Dining Picks

Portland's Best Pizza

By the slice or by the pie, Portland proves that you don’t need to adhere to the rules to make the best pizzas out there.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton

A pie from Apizza Scholls

What would happen if, instead of trying to make pizza just the way it’s made in New York or Naples, we just tried to make pizza that tastes good? As our very own Karen Brooks points out in Chef’s Table: Pizza, perhaps the defining style of a Portland pizza is that there is no single defining style—and our willingness to break the rules is exactly what makes it so good. Lovely’s Fifty Fifty is the poster child of this mantra right now, with toppings ranging from fermented tomato to marigold petals atop a sourdough crust. But plenty of other pizzaiolos are playing with local grains, seasonal produce, and year-round staples like Wisconsin brick cheese and Ezzo pepperoni. Whether you like your pizza round or square, thick-crusted or thin, these are our favorite spots at which to grab a pie.

Apizza Scholls


This New Haven-style pizzeria was one of the main players in Portland’s pizza revolution when it opened in 2005, serving muscular, 18-inch neo-Neapolitan pies made with eccentric perfectionism and fine-tuned toppings. Not a bad choice here (down to the whole-leaf Caesar salad), but it’s hard to get past the Diablo Bianco, a sauce-free wonder splotched with super-creamy ricotta pools, jalapeño wheels, and a roasted tomato-pumpkin seed pesto that tastes, somehow, like chorizo. 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd —KB

Assembly Brewing


While pizza is often an afterthought at many beer-focused venues, the pizza here is just as much of a draw, made by co-owner and former Detroiter George Johnson. The crust is thick yet airy and crisp, complete with its signature unconventional layering that puts the pepperoni straight on the dough and the tangy tomato sauce on top of the gooey, stretchy Wisconsin brick-style cheese. Stay for a few brews and the pinball machines. 6112 SE Foster Rd —KCH

Cafe Olli


Image: Michael Novak

You may not think of the all-day café as a pizza joint, but its impressive bakery lays the foundation for some of the best crust in the city. In-line with the rest of the menu, pizzas here thrive on simplicity. Take the pomodoro: ostensibly an unadorned tomato pie sings with a deeply concentrated, oven-roasted sauce and paper-thin garlic reminiscent of Goodfellas. Go for the optional stracciatella (essentially the gooey, creamy center of burrata, added to the pizza after cooking) and anchovy and hang out in the gorgeous, sun-drenched dining room. 3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd —MT

Dimo’s Apizza


One of the city’s most craveable pies—thin, rimless, with a distinctive crisp crackle-crunch. Just the thought can stick in your head like the Succession theme song. The best of them boast little more than concentrated tomatoes and garlic (the Russo) or a wealth of spicy meat (Hail Mary). Being heretics, we crushed hard on a summer special flashing creamed corn butter. The New Haven classic white clam pie has its own following, though insiders note it must be eaten less than 60 seconds out of the oven. Feast Portland’s Mike Thelin describes it in poetic f-bombs, noting “there is nothing else I’d rather eat.” To channel New Haven’s coal oven pies, owner Doug Miriello deploys an electric oven to start, then finishes the rounds in a fire-breathing wood oven hand-built in Naples. Our kind of nut. But note, one person’s char is another’s burned. 701 E Burnside St —KB

Dove Vivi


Dove Vivi sits in a category of its own, with its super-crisp cornmeal crusts and layered toppings a la Chicago deep dish. (If you’ve tried a Vicolo pizza from the frozen section at your fancy grocery store, these are similar—but fresher and more decadent.) Combos are centered around ingredients including pesto, sweet corn, and Italian sausage; for the indecisive, there’s a chef’s choice that gives you slices of six different pizzas. A couple vegan pies are also on offer. 2727 NE Glisan St —KCH

Escape from New York Pizza

Nob Hill

More like an escape to New York, this small but mighty pizza spot is dishing out quality slices and pies. A vintage cash register and walls decorated with old photos and newspaper clippings sets the tone of “Yes, we’ve been here for a while (almost 40 years) and it’s because our pizza is damn good.” Fresh dough is tossed in your peripheral vision while you stand in line going back and forth about what to order. Naturally, Escape From New York only offers a handful of classic toppings, including cheese, pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon—with green peppers and mushrooms if you’re on a veggie vibe. Scarf down a slice or two to fuel your afternoon shopping, or grab a whole pie to feed the fam. 622 NW 23rd Ave —DB

