While Alejandro Preciado was working the line at the now-closed Tuscan spot Burrasca, he made pizza every Friday for staff meal — but his pies weren’t the standard Neapolitan. Instead, he used a light and puffy crescentine as a jumping off point, one of the many doughs he proofed, rolled, and kneaded at the Southeast Portland restaurant. After he left the Burrasca kitchen, he decided to keep the tradition going: Each Friday, he would make nonna-style pies for his friends and family in Salem, topped with things like garlic bechamel and tocino pepperoni. After a while, more people outside his inner circle began reaching out, wanting in on the weekly pies. He started selling the pizzas as a pandemic-era pop-up he called the Precious Pizza Project, or P3, taking orders through Instagram and passing off pizzas to customers at the Salem coffee shop Ike Box.
The pop-up was a hit: the Statesman Journal called P3 “Salem’s best new pizza place,” praising its “furrows of sweet tomato sauce and estuaries of melty cheese.” Soon, Portlanders will be able to try Preciado’s pies at a Barley Pod cart, serving nonna pies topped with fistfuls of basil and hot honey.
Preciado’s pan pizzas start with a dough made with all-purpose and bread flours, which proof for around 7 to 8 hours — that’s a short window by some of Portland’s sourdough and Neapolitan pie aficionados’ standards, but it’s a lengthy time period for a traditional nonna pie, which can proof for as little as 40 minutes. “If you’re thinking of a nonna-style pizza, those grandmothers don’t have time to be making a dough that proofs for three days,” he says. “They’ve got to feed their families.”
From there, Preciado likes to keep his pies simple: He smothers pizzas with a layer of pomodoro, mozzarella, and parmigiano. His standard cheese gets the addition of a hearty dose of basil (“We go crazy with the basil because I love it so much,” he says), and he offers a pepperoni-basil for meat-eaters. Precious Pizza’s third stalwart is the Spicy Pineapple Papi, a pepperoni-pineapple-jalapeño pie drizzled with his house-made hot honey bolstered with habaneros and other dried chiles. “It’s kind of an ode to my dad,” he says. “My dad doesn’t really eat pizza, but when we were kids he’d like to order pepperoni and pineapple on his pizza.”
At the cart, Preciado will sell those three pies, as well as a rotating special; past pop-up specials have involved combinations like blue cheese and Bosc pear, spicy garlic sausage and sweet onion, and garlic mushrooms and black olives. Preciado will round out the menu with garlic knots and cart-made hot honey and ranch for dunking and dousing.
Precious Pizza’s cart should open within the Barley Pod, 6035 NE Halsey Street, before August ends; follow the cart’s Instagram for more information.
• Precious Pizza [Instagram]
• P3 — Precious Pizza Project [Instagram]
• P3, Salem’s best new pizza place, is a delivery only pop-up, at least for now [SJ]