Despite the strange name, Apizza Scholls delivers a pizza that made us homesick for Rome. Too bad we couldn’t walk there as we might have done in Rome.
On a cold and rainy Saturday night, we dressed warmly and dodged roads that were closed due to a snow-and-ice storm earlier in the week. (Burnside and Barnes, I’m talking about you!) Even three days after the weather “event,” due to downed trees and a landslide, we were routed strangely from our son’s home on Portland’s far west side to Portland east side where Apizza Scholls set up shop in 2005. It was through-the-woods-and-over-the-river in this case.
Part of the waiting area, 5:15 pm Saturday night.
Having skipped lunch for a reason I have forgotten, and unable to obtain a reservation, we went for a “late lunch” as Apizza Scholls opens at the very unItalian hour of 5:00 pm. Thanks to the detour, our trip took longer than it should have and we missed the first wave of seating. Luckily, APS has a large and comfy waiting area where they will serve you a drink while you wait. By 5:45 pm we were halfway through a large glass of decent Sangiovese and seated at the bar — first available seating — contemplating our options.
The staff is amazingly nice without trying to be your BFF. Despite the constant pressure of people arriving, a steady waiting list, take out orders, and decidedly soggy conditions outdoors, they were calm, warm, welcoming and helpful. We were seated more quickly than promised and as the menu is small, it did not take long to decide. Food arrived promptly but we never felt rushed.
Sausage and Mama may sound a bit precocious, but those are simply the ingredients. We added anchovies which were perfect, not too salty, and large.
Although there is an 11-inch pie available at lunch Saturday and Sunday, in the evenings the pies are definitely for sharing, unlike those in Italy. The dinner pizza is 18-inches and pizza aficionados that we are we could only eat half. I think it is safe to say one pizza would serve four normal appetites. Although we did not indulge, the salads we saw were generous and looked tasty. There are also a handful of antipasti and the salads can be served in the bar waiting area to keep you from gnawing your arm off during a long wait.
The pizza is billed as New Haven-New York style. Not being East-Coasters, we cannot really relate to that. In Italy, there’s Pizza Napolitana such as at Al Forno della Soffitta. There is also Pizza Romana which Da Remo does perfectly. In a class by itself, and billed as neither Napolitana nor Romana, is Pizzeria Dar Poeta in Trastevere. Finally, we have pinsa-style which is the genre of another favorite of OWP at La Pratolina.
The waiting area is about 20% of the restaurant. There is also a video game room to keep your kids — or you — entertained during the wait.
Our pie at Apizza Scholls was Italian-ish, closer to Neapolitan-style. The toppings are limited: no more than three per pizza so as to not compromise the dough. We like simple and Italian pizzas are always quite limited in ingredients, so the limitation did not hinder us. APS does allow one to Build-Your-Own but the menu selections are creative and excellent. We chose the “Sausage and Mama” with Mama Lil’s Kick Butt goat horn peppers and added anchovies (aka, alici). We were delighted. The mozzarella is the nice gooey, melty stuff and the sauce had some flavor. The sausage is American-style Italian sausage which suits us as there is some flavor beyond pork. (All you get on a sausage pizza in Italy is plain pork sausage.)
Our view at dinner, the back of the bar. Sitting on stools at the bar is not my favorite thing to do, but it was the fastest route to food. Service was excellent.
Much to our surprise, although the pizza looked as though it came from a wood-fired oven, APS employs a 700 degree Fahrenheit Baker’s Pride pizza oven. This gave the crust the characteristic char, but not the subtle smokiness of a pie baked in a wood oven.
Wines by the glass favor Italy, which suits us. The house Sangiovese was a good choice and the pour ample. As with any half-decent Portland restaurant, there are several interesting beer choices.
This is a good spot and we will be back. I love that you CAN make reservations online. In fact as late as 3:00 pm Friday I could have gotten a table that same evening, but all of the 2-person reservations had been taken for Saturday. Next time we’ll reserve a few days in advance, just as we used to for La Pratolina.
The dining room at Apizza Scholls. Very casual, very Portland, suited to what is usually a pretty quick meal.
Pizza Quality: 3 Outstanding ingredients, a fine crust, and some creative toppings. Note this is not an Italian 3 but denotes one of the best pizzas we’ve had in the U.S. It isn’t really fair to put American pizza, no matter how good, on the same scale as a pizzeria in Italy.
Service: 3 So friendly without being patronizing. Just nice people, very efficient and genuinely warm and welcoming even on an overflow Saturday night.
Ambiance: 3 Casual, comfortable, warm and Portlandesque, and although nothing extraordinary, the generous waiting area is a bonus.
Total Points: 9
Returnability: The Best! Well-worth the trip across town in the rain.