Gracie’s Apizza

St. Johns

A pie from Gracie's

Image: Michael Novak

Pizza maker Craig Melillo doesn’t shy away from picking a favorite child. “This is the best pie,” reads the caption on the menu under the tomato pie. It might make Midwesterners balk, but there’s barely any cheese on this signature pizza—just lots of tangy, umami-packed tomato sauce on a nutty, crisp fermented dough crust. Thin slivers of garlic and the lightest sprinkling of pecorino add interest. Or go for the daily rotating pie made with seasonal veggies, or fill up with a calzone with hot honey. Ice cream is a must for dessert, with flavors like coffee brown sugar and cherry cocoa nib. 8737 N Lombard St—KCH

Ken’s Artisan Pizza


Ed Levine, founder of the popular New York–based blog Serious Eats, calls Ken Forkish “one of the world’s great pie men,” and, halfway through a spicy fennel sausage and onion pie here, it’s hard to disagree. After all, Forkish penned a cookbook titled The Elements of Pizza, a must for home cooks hoping to pass for pros. No bones about where the shop’s heart lies—these wood-fired 12-inchers demand engagement with their leopard-spotted rustic crust. Though Forkish has retired to Hawaii and handed over ownership to longtime former managers, the pizza is still lively and flavor-rich. But starters can surprise you, including wood-fired calamari in spicy tomato sauce set over rustic garlic crostini. 304 SE 28th Ave —KB/KCH 

Life of Pie

Let’s start with the $7 happy hour margherita pizza, probably the best pizza deal in town. We’re talking tangy, salty crust, with a balanced tomato, mozz, fresh basil topping, and—why not?—a $6 house wine on the side. There’s a reason the lines are out the door at 5:30 as discerning carb loaders try to make it in for the 6 p.m. cutoff. Beyond that particular crowd pleaser, the kale and arugula salad leans sweet but is something of a cult favorite, while the seasonal mushroom pie is the perfect umami bite when you’re ready to splurge (but not much—it’s only $16 after all). Don’t sleep on the pasta either—this is solid spaghetti fare and a steal of a meal for $10. Various locations —FMcC

Lovely’s Fifty Fifty


Sarah Minnick, who stars in Netflix’s 2022 Chef’s Table: Pizza, is the auteur of Portland’s most iconic pizza—deeply connected to Oregon’s most adventurous farmers and in its own flavor land.  You’ll taste notes not typically associated with pizza: sour, bitter, funk, floral, and nuanced heat, all pinging off a thin, chewy sourdough crust. No sauce here—just cool stuff on top. Toppings are built around whatever farmers drop off, stinging nettles to fenugreek bok choy raab, plus Minnick’s imagination and unusual Northwest cheeses. A moan-worthy pie of rainbow chard, fermented tomatoes, Calabrian chiles, and goat cheese? Yeah, baby—and the weirder it sounds, the better the pie. Three bites in and it’s clear why Italian pizza master Franco Pepe is a fan. For dessert, don’t miss one of the last reminders of what real ice cream tastes like. 4039 N Mississippi Ave #101 —KB

Nostrana/Oven and Shaker

At her original restaurant, Nostrana, and her two pizza-focused restaurants, Oven and Shaker, chef Cathy Whims pays homage to wood-fired Neapolitan pies. The crab pizza, which piles Dungeness on top of a white pie, is a must-get when it’s on offer at Nostrana. At Oven and Shaker, find pies with toppings like wildflower honey, goat cheese, and pistachio pesto. Various locations —KCH

Paladin Pie


This gem of a pizzeria was founded by Nostrana/Oven and Shaker alum Leo Brill, who during the pandemic started making pizzas in his backyard and donating the proceeds to local causes. Now, Brill operates out of a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired cart with a wood oven on Alberta. Pies range from classic cheese or marinara to roasted mushrooms with parmesan cream to collabs with neighboring cart Mole Mole like birria or mole pizza. And rather than the usual Caesar salad, get your dose of veggies with the smashed cuke salad or roasted shishito peppers. Don’t skip the sauces, from house dill ranch to Calabrian chile oil to the pineapple-chocolatey Mouthbreather hot sauce. Try a couple different slices, or grab a whole pie. 2231 NE Alberta St

