Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Impressions: La Pizza Pela

La Pizza Pela
Hillsboro & Lake Oswego Farmers Markets
(503) 913-6892

(photos by Adam Lindsley)

As pizza madness continues its unprecedented sweep across the country, the number of mobile kitchens offering product as good as what's being served in brick-and-mortar establishments has increased exponentially, most notably so in northern Oregon. Joining the ranks of colleagues such as Pyro Pizza and Wy'east, La Pizza Pela is a welcome addition to Portland's ever-expanding list of micro-pizzerias.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Owner/pizzaiolo Bill Jensen is based out of Wilsonville, but those of us who don't always feel like making the half-hour drive down I-5 can count ourselves lucky, because he's slinging his pies at two farmers markets in the metropolitan area: Saturdays at the Lake Oswego market and Wednesdays at the Hillsboro/Tanasbourne one. His freestanding wood-burning oven is a Mario Batali-designed model from Chicago Brick Oven, and reaches temperatures in the high 700s.

That heat does a fine job of blistering the blistering the pizza's cornicione, as seen in the photo above of the Margherita ($10 whole pie/$6 half). While it doesn't offer much in the way of char on the bottom of the pizza, it by no means leaves it undercooked. Rather, it has a nice crispness to it, as does the outer rim, which gives way to a soft, springy crumb. 

Jensen's dough uses a cold-rise fermentation that gives it more complexity of flavor than one made on the spot, though he adjusts the rise time based on the current weather and temperature (weather forecasts be damned). His crust is the first I've tasted in quite a while that was properly salted. The rest of the pie is also generously salted, which shows real care on the part of the pizzaiolo. The fresh mozzarella in particular is very good, creamy and gooey and far from bland.

If there was a weak aspect to the Margherita, it was the simple tomato sauce, made from California-grown tomatoes. It just wasn't all that bright. My half-pizza could have used more of it, too, though that's really a personal preference. That said, it's not a bad sauce, and I've tasted much worse, and much blander (see my impressions of Marcello, for instance). Flavor is made up in the liberal application of torn basil leaves to the pie after it has been removed from the oven. This was the most prominent basil flavor I think I have ever tasted on a Margherita. Somehow, the oils on the basil leaves managed to spread throughout the entire half of my pizza, so much so that I even tasted it on the bites on which no basil was present. So few pizzaioli put much effort into even basil distribution, but on this particular Margherita, it was perfect. Or maybe it's just magic basil.

The second half-pie I tried was the Spinach & Ricotta pizza ($12 whole/$7 half). On the Margherita's same base of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, crunchy spinach (fresh, thank God, not the nasty canned stuff) and large chunks of ricotta are piled on in abundance, along with thin slivers of garlic that bring a pleasurable sweetness to the pizza. The ricotta deserves special mention. It boasts a marvelous milky flavor with a smooth mouthfeel, lacking the grittiness of the ricotta that usually ends up on pizzas.

Bill Jensen & Co. are putting out very fine pies here at their La Pizza Pela stands, so I suggest tasting their wares if you happen to be at one of the aforementioned farmers markets or find yourself in Wilsonville. This is a guy who really, really loves pizza, and his pies are exemplary. Cart pizza done right.

...Though I suppose La Pizza Pela isn't technically a cart. Mobile pizza done right. There we go.

OVEN: Wood


Magic basil???


  1. You now can get La pizza pela at Gusto Bistro & Marketplace in downtown Lake Oswego on Saturdays! Bill brings his oven and expertise and serves up these fantastic pies.

  2. @Helene: Nice! Gusto Bistro makes some good sandwiches, too.

  3. Schedule update for La Pizza Pela. We do the Lake Oswego Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM, may not be back at Gusto's until the Fall...stay posted. (Thanks Helene!) And on Tuesdays were at the OHSU Farmers Market from 11 AM to 3 PM, and of course Friday nights at the Tualatin Farmers Market from 4 PM to 8 PM.

    Slated to do the Wednesday night music at Foothills park this July too! Come hungry, talk pizza, leave enlightened.

    Thanks for the vine Adam!

    Bill Jensen.