Cheap Eats 2014: Pizza


Pronto Pizza

16050 SE 82nd Drive, Clackamas, 655-5094, Lunch and dinner daily.

Clackistan's few foodniks boast about Pronto Pizza for good reason. This wood-fired petroleum-fired pizzeria isn't just the best food in the tribal region to our south, it's probably the best pizza between Portland and San Francisco—with apologies to the truckstop towns along the way. The secret, of course, is what you'd expect: This strip-mall eatery is using the techniques used to craft that essence of orbicular excellence, the pies of New Haven.

Pronto's pricey doppio zero flour is imported from Italy and goes through a three-day proofing period before being topped with house-cured meats and baked at 650 degrees. Pies come out crispy, if a little topping heavy, at about $20 for specialty pies that heartily serve three adults. (At lunch, large slices go for $3.) The spacious restaurant, which even has a few arcade cabinets, is outfitted with stylish prints that have you all but forgetting you're next to Pet 'N' Pond.

Linda Shankweiler, who used to work for The Oregonian's now-defunct Mix magazine (you may remember it from such stories as "Coconut Water: A Natural Alternative to Sports Drinks"), opened this shop with partner Cynthia Cesnalis about a year ago. They're doing yeoman's work, explaining to locals that, no, the pizza isn't burnt and, yes, dinosaur kale is a real thing that people sometimes eat. On our visit, one man ordered a Base Camp S'more Stout from the impressive lineup of local taps.

"They tell us to serve the stout with marshmallow on the rim," the waitress explained.

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" the man's wife yelped.

They got the stout, along with one of the house's fluffy cakelike chocolate cookies. They seemed happy. Round Table should be worried. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Baby Doll

2835 SE Stark St., 459-4450, Lunch and late night Tuesday-Sunday.

This slice shop on Southeast Stark is well-loved by the crust cult. Baby Doll's dough is exceptionally airy with a buttery crispness. There's a nice, uniform layer of cheese and Babydoll's pepperoni, which curls up to form little cups of red grease, also has its ardent fans. The sauce is my gripe—it's thin, dull and there's far too little of it. But if you're not that into sauce, and most fans of New York-style slices aren't, it's hard to find another pie in town that can match Baby Doll's cracker-y snap at 9 pm on a Tuesday. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Dove Vivi 

2727 NE Glisan St., 239-4444, Dinner nightly.

Just a few blocks from Ken's Artisan's bougie, char-crusted take on the pie, Dove Vivi is a family affair. The little pizza house is every bit as crowded as Ken's on a Friday night, but so much of the crowd at Dove has tots in tow you'd think it was a dating service for toddlers, who make eyes at each other among the tables. But the adults look out for themselves, too: Dove's well-selected beer list recently included Pfriem Strong Dark—WW's 2014 beer of the year—the toppings include sausage both local and artisanal, and the pizza's even better the next day at work, when the sauce seeps into the cornbread. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Escape From New York Pizza

622 NW 23rd Ave., 227-5423, Lunch and dinner daily.

Thirty years' worth of madcap collage lines every surface of this iconic pizza spot, and you'll probably catch a little good-natured lip from owner Phil Geffner. Roll with it. The pizza crust here is crisp but foldable, the tomato sauce sweet and plentiful, the whole-milk mozzarella a solid quarter-inch thick atop each slice. Escape's slices can vary in quality, but the cheese can aspire to a near-perfect rendition of New York-style side-street pizza: The oil stays in the sauce, the cheese is thick but doesn't stretch in burning strands from the top of the slice, and the bottom of the crust has just enough crispness to add texture without losing its doughiness. But pro tip? EFNY's slices with the housemade sausage are preferred to the classic pepperoni. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Flying Pie

7804 SE Stark St., 254-2016, Lunch and dinner daily.

Some people have very narrow and specific ideas about what "good pizza" looks like. The majority of those so inclined tend to argue that a thin, crispy slice with marinara dispensed by eyedropper is the superior form, and that the breadier, saucier style preferred by most Americans is somehow the result of inferior technology or flawed tradition. To them I can only say: Shut the fuck up already. Big ups to Apizza Scholls and Ken's Artisan, but sometimes a man just wants a classic Middle American slice with a big, doughy crust to support a sea of milky mozzarella and way too much greasy pepperoni. So they go to Montavilla's Flying Pie, the best version of that pie in Portland. They get a slice and a bowl for the salad bar for $7 and they shit-talk the Yankees and the Red Sox. Ain't nothing you can do about it, bro. MARTIN CIZMAR.


