Friday, November 13, 2009

Impressions: Pizzicato

Various Locations

In the realm of local pizza chains, Portland's got a few: Pizza Schmizza, Hot Lips, and Pizzicato spring most readily to mind. I'm naturally inclined to expect pizza below the caliber of Portland's best from them, but considering the franchising and sheer volume these chains put out, I don't think that's unreasonable.

Sometimes, though, you just don't feel like waiting in line for pizza.

This was the case last night when I was craving pizza but really wasn't up to the physical drain that came with waiting for a table at the uber-popular Ken's Artisan. No, last night was all about picking up the phone, calling my local Pizzicato (only a few blocks away!) and ordering a large cheese pizza ($17) which I could pick up in only 20 minutes.

Pizzicato was established in Portland in 1989 (good year for music!) and has since blossomed to 23 locations, including one in Denver, Colorado of all places. Pizzas come in small (10"), medium (12"), and large (16") sizes, and often come with a wide variety of toppings, such as barbecued chicken, artichoke hearts, and garlic-marinated shrimp. Tonight, though, I stuck with the simple plain pie. As soon as I got it home I flipped open the box, snapped a few shots, then dug in while it was still hot.

It becomes pretty clear early on that Pizzicato is striving to replicate a NY slice with their pies. The crust is dense, chewy on the inside but crispy on the outside, and dusted with cornmeal, presumable to slide it into and out of the gas-heated ovens more easily. I don't really walk into places like Pizzicato expecting char, and apart from some browning on the bottom of the pizza, there isn't any. No matter; char is hardly necessary on a NY-style slice.

The tangy, heavily-salted tomato sauce hides beneath a layer of salty aged mozzarella, salty grated parmesan, and what the Pizzicato menu calls "herbs," which as far as I could tell consisted primarily of finely-chopped bits of parsley and maybe some oregano. Tough to say, as the herbs held virtually no flavor as far as I could tell.

So how does it taste? Decent, actually. Nothing amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but a pretty standard NY-style slice nonetheless. I've had better, and I've had worse. As you may have surmised, the pizza is a tad on the salty side, but that's a good thing, because without the salt this pizza probably wouldn't taste like anything. The dough used for the crust is almost completely devoid of flavor, standard for this type of pizza. I had mistakenly presumed it was mass-produced in a Pizzicato warehouse somewhere, but an employee (see the comments below) informed me that it's actually made fresh everyday, which I do appreciate.

That's really all I have to say about it. It's hardly the worst pizza in town, and if you're throwing a party and need some pies to feed the hungry masses, Pizzicato is more than up to the task, though I do think they charge a bit much for what they're offering. Okay, yes, they overcharge. I haven't tried Hot Lips or Pizza Schmizza yet, but once I have, I'll decide which is the best of the local chains. Until then, I have some leftover slices to attend to...



  1. I've found Pizzicato's pies increase in deliciousness the more toppings you put on it. The crust's texture feels like it's been pre-made, possibly frozen. Not a fan myself.

    My experiences with Hot Lips have varied drastically. Oddly I've found their reheated slices to be significantly better than a fresh pie. The one fresh pizza I had was truly awful.

    Only had one slice from Schmizza, but I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. Thanks for the input, Flushy. I'll get to Hot Lips and Pizza Schmizza in time, but I've heard from numerous sources that Schmizza is the way to go.

    And I'm sure Pizzicato's dough, while not frozen, is probably mass-produced in some factory with preservatives aplenty to ship to their many franchise locations. That'd be my guess anyway, based on the taste and texture.

  3. We love us some Hot Lips. Been a fan since I was a young girl and my mom was in college at PSU and would bring us home some slices.

    I like to get 1/2 Veggie Nirvana and 1/2 Omnivore's Bliss with extra sauce. Yummmm!

  4. @LadyConcierge: I'm all about eating omnivore. I've also heard Hot Lips' sodas are delicious.

  5. Hey Adam! I happen to know that Pizzicato uses gas ovens, not electric. The restaurants make their dough fresh every day in the stores (no mass production) and use fresh ingredients and home made dressings. The owners are local here in Portland and there are no factories producing anything to the franchisees. I totally respect your right to give your opinion, just please research the facts as it will give your reviews more credibility. Happy eating and best of luck with your blog!

  6. Thanks for the info, Pizza lover. I have changed the "electric deck" to "gas" per your information.

    Might I ask how you know that the Pizzicato corporation does not send out pre-made ingredients to its franchises? I don't mean to sound skeptical, because I'm willing to take you for your word, but I cannot deny that nothing about the pizzas at Pizzicato taste fresh or homemade to this palate.

    And out of curiosity, what are these "Home made dressings" you're talking about?

  7. I work there and all of the ingredients are definitely all made fresh. The chicken is cooked marinated/cooked in store, and the dough is made fresh. I must say, though, to judge pizzicato on just their cheese pizza is missing out on the point of this pizza place. It's not my favorite pizza, but it's darn good stuff. We are very strict with cleanliness, and we try to do things differently here. I've never worked in a pizza place before this, but it's an interesting experience for sure.

    There are very few things that are not "fresh" such as the frozen shrimp that we must defrost. One thing I don't like about the food is the boring salad dressings. Sorry, but none of them really do anything for me, and they're all relatively unhealthy tasting, if that makes any sense. I want a light balsamic, not a creamy red mess.

    Overall, though, quality of the food is top notch.

  8. Thanks for your response. To be fair, most of my write-ups are just "impressions" and not final reviews (hence the word "Impressions" preceding most of the headers). The only places I've actually "reviewed" are Ken's Artisan Pizza and Apizza Scholls, and only because I've tried nearly everything on their menus.

    I appreciate your insider's knowledge, though. I am going to adjust the write-up to note that the dough is made fresh everyday. I still stand by my comment that the crust doesn't really taste like anything. That said, it's still totally decent NY-style pizza, and I still swing in here from time to time!

  9. Mmmm looks like Jets pizza with a different box designer! Love the minimal use of ink on a blank box. This along with the typeface make for an elegant branding. Love the recycle highlight--GO PORTLAND! Too bad the pizza isn't as nicely crafted as it's container. Better luck next time.

  10. @Slumber Party: Yeah, it's not terrible by any means, just right-in-the-middle-mediocre. It'll do in a pinch, though.

  11. Pizzicato has been in the business for so long now and it's somewhat surprising to know that there are some who weren’t satisfied with their pizzas. Well, since there are a lot of pizza chains around the corner, all with different pizza flavors, but in the end, it’s all just a matter of preference.

  12. Thanks! I was looking for this kind of information for some time and finally found it here – best regards!