For decades, Chicagoans have visited bars and eaten what they call tavern-style pizza: A thin-crusted, crispy, borderline cracker-eque round pie cut into squares. It’s a phenomenon throughout the Midwest; many — including Eater Chicago’s Ashok Selvam — argue that Chicago’s tavern-style pies are more Chicago than the ubiquitous deep-dish, set aside for special occasions or tourists. Tavern-style pizza, on the other hand, is weeknight pizza, the stuff the locals eat on a Friday night.
Portland has several pies represented within city limits: Neapolitan, Detroit-style, Sicilian squares, even something similar to New Haven’s famous apizza. Chicago deep-dish can be found at places like The Star and Via Chicago. But until Jerry Benedetto began hawking square-cut pies via Instagram, it was difficult to find tavern-style pizza within Portland, outside of places like Bridge City. Benedetto’s Instagram, @JerrysPizzaPDX, became an absolute sensation among Midwestern expats and pizza aficionados and the waiting list for pies exceeded a year in length. But soon, Benedetto will move into a real-deal tavern to sell his tavern-style pies: Starting May 17, Jerry’s Pizza will operate out of the Bear Paw Inn, the Southeast Portland bar, Willamette Week first reported. The long-term goal is that customers will be able to order beverages from the bar and order pizzas from Jerry’s.
The magic in Benedetto’s pies starts with the crust: He cooks his well-done, crispy but also chewy, so someone can pick it up and the piece stays rigid. “When I’m back in Chicago, some people over-cheese and undercook,” he says. “Then it’s a greasy flop; it’s gross.” From there, he adds a touch of his Grandma Pat’s tomato sauce as a base, and just enough cheese. For the first two weeks, customers can pick up pre-ordered pies from the pizzeria while Benedetto settles in. Benedetto plans to offer a handful of signature pies with add-on toppings: Ones topped with his house fennel sausage, mushrooms, and pepperoni. He’s also playing with adding more pizzas down the line: ones topped with his house giardiniera and Italian beef; his version of a traditional supreme; a number with jalapenos, pepperoni, and garlic. He’ll stock two-litres of RC Cola, too, a family tradition, and may start packaging up jars of his giardiniera to take home.
For now, all of Jerry’s pre-order slots are sold out for the first two weeks; Benedetto plans to add another week’s worth of pre-order slots to the website at 7 a.m. on May 28. “I’m literally one person doing everything. I’m thinking of hiring someone two weeks in, but I want to see if I can do it myself,” he says. “The thing I’m doing isn’t a normal brick and mortar, but... I get to do it the way I want to do it.”
Updated May 14, 2021, at 1:10 p.m.
This story was updated to include more information about Jerry’s opening date.
Follow along on Instagram for more details.
• Jerry’s Pizza [Instagram]
• Chicago’s Tavern-Style Pizza Reigns Supreme [ECHI]
• No Restaurant? No Problem: Chefs Have Found a Certain Freedom in Selling Meals on Instagram. [EPDX]
• Portland’s Most Anticipated Restaurant and Bar Openings for 2021 [EPDX]