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.
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.
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.