Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Apizza Scholls

4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97215
(503) 233-1286



In Portland, Oregon, a veritable melting pot of tree-hugging hippies, tech-savvy yuppies, organic food junkies and white trash, a pizza revolution is beginning to take form, and the most popular iteration of this burgeoning pizza haven must certainly be Apizza Scholls.

Nestled between a chocolate shop and the Bar of the Gods on hip Hawthorne Boulevard, Apizza Scholls dishes out whole pies to legions of local fans seven days a week (5pm - 9:30pm Monday thru Saturday, 4pm - 8pm Sunday). Such is the enthusiastic fervor surrounding the pizzeria that lines can form thirty-strong or more an hour prior to opening on Fridays and Saturdays, making a simple walk-in-sit-down-and-order an impossible affair on busy weekends. To-go orders are available only Monday through Wednesday, but after that, expect a long wait if you're not there when the doors open.

After the moment of heart-stopping elation that comes when the hostess calls your name, you're ushered to one of the ten or so tables in either of the dual dining rooms. D├ęcor is sparse, with simply painted walls adorned with the occasionally piece of framed artwork. It's really nothing special. But you're not here for the atmosphere, you're here for the eats!

Thankfully, Scholls has several beers on tap to get you nice and buzzed, all at $4.50 a pint (except for the Schneider Hopfen-Weisse at $6), as well as nearly 30 more bottled. Several red and white wines are also readily available, along with an impressive array of Boylan's soft drinks.


(photo courtesy Apizza Scholls)


The menu is as expansive as the drink list. Beyond the usual house and Caesar salads ($7 and $8, respectively) you'll find some delicious antipasti options, such as an assortment of delicious cured olives ($5), a veggie plate with roasted red peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry peppers, Fior di Latte, and grilled artichoke hearts ($10) and a meat plate with proscuitto rosa, salame Gentile, soppressata, salame Siciliana, and mortadella ($10). Your best bet is the House Antipasti Plate, which offers a hearty mix of both the meat and veggie plates. All of it is cured to perfection and a steal at $12.

And that brings us to the pies, and what pies they are. Unabashedly New York-style, pizzas at Scholls are large 18-to-20-inch discs with a well-charred, crisp crust that holds up well to the toppings, whatever they may be. The air pocket-filled cornicione is bubbly and perfect, with a nice crisp outer crunch giving way to a light, chewy center. Owner and head pizzaolo Brian Spangler closely monitors every pie in his electric oven with an infrared thermometer gun, watching them char under controlled 700°F+ heat and making sure each one comes out perfect. As far as I can tell, he has succeeded every time.

Scholls neophytes should begin with their version of the margherita, known here as the 'Margo'rita ($20). Atop the impeccable crust you'll find a vibrant tomato sauce, a mix of both fresh and aged mozzarella, pecorino romano, plenty of fresh garlic, olive oil, and basil. The garlic and aged mozzarella meld in the oven and give every bite of this pie a solid punch of salty, garlicky goodness.

Even better is Apizza Scholls's incredible Sausage Pie ($20). Hefty chunks of sweet fennel sausage (made in-house!) are scattered in perfect balance over the plain pie, and after repeated trips I can safely say I have never had a better version of it. If and when you come to Scholls, do not pass this one up. It is absolutely delicious.


(photo courtesy Apizza Scholls)

Though I am not the biggest fan of white pies, Apizza Scholls's New York White Pie ($22) is the best I can recall ever having. Here the red sauce is eschewed for layers of mozzarella (both fresh and aged), pecorino romano, fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, sea salt, and olive oil. Bring an additional element to the white pie with the Bacon Bianca ($22), which adds house-made bacon. The bacon brings out the flavors in the cheese, herbs, and garlic, and is a revelation.

For a simpler white pie with even an even more complex flavor scheme, the Tartufo Bianco ($21) is the pizza of choice. Here the garlic, herbs, and olive oil of the New York White are swapped out for a healthy pour of truffle oil. I don't love truffle oil, but for whatever reason it clicks here. Like the other pizzas, it's very good, and worth seeking out for the discerning foodies in your party.

Scholls offers a single item on their dessert menu: It's-It Ice Cream Sandwiches from San Francisco ($2). These tasty little sugar bombs are composed of a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate. They're good, but after stuffing your face with three or four large slices, chances are you won't have room for them.

