An alum of culinary icon Nancy Silverton’s Roman-style pizzeria is now slinging New York-style pizzas in Portland. Early this June, Pizza Thief and Bandit Bar — a sibling restaurant and bar connected by an archway — opened in Slabtown, serving naturally leavened sourdough pizzas and cocktails with house-made syrups, respectively, sharing a building and an ownership team.
Occupying the former Acapulco Gold space, Pizza Thief and Bandit Bar are almost unrecognizable. The space was completely gutted, with the only reminders of its former tenant provided by a leftover painting that hangs on the wall and the “Acapulco Gold” cocktail. Pizza Thief is an open space, brightly painted to create a vibrant atmosphere, while the neighboring Bandit Bar has a moodier vibe. Both share a hallway and a modern and industrial feel, with high exposed wood ceilings and murals by Eric Junker.
Back in 2018, best friends Darby Aldaco and Tony Pasquale formulated a plan to bring a cocktail lounge and pizzeria to Northwest Portland. Aldaco is a baker and pastry chef, most recently the executive chef for Nancy Silverton’s Triple Beam. Pasquale has lived in Portland for 10 years with a retail and business background, including a stint at Adidas. While working at the Montgomery Park location, Pasquale noticed the former Acapulco Gold space was available; he called Aldaco in Los Angeles, and they jumped on it, slowly transforming the abandoned space into their pizzeria and bar over the last year and a half.
Creating the pizza dough for Pizza Thief has also been a labor of love. Throughout the pandemic, Aldaco would drive up from California on a weekly basis to check on the starter, which they had nicknamed Tonya HARDing White — the dough is a 100 percent whole grain, naturally leavened sourdough that ferments for 48 hours, made with rye and hard white flours from Camas Country Mill; the rye flour adds a distinct nuttiness that stands up to the tang of the sourdough. Aldaco then bakes his pies in an electric deck oven at around 800 degrees to ensure a nice crumb.
Those pies come topped with produce from local farmers markets and companies like Pacific Coast Fruit, as well as things like house-made fennel sausage, Italian cheeses, and mushroom cream sauce. Patrons looking for classic pies will find standards like cheese and pepperoni pizzas, given a little extra oomph with Fior Di Latte and Sicilian oregano. Pizza Thief is also serving rye hand pies and triple chocolate hazelnut cookies, to round out the menu. Pizza Thief will offer cans of beer, glasses and bottles of Italian and local wines, with an emphasis on natural wines; the restaurant shares a wine list with its neighbor, Bandit Bar.
Bandit Bar is similarly thoughtful in its approach to drinks: all the syrups and tonics are made in-house, all with bandit-themed names like “Smoking Gun” or “The Sting.” Pasquale and Aldaco wanted the cocktails bar to balance savory and sweet flavors throughout, even in simple drinks; for instance, the Smoking Gun comes with mezcal, house-made hibiscus syrup, lime, and cardamom, while the “The Sting” tempers the sweetness of the rum and honey with the egg white, lime, and bitters. Ingredients from Pizza Thief are incorporated into the bar’s cocktails, as well, like the ‘sour hand pie’ made with rhubarb-raspberry syrup from the hand pie filling, or the chilies used in the ‘bloody bandit mix.’ Bandit Bar has ten local beers on draft, from breweries like Great Notion, Wayfinder, Breakside, and Hood River’s Ferment; the bar also currently pours ciders from Bauman’s Cider Company. For those unwilling to schlep the few feet to Pizza Thief after getting a drink, Bandit Bar will serve a selection of Pizza Thief’s pies on the bar’s food menu, as well as meatballs and a charcuterie board.
Both Pizza Thief and Bandit Bar are counter service and open Thursdays through Mondays at 2610 Northwest Vaughn Street.