2114 SE Clinton St., 235-1035, Dinner and late night daily.

Hammy's delivers pizza until 4 am. And yet I'll still happily get delivery from this Clinton Street shop at 4 pm. This porky shop—the meat selection includes pancetta, bacon and Canadian bacon along with pepperoni and Italian Sausage—serves fragrant, sauce-forward pies that'll make an impression at any hour. The standards are all well-prepared but the house specialties are wilder, with bold flavor combinations like a cheeseburger pie with beef, bacon and yellow mustard or a breakfast pie with roasted potatoes and scrambled eggs plus herbs de Provence, bacon, garlic and Tapatio. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Handsome Pizza

2730 N Killingsworth St., 247-7499, Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.

Handsome is the Pippa Middleton of Portland pizza. The wide, crisp-bottomed pies from the domed wood oven in this former garage on Killingsworth strongly resemble Scholls, Duchess of Hawthorne. Handsome, however, lacks the sharp jawline of the queen-to-be, instead sporting softer features that feel fresh, and maybe even sexier in the right light. Gorgeous pies emerge from a super-hot wood-fired dome in a few minutes, topped with the expected assortment of fresh mozzarella, aged mozzarella, ricotta, basil, sausage and salame piccante. The New York–Neapolitan crust gets a little too black and biscuity, and could stand a dab of extra sauce—but really, at that point we're critiquing royal fashion. MARTIN CIZMAR.

Lonesome's Pizza

350 W Burnside St., 234-0114, Lunch, dinner and late night daily.

Everything about Lonesome's seems sordid and drunken: You order out of a window cut into the side of Dante's, whose bartenders won't let you in off the street unless you order a vodka tonic at 2 pm; when you pay, the cashier casually remarks that they're not allowed to use tinfoil because the nearby addicts will steal it to smoke crack. So it comes as a surprise that the pizza is actually…well, awesome. They offer a variety of fresh, interesting toppings like potatoes and arugula, perfectly cooked and layered on generous slices ($3.50-$4) whose crisp crust belies a soft, chewy interior. It's way better than anyone—even drunk people!—expects their late-night pizza to be. AS. 

Pizza Contadino

8218 N Lombard St., 935-4375, Dinner and late lunch Tuesday-Sunday.

Even in the distant wastes of St. Johns, we have no shortage of pizza options. So why would we go to a food cart in a parking lot, manned by a grizzled figure in an army jacket standing forlornly in the winter wind? Because it's awesome, duh. Contadino's sourdough crust is crisp yet chewy, and he makes his own sauce, which occasionally includes a habanero sauce of some local renown. His toppings include kale and capers, out of an impressive and ever-rotating list. Slices range from $3-$4, with a 16-inch starting at $18, and grab a drink at the Fixin' To while you wait. ADRIENNE SO.

Pyro Pizza

SE 12th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard, 929-1404, Lunch, dinner and late night Tuesday-Sunday.

The cart pod at Southeast 12th and Hawthorne looks and smells a little like junk-food alley at a county fair—which is pretty much the role the late-night pod has served for the better half of a decade. And at Pyro Pizza, you can have a 12-inch Margherita delivered right into your hot little hands for less than the price of a couple "guess your weight" games: a mere $7 for a pie with local ingredients. For the meat eaters out there, the fennel sausage ($9) is the perfect combination of sweet red onion and salty pork. Pyro also offers cart-made sodas, not to mention some free philosophy on the side. "Let me live," reads the forearm ink of the nighttime pizzaiolo. Indeed. DEBORAH KENNEDY.

 Top 5 Food Carts of the Year | 20 Amazing Bites for $7 and Under

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