|The 18" masterpiece at Apizza Scholls|
Apizza Scholls is about 4 miles west on Hawthorne Boulevard. The cab ride was fascinating and I wish I had time to walk the entire stretch, because the businesses lining the boulevard had much in common with the opening credits of Portlandia. The neo-hippie counterculture is well represented by one funky independent shop or restaurant after another. Portland is mostly free of the cookie-cutter chains that make most American towns look the same.
|Photo from http://portland.daveknows.org/|
Apizza Scholls is housed in a modest craftsman-style building, with two separate entrances. It had immediate charm upon entering, with several booths visible along a small but lovely wood bar. As anticipated, there was a wait for tables, but not a line out on the street. We were able to order some wine and beer, and either stand at the bar (no seats there) or grab one of the padded benches in the front foyer area. If you have to wait for your pie, this is pretty pleasant.
|Bar and booths|
Apizza Scholls is noted for its brusque service, but our bar man was pleasant and helpful, taking his time to help us choose beverages and offering to add our drink costs to our dinner tab. Likewise, later that night our server was warm and friendly and so much in command that he seemed like an owner.
The barkeep had accurately forecast our 45-60 minute wait time on this Sunday evening, and during that time, we saw several late-arriving diners turned away.
|The bar in room two|
|Dining area in room two|
When our name was called, we were instructed to exit the building and re-enter a separate dining area two doors down. Here was another dining room with tables instead of booths, a cozy bar with perhaps six stools, and a view to the kitchen.
By the evidence available from online accounts, and the very name "Apizza," this promised to be a New Haven Connecticut kind of pizza experience, not a neo-hippie alternative take. Thus, we opted for one of their house pies, a simple tomato pie with house-made sausage. I was encouraged by their prohibition of more than three toppings; it seemed to indicate that they know that an overloaded pizza is a wet sloppy mess.
At the bar, I had enjoyed a lovely pint of a local brew. With my dinner, I cold not resist the Anchor Steam on tap; it was delicious.
The pizza arrived soon, and its 18" span was impressive. As I pulled away a slice, a bit of cheese and sauce stayed behind, indicating that it was a little overloaded in the center. The east-coast traditional crust was medium-thin, with some crunch and some chew, but I did need to eat the first few bites with knife and fork.
Everything about this pie - the crisp, chewy, foldable crust, the red sauce, and the cheese - was east coast style. You'd find this pie completely at home in Trenton NJ, in New York, in New Haven. By the time I got to the middle of each slice, I could pick it up and eat it properly (no folding!) and it was impeccably balanced.
While both the cheese and red sauce were tasty (if applied just a tad more heavily than ideal), they were the necessary role players on this pie. The crust, as it should be, was the star. Deep golden brown, with an artistic leopard spotting on the underside lending texture and flavor.
|In the oven room|
Crust, cheese, sauce -- these alone made this a terrific pie, but it reached a new level with the house-made sausage. I've long been a fan of authentic rough chunks of real Italian sausage on pizza. To this point, no one had done it better than DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies (review HERE), but the sausage on this apizza is the New Number One.
It share the same rough-chunk size and texture as DeLorenzo's, but instead of fennel flavoring, it had garlic overtones that permeated the entire pie. Classic crust, balanced sauce and cheese, then punctuated with this savory punch of salty, greasy, garlicky sausage. Heavenly.
|Just so that you don't forget you are in Portland, deliberately tacky bad art in abundance on the walls of the unisex bathroom|
The crust earns a 9, the sauce and cheese about 7.5, the sausage is a 10. Overall, this pie is a 9 and stands right up to the stars of New Haven, even if I might have a tiny preference for Sally's (review HERE) or Frank Pepe's (review HERE) for their thinner, crisper renditions. But there really is no point to quibble. Who would have expected to find this classic old-school pie in Portland, the town where the only tradition is no tradition?