Ten years ago, wife-husband team Emily and Scott Ketterman started their popular catering company, Crown Paella. At weddings and farmers markets, they would scrape the crispy socarrat from the base of paella pans the size of tires, crescents of shrimp and crab claws nestled in the rice. They had spent years at places like the now-closed Roux and Simpatica Dining Hall, and Crown Paella emerged as a natural next step. But before Scott Ketterman started working in Portland restaurants, he was thinking about pizza.
“When he first moved to Portland, it was before the pizza revolution really began here,” Emily Ketterman says. “He knew the guys at Apizza Scholls and Ken Artisan Pizza, talked about doing the pizza thing, but then went a different route.” Emily Ketterman says.
This month, the Kettermans will open a restaurant in honor of Scott’s initial Portland plan. Pizza Kat, set to open on West Burnside, will serve naturally leavened, Pacific Northwestern flour pies topped with house-made ricotta and mozzarella, alongside snacks like focaccia and a list of natural wines.
Pizza Kat’s pies start with a 24-hour, slow-fermented dough made with a foundation of flours from Camas Country Mill and Shepherd’s Grain, two of the Pacific Northwest’s top heritage flour mills. Those pies come topped with cheeses made by the couple themselves, like fresh mozzarella and ricotta, as well as things like house-made pickled peppers and sausage. A few of Pizza Kat’s pies will be their twists on pizzeria standards: For instance, the couple’s version of a Hawaiian comes with smoked ham, roasted pineapple, Aleppo pepper, and sweet onion. And, like Crown Paella, Pizza Kat will often serve rotating pies based on what produce is in season — the shop’s Dad Joke gets a slathering of a summer corn sauce with cherry tomatoes and basil. “It’s called the Dad Joke because it’s so corny,” Emily Ketterman says.
Beyond pizza, the restaurant will keep its sides simple: meatballs, a 85-percent-hydration focaccia for a crispy-chewy dough, and roasted vegetables like cauliflower with pickled cherries and pine nuts. Pizza Kat will offer beer and wine to-go, with a list including many natural wine producers, as well as a mysterious pre-batched cocktail the couple calls the Blue Dart — a secret recipe cocktail passed on to Scott from an old colleague.
In the years since the Kettermans started Crown Paella, they’ve talked about slowing down to open a restaurant, but customers kept booking up their summers for events and weddings. It wasn’t until the pandemic, when Crown Paella lost an entire year’s worth of scheduled event bookings, that the two were forced to re-evaluate. “It was as if the pause button was hit for us,” she says.
Pizza Kat will start with takeout and delivery exclusively, selling 12- and 18-inch pies as well as takeout cocktails and beverages; however, the couple hopes to open the 30-seat restaurant for indoor dining when it feels safer to do so. They also plan to transform the alley behind the restaurant into what Emily calls a “Lady and the Tramp alley,” with hanging lights for outdoor dining. “Within the area, there isn’t much for pizza,” Emily Ketterman says. “We’re most excited about creating a place for the people who live right there, that works for a lot of different people.”
Pizza Kat will open in mid-September at 2174 West Burnside Street.