Almost five years ago, George Johnson opened Assembly Brewing, a combination Detroit-style pizzeria and brewpub, in Foster-Powell. For those who don’t know, Detroit-style pizza relies on an airy, focaccia-esque dough with cheese baked into the edges in square, industrial blue steel pans originally used by auto factory workers. At the time, Portland’s Detroit-style pizza scene was far less extensive; many places that served square pies made something closer to a Sicilian style, without the cheese-crisped edges and the specific blue steel pans. Johnson, who grew up in Detroit, wanted to stay as true to the original as possible, so he went back to Michigan to study pizzamaking under Shawn Randazzo, the award-winning pizzaiolo behind Detroit Style Pizza Company. As a result, Assembly Brewing’s pizzas were, in the words of Eater Portland’s Motor City-raised correspondent Rachel Pinsky, “the Detroit-est of all the local Detroit pizzas.”
Half a decade later, Portland is now home to several pizzerias specializing in square pies, ranging from vegan Detroit-style to slabs of Sicilian drenched in Sunday sugo. However, Johnson’s pies remain the closest to the version sold at the style’s birthplace, Buddy’s Pizza. Now, customers can get those Detroit-style pies in Northeast Portland, as well, at Assembly Brewing’s new Alberta Street slice shop.
Assembly Brewing Pizza Annex, which opened this week in the former Bella Pizza space, serves the same lineup of classics from the original location, including options like pepperoni, meat lover’s, and a supreme with pepperoni, sausage, and peppers; the D, one of Assembly’s standbys, tops the dough with pepperoni under cheese, plus Canadian bacon, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. The pizzeria also serves at least five pizzas by the slice — more often six, including a vegan option — as well as breadsticks and salads. And of course, the Annex keeps Assembly Brewing beers on tap, in addition to sodas, nonalcoholic beer, cans of cider, and sparkling wine splits.
Unlike the original brewery and taproom, the Alberta Street Assembly location is all-ages, ideally attracting neighborhood families. Johnson kept the broader clientele in mind as he thought about the aesthetics of the new restaurant. “The headquarters are more adult, lounge-y, with darker colors,” he says. “Here, I’m going more vibrant.”
Johnson also considered the pizzeria’s location, in the Alberta Arts District. The walls feature a rotating selection of local art, curated by artist Theodore Holdt, who worked on the Detroit-themed murals at the original Assembly location.
The restaurant seats 28 inside with four bar seats, as well as sidewalk seating; Johnson is looking forward to opening up the back patio in the summers. “This was always the plan, to have a second spot in Northeast,” he says. “It’s a whole different world.”
Assembly Brewing’s Alberta Street location is now open at 2934 NE Alberta Street.