Apizza Scholls: Sharing Philosophy + Falling Short of Pantheon

Pizzeria Portland

Apizza Scholls is a noteworthy pizzeria in SE Portland.

SE Hawthorne Boulevard was supposed to lead to the pizza pantheon. Other routes have included Wooster Street in New Haven, Hudson Street in Trenton, East Adams in Phoenix and East 12th Street in Manhattan. The pizzas that Brian Spangler and wife Kim Nyland produced in SE Portland didn’t lead me to the pantheon, but their pies are still worth discussing.

Apizza Scholls doesn’t take reservations, so we grabbed a drink in their dining room, drawing from a pretty strong beer list with plenty of local offerings. The space itself was uninspired, with carpeted floors and no oven in sight. Nothing indicated that we were eating in a revered pizzeria.

Spangler and Nyland certainly talk the pizza talk. Their menu features a grandiose pizza treatise, touting their “life long quest to the perfection of pizza, to never take shortcuts and to make the pizza the way that it has been for hundreds of years.” They limit their dough to flour, water, salt and yeast, fermenting the mix for 24 hours at room temperature.

In the pizza treatise, Spangler and Nyland claim their fresh-made dough has a “complexity in the texture, ranging from crackly + flaky, to soft + chewy.” They vouched that their pizza was cooked at high heat, leading to “a superficial char, taking on a smoky + caramelized set of flavors.” Finally, they wrote, “We do not use any products that have been frozen, shredded or pre-sliced.” These are all encouraging markers, but as we soon learned, philosophy alone isn’t enough to produce great pizza.


Pizza Portland

We started with a 50/50 split of Apizza Margherita ($20) and Coastal ($22). Apizza Scholls’ Margherita consists of tomato sauce, mozzarella (whole milk + fresh), pecorino Romano, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. The Coastal is identical, with overpoweringly salty Scalia anchovies imported from Italy.

Ingredients were clearly high quality, and the sauce had pretty good acidity, but the crust was bone dry, not springy or dynamic in the least. Also, the middle of the pies became floppy. None of the pies touted crusts that could support the toppings.

Pizza Portland

Bacon Bianca ($22) supported whole milk mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and strips of house-made bacon. This was an interesting take on a white pizza, since sauceless pies normally don’t host meat. The bacon itself was thin sliced and flavorful, and Spangler clearly didn’t skimp on the garlic, which is a good thing. Still, I had the same issue with this pie. The center was limp and the crust wasn’t worth eating.

Pizza Portland

Sausage ($20) was the best pie for my taste, with blistered cheese, zesty sauce and coarse crumbled house-made sausage. Sadly, the crust was a letdown yet again.

Was it worth trying Apizza Scholls? Absolutely. Some of the flavors were bold. Unfortunately, some of the flavors were too bold. Due to the disappointing crust, Apizza Scholls won’t go on my Margherita Mount Rushmore, but the restaurant is worth trying as long as you don’t have to wait.

Apizza Scholls: Sharing Philosophy + Falling Short of Pantheon

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Reading this review in sheer disbelief. I think it’s time for a return visit and an update to see if your feelings have changed. The crust has only improved and I doubt you will find much to quibble with.

Reply

charles reinhart company

[…] … goes head to head with the neurotic Charles Dodgson better known as ALICE IN WONDERLAND …Food GPS Apizza Scholls – Portland, OR – March 5, 2009Chris Bianco, Peter Reinhart and Ed Levine all told me it was some of the best crust they … foods […]

Brian,

Thanks for the passion and artistry you put into the art of pizzamaking. I have the same respect for food and am currently trying to achieve my version of the perfect pizza crust. I went to college on in New York and spent many of those formative years living off pizza. I thought NYC was the epicenter of pizza in America, until a recent trip to Pepe’s in New Haven, CT. My boyfriend went to college in New Haven and raved about the likes of Pepes, Sallys and the Modern. He said it was like none other and was driving me crazy, so I finally gave in and we both made a homage back to New York and New Haven for a “pizza tour.” Yes, pizza is personal. You say tomato I say tomAHto. But I would have to say that the best pizza I’ve ever had (to date) was from Pepe’s. So good, that we went back on the same day for more pie. I’ve been researching and experimenting with pizza dough ever since to achieve a similar crust. I am getting close, but with a conventional oven that only gets up to 550; it’s difficult if not impossible to do. Another reason for my obsession is that I have a dream of opening a pizzeria (APIZZA) of my own in Minneapolis. People are starting to respect the art of pizza making around here more and more, but I still can’t find the pizza I want to eat. SO, if you can’t find it, create it. I want to make New Haven style pizza and bring it to the good people of Minnesota. They have no idea what they are missing.

I’ve read alot about Apizza Scholls and think you really have the right idea. I truly respect your philosophy for pizza making (and family vacation time)! Long story short, I am in the early stages of putting together a business plan and scouting locations for my version of a small family run pizzeria and would love to speak further with you about how you turned your dream into reality. I have many questions about dough, fermentation, ovens…..and why are most pizzaiolos men? I’d even love to spend a couple weeks in Portland and be your apprentice… will work for free! I hope to hear from you.

Best,
Ann Kim

On another note, that you and your readers might find interesting, we sometimes are dealt a hand that is hard to play. Chris Bianco and I were talking last week about how some lots of flour are not very forgiving and there is only so much we can do. Mother nature is in a little more control than we are, most of the time, and all we can do is use our knowledge to guide it along the best we can. I have been given some pretty bizarre flour lately and just maybe you were the recipient of a bad hand that I had been dealt. Tis a humbling craft.

Again, no problemo and thanks for stopping by. I think I have a crust formula that you would go crazy for, and we may implement it in the future. More of your classic NY/CT style with higher gluten flour and a touch of olive oil. Gives you a softer ring with a bit more chew. I’ve given samples to my regulars, who don’t like it as much. Guess they, as most, find what they like and don’t want change.

Peace,
Brian Spangler

Sorry that you did not enjoy our crust. I personally like my crust crispy on the outside, or what you refer to as dry. That’s the great thing about pizza-there are a lot of different variations to please everyone’s palate. Chris Bianco, Peter Reinhart and Ed Levine all told me it was some of the best crust they ever had, but I understand that some, like yourself, enjoy a softer and chewier crust. Thanks for coming in and giving it a shot, though.

Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

Brian,

Thanks for responding. Pizza is highly personal and one of the most hotly debated foods in the U.S. I’m glad to hear that Bianco, Reinhart and Levine enjoyed your version. I wasn’t wild about the crust, but still think people should explore Apizza Scholls when visiting Portland. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t have covered Apizza Scholls at all. Also, considering that tastemakers like Levine were so complimentary, it probably would have been difficult to meet expectations.

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