Portland is in the midst of a pizza renaissance, or a glut, depending how you look at it. It’s impossible to keep up with all the new, local pies you can sink your chompers into. However, the dual gem of Pizza Thief and the adjoining Bandit Bar—open since early June—is a newcomer that fits into its surroundings perfectly, serving up big, New York-style slices, quality craft beers and unpretentious cocktails under the neon lights of the Montgomery Park sign.
Pizza Thief’s pizza side is bright and family-friendly with big windows, a pair of arcade cabinets, and tall walls covered with simple, colorful illustrations of flowers and raccoons. The service is walk-up, but should you bring the kiddos, you can easily keep them in sight.
What is the most important thing about pizza? Crust! And Pizza Thief has a top-shelf sourdough crust game: the right amount of give for folding, but enough crumb to prevent sogginess. The sauce attains a perfect middle ground of savory and sweet with just the right acidic tang. The toppings—though fairly standard for this unorthodox pizza city—are plentiful, high quality and locally sourced.
Your pie choices are standard, but strong. For instance, the Kevin Pepperoni has the little cup pepperonis that curl upward and become delicious grease traps, laid across a bed of mozzarella, provolone and grana cheeses. It’s perfect, don’t overthink it! Similarly, The Baller puts meatballs and ricotta on a pizza bed together with fresh basil. We ship that, a classic throuple. The standout pie was Hot Tony, which earns its name due to liberal amounts of spicy pepperoni, salami, Calabrian chiles, and jalapeños, all balanced by sweet piquillo peppers. Unfortunately, there’s only one vegan pie choice, but it rotates seasonally for variety.
Whole 18-inch pies at Pizza Thief sell for around $30, but slices ring up at between $3.75 and $5. The setup seems perfect for lunch (although I’m a proud lunch-at-10:45 am type, and Pizza Thief doesn’t open until noon).
Two slices are likely to be enough for most people. I ate four. It wasn’t cheap, but the price of good pizza is eye-popping pretty much anywhere these days. And the same could be said about cocktails. Speaking of: Attached to the dining area is a moodier, sexier watering hole with black and pink walls—Pizza Thief’s dark twin, Bandit Bar.
Blessed with ample booths, Bandit Bar is exactly the kind of place to settle in with some friends, share a pie, and knock back drinks over tales of how impossible the neighborhood is to park in.
Like the pizzas, the cocktail list presents standard but strong takes on classic, well-balanced crowd pleasers—priced in the $12-to-$16 range. The old fashioned sports curiously effective infusions of fig and vanilla. The Acapulco Gold—which takes its name from the restaurant Bandit Bar replaced—is a margarita with just the right muddled jalapeño kick.
Bandit Bar also boasts a short list of wines from Italy and Oregon, as well as craft brews to satisfy the beer nerds in your life—Ferment, pFriem and Little Beast, among others. Lacking are the kinds of cheap tallboys that someone on a budget can get down and dirty with.
With that dough, craft beer selection, and respect for pepperoni grease cups, Pizza Thief has the makings of a great neighborhood establishment. While it probably won’t reach destination status, everyone in the Northwest neighborhood should already know Pizza Thief’s name.
EAT: Pizza Thief/Bandit Bar, 2610 NW Vaughn St., 503-719-7778, pizzathief.com. Noon-9 pm daily.