

No Saint Carves a Place among Portland’s Pizza Elite

The scrappy pop-up takes residence, with dinner-party charm and ridiculously light and bubbly pies.

By Matthew Trueherz Photography by Thomas Teal March 23, 2023

Walking into No Saint, the Upstate New York–style pizza pop-up-turned-restaurant feels more like showing up to a dinner party than a business. There are menus, a host stand, you probably had to wait for a table—all the signposts of a restaurant, but it doesn’t feel in the least bit transactional. Instead, it feels like you walked into owners Gabriella Casabianca and Anthony Siccardi’s Vernon-neighborhood apartment turned candlelit pizza parlor. They’re scrambling to get the last of the food ready and smiling that wry dinner party host–smile through the tumult of a busy service. They’re wearing slightly askew, flour-dusted aprons and offering you a glass of wine. It’s a gamble whether it comes in stemware or the type of faceted glass tumblers your parents might have had when you were growing up.  

Image: thomas teal

It’s increasingly common, but there's no clear handbook on how to grow from a pop-up to a permanent restaurant. No Saint spent years as a part-time passion project, first at the Hollywood cafe turned wine bar/bookstore Vivienne Kitchen, then at the Northeast Portland wine bar Dame. 

At the end of 2022, a sideways door of an opportunity cracked open for Casabianca and Siccardi, a newly married couple. Actually, two doors opened at once. And they wound up opening No Saint at the same time as their Buckman wine bar and bottle shop, Mattino’s. With a shoestring budget and more momentum and enthusiasm than any concrete resources, the two pizza-obsessed transplants from Upstate New York set up shop in the former Handsome Pizza location last November.

From top left: the vegan pizza, green garlic, potato, and "pepperoni supreme."

Image: thomas teal

Presumably, radical, inventive maximalism would be the only way to stand out in this pizza-laden town—loading pies up with outlandish toppings. But No Saint hasn’t fallen into that trap. Instead, its shockingly airy, full-size pizzas lean on simplicity. A light hand and laughably bubbled outer crust that’s thin through the middle and risen with yeast (not sourdough) follows the tradition of the Upstate New York pizza shops Siccardi started working at when he was 16.  

Image: thomas teal

If you’re stuck on “getting your money’s worth” in regard to toppings, you’re sorely missing the point. Instead of a pound of the cheap stuff, the “pepperoni supreme” sets the stage for Seattle salumeria Coro’s artisan pepperoni. A scattering of thick, quarter-size slices mingles with shavings of pepperoncini and red onion, delicately swirled with a drizzle of spicy honey to lick off your fingers.

The potato pizza epitomizes No Saint’s ethos. Taleggio on a pizza is almost a dare. The stinkiest of Italian cheeses threatens to ruin any hope for subtlety, the restaurant’s calling card. But potatoes are the perfect foil; served as a light, creamy seasoning for the multicolored spud slices, Taleggio shines as quietly as candlelight. 

An adorably humble antipasti plate—crumbles of crystalline parmesan, cornichons, acidic pickled chiles, a few thick slices of salami—follows suit, setting the tone for nonpizza offerings. A dynamic kale salad dressed with a tomato vinaigrette and showered in parmesan and bread crumbs is a mainstay on the rotating menu; vegetables pulled from the wood oven are also simply and deliciously presented, like brussels sprouts spiked with Calabrian chiles and rosé vinegar, and deeply caramelized carrots tossed with crumbled spicy ’nduja sausage. 

From top: kale salad, ’nduja roasted carrots, No Saint chopped salad.

Image: Thomas Teal

The dining room is an open L shape, cornering on the open kitchen and its centerpiece: a roaring wood oven. A garage door and floor-to-ceiling windows bring a wash of natural light to the room, and open to a wraparound patio for sunny days. The room will be recognizable to fans of Handsome Pizza, the former tenant, as it’s been reimagined more than remodeled. But in painting a few choice accents and clearing out some bulky furniture, the No Saint team has brought an entirely new energy to the room.  

Pizzas come on tin trays and salads on floral-patterned plates presumably from Goodwill. Mismatched flowers rest in mismatched vases; wonky thrifted chairs and wood banquettes painted red-sauce red remind you you’re in a type of pizza parlor, kind of. There are dimmed overhead lights, but after dark, you’d swear you're eating under candlelight, and the flames emanating from the wood oven’s gnarled copper hearth. The brightest glow in the room is a repurposed desk lamp lighting up the pizza-cutting station.  

Owners Gabriella Casabianca and Anthony Siccardi.

Image: thomas teal

In all of its charmed, DIY glory, No Saint owes something to the scrappy, veg-centric ethos of Lovely’s Fifty Fifty and Handsome Pizza, not to mention Siccardi's former employer Tastebud, the Multnomah Village pizza mainstay. But No Saint is very much its own thing. The people sweating to pull the operation together are just as excited to be at the party as you are. There’s a bottled-lightning energy to it that can only live in such an ad hoc restaurant. They’re figuring things out and somehow not missing a step along the way.

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