As someone who has lived in New York and New Haven, the two pizza capitals of America, I find it's difficult for a pizza anywhere else to make me happy. And so for years I was a skeptic about Apizza Scholls, even though for a decade and a half pizza lovers have beelined to this pizza spot on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard named after its original location in the tiny town of Scholls, Ore. And for a decade and a half, those New Haven-style pies have won plaudits for being good enough to compete with pies from the great pizza cities of the Italian diaspora.
Well, the Apizza margherita is indeed a thing of technical excellence. The crisp crust is charred just enough to add taste but not overpower the tongue with burned-up crust. The sauce is neither too salty nor too sweet. The cheese is plentiful enough without overwhelming the crust or the sauce. And that technical perfection is backed up by house policy. Owner Brian Spangler insists that customers not overdo it on the toppings—no more than three, only two of which can be meat—ensuring that the pies arrive to the table perfectly fired.
But what I didn't know until this year is that the cheese pie is still a blank canvas waiting for its artist. Unless you're vegetarian or allergic to pork, fuhgettaboutit, as they say in cities that haven't paved over their Little Italy. Order the sausage and Mama. That sausage and Mama is the pinnacle of perfection, the meat and pickled Mama Lil's peppers spreading out seemingly sparsely across the pizza and yet flavoring every bite, mixing the bright acid of peppers and the deep cure of that fennel-rich housemade sausage. I don't know what took me so long to try it.
Pro tip: So long as there are fewer than eight of you, Apizza Scholls will take reservations online for you to sit down to a beautiful sausage and Mama pie ($26) and side salad ($11), with no hassle. Walk jauntily past the inevitable families standing in line as if it were still 2011 or something.