Someone called Portland the best pizza city in America? Not again.


Earlier today, my phone started buzzing with texts from friends, all passing on the same link. Bloomberg had just published an interview with Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya, authors of the upcoming “Modernist Pizza,” in which the duo claimed to have found America’s best pizza city. And if you spend too much time on Twitter, you probably already know that city was not New York, New Haven or Chicago, but, yes, Portland.

Not again.

Three years ago, I met self-described “International Pizza Consultant” Anthony Falco at a Feast Portland kickoff event. There, the former pizza chef at Brooklyn’s Roberta’s dropped a take hotter than the mini pies coming out of his standalone Breville ovens. After visiting three of the city’s best pizzerias — Apizza Scholls, Lovely Fifty Fifty and Scottie’s Pizza Parlor — Falco was ready to declare that Portland was the best city in America. Not pound-for-pound, but best, period.

For Falco, this Calabrian chile oil of spicy pizza takes came down to the quality of ingredients here, particularly the flour. Here, pizzerias make naturally leavened doughs using high-quality milled grains from the Pacific Northwest, a practice Falco contrasted with the bleached and bromated flours used at many neighborhood slice shops. Meanwhile, restaurants such as North Mississippi’s Lovely’s Fifty Fifty are essential farm-to-table restaurants in their own right, places where, as we wrote in 2018 “market-fresh produce, foraged mushrooms and pungent cheeses happen to be found on a pizza.”

As expected, my recap of the Feast event was picked up by media outlets near and far, going so viral that I came to regret meeting Falco and hearing his take.

Yet here we are again. Myhrvold and Migoya, the “Modernist Pizza” authors from today’s Bloomberg story, ate over 400 pies in more than a dozen cities to come to a similar conclusion. It’s hard to argue with the eight Portland pizzas they use to make their argument: Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Scottie’s, Apizza Scholls, Red Sauce, Handsome and Nostrana are all staples on local best pizza lists, while Sizzle Pie, besides being a solid vegan option, is Portland’s best pizza slice chain. Pizza Jerk seems like an omission, especially after the fantastic, fresh-from-the-oven slice owner Tommy Habetz handed over a couple of weeks ago. And they could have tried out a few newer options — Pop Pizza and Dimo’s come to mind — though given that Ken’s, Lovely’s and Apizza Scholls are all more than a decade old and still pace the competition, the duo can be forgiven for sticking with the classics.

Arguing “Portland, Oregon is America’s best pizza city” is one of those statements that triggers a moment of cognitive dissonance for outsiders, like saying that “the best Southern fried chicken is found in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.” Only here the statement is backed up by some truly excellent pizzerias. But let’s be real: Could you find eight New York pizzerias better than the Portland spots Myhrvold and Migoya highlighted in the Bloomberg piece? Of course. And yet, do we really need to fire up the engines on this debate again? I’ll pass.

And after the year we’ve had, it seems like Portland could probably use a win, even if it’s one that angers our neighbors on the East Coast. So let’s all agree to log off, forget about silly debates for the day, and enjoy the great pizza we have, wherever we might find it.

— Michael Russell, [email protected], @tdmrussell


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