Pizza Jerk

Since 2016, Tommy Habetz, the man behind Bunk Sandwiches, has been serving up giant New York-esque thin-crust pizzas with toppings ranging from classic pepperoni to eggplant parm. It’s one of the best spots in the city to grab a single slice—a rarity in Portland—but it’s also a neighborhood staple for everyday family pizza nights. There’s even an entire vegan menu, plus gluten-free options. Be sure to grab a side of ranch for dipping that crisp, chewy crust. Various locations —KCH

Pizza Thief


At this friendly neighborhood joint, dig into daily pies and behold: that soul-satisfying mix of flop and oil and leopard-spotted char. You could think New York pies, but don’t. The sourdough crust is Portland crust, bread baker’s crust: chewy, alive with natural leavening, with twinges of local rye. Pepperoni is the ticket, but there’s no arguing with the truffle-cheesed, mushroom-centric Wildwood. You could get a whole pie, but this is one of our favorite slice shops in the city right now; mix and match slices to find your favorite. Gluten-free pies available. 2610 NW Vaughn St –KCH/KB

Pizzeria Otto

Foster-Powell and Roseway

Yet another spot offering margherita pizza happy hour, Otto offers the Italian classic at its two locations daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 8 p.m. until close; wine and beer are also on special. But Neapolitan pizzas, delightfully chewy and freckled with char, are also offered with toppings ranging from buffalo mozzarella to salami with spicy honey. 7122 SE Foster Rd and 6708 NE Sandy Blvd —KCH

Pop Pizza


What happens when a pastry chef—namely Marius Pop of Nuvrei—decides to make pizza? Find out with these caramelized-edged Detroit-style pizzas. The Ezzo pepperoni-topped pie is a winner, ideal comfort food best eaten on your couch; gluten-free options are also on offer, as are square cookies. 610 SE Morrison St —KCH

Ranch Pizza

Sicilian-style square pies, baked in a pan and topped with cheese before the sauce is slathered on top, are what make this all-about-the-crispy-edges spot stand out—and it’s pretty big on ranch dressing, too. In the last four years, Ranch Pizza has grown from a pop-up in Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock’s short-lived bar to four permanent locations around town. Other than ranch, pineapple is probably the most controversial pizza topping, and we happen to think they go together quite well here. Ranch’s Hawaiian pizza swaps hearty cubes of bacon-bacon for Canadian bacon, fresh pineapple for the canned stuff, and gets a kick from roasted jalapeno, all of which amount to a very dippable, compact slice. Various locations —MT

Red Sauce Pizza


This Cully staple since 2015 makes mouth-watering pies that range from classic to stoner (Totino’s-style pepperoni bites, anyone?) to a little bougie (think seasonal peach, ricotta, and arugula). But we think you can’t go wrong with the signature It’s Me Nummy, which combines fresh pineapple, beef pepperoni, and jalapeños atop the namesake tangy tomato sauce and a crisp crust. There are plenty of red sauceless pies here, too, from one topped with vodka sauce to white pies topped with ricotta, red onion, and spicy honey. A mean kale caesar salad and calzones round out the menu. 4641 NE Fremont St —KCH

Scottie’s Pizza

Hosford Abernethy

Some pizza works best as leftovers, cold for breakfast, but a slice from Scottie's is best piping hot, seconds out of what they call their "super-hot, electric deck oven." The sauce-to-cheese-to-thin crust ratio hits just right here. Or get your order in early for the limited-quantity 16-inch square, thick-crusted “Grandma-style” Sicilian pizza (that means the tomato sauce is dolloped on the top) Defino pie, because they sell out fast. 2128 SE Division St —JS

Secret Pizza Society


Let this punk-rock hole-in-the-wall pizza joint show you just how good vegan pizza can be, complete with a crisp, buttery thin crust. Try the Mount Boring, which combines tangy vegan chevre with basil, mushrooms, olives, and a stellar tomato sauce. Or get the Chalupa Batman, which combines ground taco tofu with tomato, cilantro, and chipotle crema—it’s good enough to make Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza shake in its boots. 7201 NE Glisan St —KCH


Multnomah Village

A beloved farmers' market staple for years, the way to spot a Tastebud pizza is by its wood-fired blistered crust, and the pile of absolutely seasonal ingredients on top. Right now, that means lemony roasted summer squash on one pie, and peaches from the Baird family farm on another. Neighborhood devotees mark their calendars for Wednesday-only pies topped with no fewer than four eggs—get them vegetarian or go full glutton with bacon, sausage, and Canadian bacon. 7783 SW Capitol Highway —JS

Filed under