If you're in Portland for any reason and consider yourself a fan of pizza, you would be remiss to skip Apizza Scholls. A Slice of Heaven author and Serious Eats founder Ed Levine named it one of the "Top Five Pizzerias in America," and if you can withstand the sometimes hour-long wait to get inside, you'll soon see why.

OVEN: Electric

RECOMMENDED: House Antipasti Plate, Sausage Pie

16 comments:

  1. Nice review. I've tried arguing with NY pizza aficionados with little success. There may be better pizzas out there, but I haven't found them yet. That includes the best of NY and New Haven. Had Da Fara and Lucali in Brooklyn last month and Pepes in New Haven. Lucali is the closest thing I have found to Apizza Scholls. I do, however, lament the loss of Gonzo in Manhattan. I would like to have tried it again.

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  2. It really is fantastic. I just took my brother here and he was blown away. I'd put it up against anything in New York. Haven't been to New Haven yet, but I'm really hoping to make the journey sometime this year.

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    1. Go to New Haven, get around there are some good ones in the area besides Pepe's and Sally's.(Mike Devine)

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  3. As far as New Haven goes, I think we're down to just Pepes. Sallys has apparently gone way downhill. Pepes is holding up despite adding 4 or 5 branches in the region.

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  4. That's too bad; I'd heard Sally's was far superior to Pepe's. What about Modern? You been there?

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  5. Agreed. Best pizza I have ever had. This place in Troy, New York is darn good too: http://www.defaziospizza.com/

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  6. I went here at the beginning of the year with my parents who live in the area, and my girlfriend. We got Apizza Amore, (A Margarita pizza with Hot Cappi) and a sausage,onion,and garlic pie! The latter being the best of the bunch! The fresh garlic Made the pizza in my opinion! Along with a few pitchers of the Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA and a few more for mom and dad, the Total came to about A hundred bucks, but well worth it!!!

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  7. Mmm...sausage, onion, and garlic. I haven't tried that combination, but it sounds delicious. Might have to give that one a shot next time I'm there. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  8. It is VERY good!!! Thin sliced red onion, minced garlic throughout... And of course that awesome sausage! Do give it a try!

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  9. Let me know when you try it! To me and my girl, there is no such thing as too much Garlic!

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  10. (Mike Devine)//New Haven rules, I was born there and I'm biased as all get out. The entire New Haven area is blessed with great pizza, Zuppardi's in West Haven to name just one. Apizza Scholls is a 265 mile round trip for me but I make it 3 times a year.Brian and his crew are in the New Haven mold and the appetizers are killer. Apizza Scholls in the top 5 in the country, sure why not, they take a great deal of pride in their product.

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  11. Zuppardi's is IMO, HANDS DOWN, the best pizza in New Haven. However, while its MADE in New Haven, the style is strangly NOT new haven.

    I believe they cook at a FAR lower temp than the coal and oil fired ovens of P, S and M. The pizza takes a good deal better than 10 minutes to come out of the gas fired deck ovens. The crust is far more consistant in color, which, to me indicates a lower temp. But, the pizzas are truly amazing.. the homemade sausage is unreal, and the clams for the clam pizza is OPENED TO ORDER. I wish they wouldn't rinse off the liqour, but hey....their clam pie is far superior to Pepes. A MUST try if you ever get to NH.

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    1. I'm still dying to go to New Haven, not sure if it'll happen in '13 or not, but I've got my fingers crossed. Thanks for checking out the blog!

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  12. I love Apizza Scholls! I haven't had too many steller pizzas growing up in Sitka, Alaska. I've lived in the Portland for about 13 yrs. now. I used to think Flyig Pie was the pennacle for the Portland area. I found out I was mistaken about 4 yrs. ago when I first tried Scholls.

    The only other pizza I've had that can compare was in Pa'ai, HI at the Flatbread Company. Their Mopsy's Kalua Pork is a homerun IMO. Kiawe smoked free-range pork shoulder, homemade organic mango BBQ
    sauce, organic red onions, Maui pineapple, their blend of Hawaiian goat cheeses, premium whole milk mozzarella, imported Parmesan cheese and their organic herb mix.

    If you're ever in Maui you got to go.

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  13. I love Apizza Scholls! I haven't had too many steller pizzas growing up in Sitka.

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