Anthony Falco, the chef whose wood-fired pizzas helped put the Brooklyn restaurant Roberta’s — and its Bushwick neighborhood — on the map, was visiting Portland Wednesday, his second trip west in two weeks, this time to make pizza for the Feast Portland food and drink festival kick-off party at The Overlook House in North Portland.
Pulling out rounds of dough before a row of super-hot Easy Bake-sized Breville ovens, Falco explained that his pet theory was built in part behind visits to three of Portland’s best pizzerias: the classic East Coast-style Apizza Scholls, the seasonally-driven Lovely’s Fifty Fifty and the nerdy-fun slice shop Scottie’s. (For the record, those are, respectively, two of Portland’s very best restaurants and the city’s No. 2 slice shop.)
“It’s about the flour,” Falco said, “and the produce.” In Portland, pizzerias such as Scottie’s or Handsome make naturally leavened doughs using high-quality milled grains from the Pacific Northwest. (Contrast that with the bleached and bromated flours used at many Manhattan pie shops.) Others, most notably North Mississippi’s Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, are essential farm-to-table restaurants in their own right, places where the market-fresh produce, foraged mushrooms and pungent cheeses happen to be found on a pizza.
For the record, that International Pizza Consultant title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, though Falco does indeed travel the globe, sourdough starter stowed in his suitcase, helping restaurants set up their pizza programs. And his guanciale, wild mushroom and liquified triple cream cheese pizza was one of the best bites of the misty night, joining the caviar-topped Cool Ranch Doritos from Kachka and the salt-and-pepper fried everything from San Francisco’s Mister Jiu’s. Who better to make the call on Portland’s national pizza ranking?