Well, here's the report from Portland, of necessity at some length!!
1) First stop, Ken's Artisan Bakery. We split a Ken's hero on a roll --just delicious,
fantastic bread and combination of cold cuts. Bought 2 butter croissant for next
day breakfast (delicious!) and a roll of Country Blonde sourdough bread, also
2) Second stop, we were first in line for Ken's Artisan Pizza at 5:00 PM. There was
in fact a line as we had been told. The inside was exquisite: wonderful pizza oven,
chairs and tables made of Douglas Fir from a amusement ride taken down in the
70's I believe. Service was really good, the team knew their job, great morale. I
was encouraged to watch the process, even though I was in the way. We ordered
Fennel Sausage and carmelized onion, basil and mozz. Fantastic pizza!!! The best of the
night. Not advertised as Neapolitan, and clearly not so, as it took about 3 minutes
to cook, I would guess the temperature might have been 725-750 F. But Neapolitan
in concept in some ways: thin toppings, 12" pie, very very artistically done. We cleverly
took 50% home in foil, as we had a long night ahead of us!! It reheated extremely well the
next day!!! As we left, we congratulated the entire staff on a fantastic pizza.
3) Apizza Scholl, we were there early at 6:30 PM, still had a 45 minute wait. We accepted
seats at the bar, where we could watch the entire process!
This was a pizza of a completely different sort. Enormous at 18 inches, thicker crust and I would
guess oil in the dough. Someone help me out here, what would that be?? Possibly NY style??
While we sat waiting for our pizza, we had 2 fascinating discussions! The first with a single
guy eating part of a pizza and taking the rest home for his kids -- he went on and on about how
the crust here had Ken's pizza (#2 above) completely beat!! He went on and on about it, in
a friendly and knowledgeable way, then paused and said that he was not trash-talking Ken's --
they made a wonderful pizza, it just wasn't anything like Apizza Scholl. This spoke to me about
how pizza is in some way a metaphor for the human condition!!!
The second discussion was with a friendly older couple. When we explained the nature
of our pizza quest, they promised to contact us with information about other pizza
places n Portland. Here is what they texted us a day later:
"We are headed off for moose hunting in BC today, but here is a quick list of pizza joints
Ken's Artisan Pizza, 304 se 28th ave;
Lovely's 50/50, 4039 n. mississippi ave.
Dove vivi, 2727 ne glisanst.
tastebud, 3220 se milwaukie ave -- this one
is only open a few days a week. Good luck and enjoy!!!"
This once again spoke to me of the human condition!!!
We watched how the staff worked together. There was a great
morale, a great sense of teamwork, and a huge physicality to
the way they worked. They all bellowed as they turned corners,
to avoid collisions. It was highly amusing to watch. A large
and very capable woman worked an electric deck oven, cooking
pies in the 6 to 6 1/2 minute range, with great repeatability.
Our monster arrived!! We had ordered 1/2 sausage and tomato,
1/2 white cheese and bacon. As you might guess, there were not
a lot of veggies on the menu!!
The pie was fantastic!!! Rich and tasty, we could see how some
would prefer the bready crust to Ken's, though for us it was the other
We wisely took most of the monster home. We asked our waiter
to take a second and convey to the staff our appreciation of what
they had accomplished for us. We saw him do this, and were amazed
to see a cheer go up from at least 9 of the staff!!! Talk about great morale!!!
How to compare Ken's and Apizza Scholl?? It occurred to me an odd idea:
Ken's is a white collar pizza, emphasizing style presentation, etc. Apizza
is more blue-collar, emphasizing the food and eating it. Both delicious, both
Mary's morale flagged for a second here -- we had a 3 hour drive ahead of
us, we were stuffed, and we were tired. But, by God, we had a job to do, and
on we went!!!
4) Lovely's 50-50. We had showed up at 2 because the telephone message was
unintelligible. We were curtly told the place was closed, and when Mary mentioned
the message was hard to understand, the manager just looked at us as if
we had fallen off a turnip truck. So customer service wasn't their thing, at least
When we showed up at 7:30, things were looking
up!! Long line, we were glad to walk around. This was 12 inch pizza place, very artsy
pizzas featuring a lot of veggies (which was good for us at this stage of our eating!!). We
ordered a pie with chicories, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. I watched the preparation and
chatted with the cookers, who were generous sharing information. The bread was naturally
leavened, I would guess the oven was running about 750 F. The design of the oven was
singular: the vent, which went straight up, was in the oven itself, not outside the
mouth. With this enormous hole in the ceiling, I doubt they could even get up to
Neapolitan temperatures if they had wanted to. Our pie was excellent, in the same mold
as Ken's, but not actually quite as good in our opinion. The crust, with the natural
leaven, was every bit as good, and the flavor was in fact better.
So what about Lovely's?? First of all, it was just excellent!! I could live on that food
for the rest of my life. But two things were missing: I didn't see any of the sense
of artistic vision that were so clear at Ken's and Apizza's -- each vision different to
be sure. Then, perhaps related, the staff seemed a lot less certain what they were
doing there. A distinct lack of morale, that bled over into the experience.
So that's it!!! At least for now. One other very interesting observation I made that
I will continue to test: ask any one at any pizza place what temperature they cook at, and
they will quote a range, the upper number of which will be 900 F!!! Thus when we asked
our waiter what the electric oven cooked at, he said 600 -- 900 F!!! This is really quite
amusing, it is as if everyone wished they were cooking at Neapolitan temperatues!!
Could we call this "Neapolitan envy"?
All comments welcome!!!