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...