Some people would argue that the best pizzas in the U.S. are found in New York. But for Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya, authors of the upcoming encyclopedic Modernist Pizza, the honor of best pizza city in the country goes to Portland.
Set to be released in October, Modernist Pizza is a definitive three-volume guide to all things pizza. Spanning 1,708 pages, it is a culmination of exhaustive research, travel, and experiments to collect and advance the world’s knowledge of pizza. Though it features 1,016 pizza recipes, Modernist Pizza is much more than a cookbook. It’s an indispensable resource for anyone who not only loves to eat pizza but is also interested in the science, stories, cultures, and history behind it.
In an interview with CNN Travel, Myhrvold ― who served as the chief technology officer at Microsoft from 1996 to 2000 ― revealed that it took them almost four years to complete the books. He went on to share that they visited 250 pizzerias all over the world as part of their research and managed to wrap up their pizza tour before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.
In addition to Portland, New York, and Chicago, the Modernist Pizza team also went to the following U.S. cities and towns to make their pizza comparisons: Detroit; Los Angeles; New Jersey; Connecticut; Old Forge, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois; San Francisco; Seattle; and St. Louis.
Myhrvold admitted that he didn’t expect Portland to win the title of best pizza city in the U.S. at the start of their research. “We knew Portland had undergone a foodie Renaissance of sorts in the last 20 years. But I didn’t particularly think that pizza was going to be as good there as many [other] places.”
Ultimately, Portland stood out among all the places considered because of its innovation and passion to deliver the best.
The Modernist Pizza team credited Apizza Scholls and Ken’s Artisan Pizza for jump-starting the quality pizza scene in Portland. “If you’ve got a really good role model, that helps, versus other places where the pizza’s terrible,” commented Myhrvold, who initially thought that the two artisan places would be it for Portland. “But that wasn’t it at all. There’s just a huge, vibrant community of people making great pizza.”
The following are the pizza places in Portland that received specials nods in Modernist Pizza.
- Apizza Scholls: 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97215
- Ken’s Artisan Pizza: 304 SE 28th Ave., Portland, OR 97214
- Lovely’s Fifty Fifty: 4039 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, OR 97217
- Handsome Pizza: 1603 NE Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97211
- Nostrana: 1401 SE Morrison St. Ste. 101, Portland, OR 97214
- Red Sauce Pizza: 4641 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR 97213
- Scottie’s Pizza Parlor: 2128 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97202
- Sizzle Pie: 926 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97205 and other locations
According to Myhrvold, there’s no one style that defines Portland pizza. But most pizza restaurants in the city have a strong emphasis on quality ingredients and are driven by creativity and “people wanting to do a great job.”
“In general, where you find good food, you find some obsessed person who is trying their damnedest to make their food the best they can,” said Myhrvold.
New York didn’t bring home the title because the Modernist Pizza team finds the pizza scene in the city relying way too much on tradition instead of trying to come up with the best pies possible.
“Most of the old-school New York ones aren’t that great, which is also part of our general finding around the world: famous old pizzerias are not up to their reputation,” Myhrvold explained. So if you go to a place in New York, and they say, ‘We’ve been doing this for 50 years’ — UH-OH!”