Despite what some pizza snobs may say, square pizzas can be found throughout Italy, from pizza al taglio sold by weight in Rome to tomato-and-anchovy-topped sfincione in Sicily. Italian immigrants brought recipes for these angular pies as they came to the Unites States, creating versions of old classics with the materials they found in their new hometowns. Pizzerias in New York started selling slabs of Sicilian, and Italian Americans in Detroit began baking square pies in distinct blue-steel pans, topped with Wisconsin brick cheese. Here in Portland, we have our own versions of these styles of pies, from the nonna or grandma pies at Baby Doll and Scottie’s Pizza Parlor, to the cheesy-crusted, bombastic pies at Ranch, to the various bars and breweries selling their takes on Detroit-style pizza. For a wider range of pizza styles, check out this map.Read More
Where to Find Thick, Cheesy Square Pizzas in Portland
From Sicilian squares to Detroit-style pies
Ex Novo Brewing Company
Ex Novo stopped serving Detroit pies at its Portland taproom, but the Beaverton spot offers Motor City-inspired fare veering from the classic pepperoni and cheese to more Pacific Northwest flavors like the Forager, with crimini and maitake mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil. Detroit pizzas here start with dough made specially for Ex Novo by Fressen Artisan Bakery, followed by a mix of cheese, including Wisconsin brick cheese. That blend melts and spills over the sides forming a cheesy layer around the crust as it bakes in real-deal Lloyd steel pans.
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Scottie's Pizza Parlor NW
When Scottie Rivera decided to open his own pizzeria, he wanted to recreate something he thought was missing from the Portland pizza scene: the square slices abundant in his hometown of Brooklyn. He gave this special pie on his menu his great-grandmother’s last name — Defino. The Defino starts with naturally leavened dough made with Pacific Northwestern wheat, baked in a high-heat electric deck two times: The first baking at super high heat gives the crust char and blistering, while the second baking, on a lower temperature, gives it a nice crisp crust. When the pizza comes out of the oven, Rivera adds garlic-infused olive oil, a forest of fresh basil, and a dusting of pecorino. The basil smell permeates the closed pizza box, making it absolutely necessary to tear it open and grab a slice immediately. A second location on Southeast Division offers whole pies only.
Ranch PDX, NW 21st
Ranch PDX owners Eric Wood and Richard Corey created their pizza to satisfy a nostalgic craving for the pizza dipped in ranch they ate as children at Roundtable and Papa’s Pizza. They modified these fast food pies for adult tastes by creating a cloud-like deep dish crust, topping it with aged mozzarella, and adding complex and spicy toppings for a more mature palate. The #4 with pork sausage and Calabrian chiles tastes complete when cooled with a generous dousing of Ranch PDX’s dill-forward ranch dressing. Ranch PDX has four other locations, including this spot in Nob Hill.
Ruse Brewing Crust Collective
To develop the pizza recipes for their Vancouver Waterfront space, the team at Ruse Brewing went back to co-owner Shaun Kalis’s childhood home in metropolitan Detroit to visit Motown masters like Buddy’s, Cloverleaf, and Michigan & Trumbull Pizza. The result is Ruse Brewing’s own riff on this Midwest classic with a lighter and airier crust. Topping range from classic pepperoni cups to kalua pulled pork, shaved ham, and pickle chips on the Miami Slice.
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The inside of this Buckman spot looks like a factory assembly line, with mountainous stacks of brightly logo-ed pizza boxes and a counter covered with small plastic containers of sauces and dressings. It’s fitting design for a place that pulls inspiration from the ultimate factory town: Detroit. Pop’s crust is light in the middle and crunchy on the bottom, with the Detroit signature crunchy cheese around the sides. Fresh salads and chewy squares of chocolate chip cookies go well before and after a pizza.
Wild Child Pizza
Rectangular pizza with 72-hour aged sourdough crust emerge from the takeout window of Wild Child Pizza’s Alberta Street location, accompanied by a bright orange swirling mural by Sebo Walker in the alley next door. Thick pies arrive topped with meaty toppings like barbecue chicken, sausage, and pepperoni, as well as a variety of a variety of veggies. Maui Wowie, a Wild Child take on Hawaiian pizza, is a well-balanced mix of bacon, roasted pineapple, and pickled jalapenos. Wild Child’s massive chocolate fudge brownies provide a sweet counterpoint to their savory offerings. The Northwest 23rd Street spot includes limited indoor and outdoor seating as well as a wide selection of slices.
Odie O’Connor started his vegan pizza empire making wood-fired pizzas at his Southeast Hawthorne food truck Baby Blue. After shutting down the truck at the beginning of the pandemic, O’Connor bought a blue steel pan and started experimenting with Detroit pizza. Fortuitously, a spot became available in the Zipper, where O’Connor opened Boxcar Pizza with vegan square pies that often sell out. Creating the distinctive crust of cheese around the sides proved difficult with lower fat vegan cheese, but after playing around with the dough, O’Connor achieved a vegan version of the Detroit classic. The Bianca, with Good Planet mozzarella and Boxcar’s own spicy, fennel-packed Italian sauce and tofu-based ricotta, certainly tastes vegan — the coconut flavor of the mozzarella gives away its plant-based origins — but still, the sweetness of the coconut and heat of the tomato sauce adds an interesting interplay of flavors.
Baby Doll Pizza
Enthusiastic twenty-somethings in overalls and tie dye serve pepperoni pies, sandwiches, and squares from this popular pizza spot frequented by Central Catholic students and Southeast Stark neighbors. Baby Doll’s giant nonna pie has an airy, thick crust painted with a mild tomato sauce and topped with gooey mozzarella cheese. The crust is thicker than many of the other pies on this list, but it retains its lightness despite the size. Nonna pies come with choice of three toppings, including house Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, and house ricotta.
Vincenzo’s owners, Vinnie Coco Jr. and wife Chelsea Coco, ran Vinnie’s pizza in downtown Vancouver for nine years. After a brief sabbatical in Italy, the couple opened this charming Rose City Park space featuring Sicilian pies sold as a full slab or three-slice half slab. The thick Sicilian crust provides an excellent sponge to sop up rich toppings like the Sunday tomato meat sauce velvety beef meatballs on the sugo pizza.
Assembly Brewing’s pizza is the Detroit-est of all the local Detroit pizzas. Owner George Johnson hails from Detroit and sought to replicate his hometown pizza after moving to Portland. Johnson trained with Shawn Randazzo, who learned his Detroit-style pizza skills from the Guerra family — the originators of Detroit pizza. The result tastes exactly like Buddy’s Pizza: a pillowy crust, crisp on the bottom, surrounded by oven-blackened Wisconsin brick cheese, and topped with a dollop of chunky tomato sauce flavored with fresh herbs from Johnson’s home garden. To give his brewery a special Detroit feel, Johnson hired Portland artist Theo Holdt to create a mural inspired by the famous Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals found at the Detroit Institute of Art.
East Glisan Pizza Lounge
When East Glisan co-owner Kristen Brown saw Detroit pizza pop up in food blogs and on social media, she decided to try serving it on a Tuesday night, to see if there was any local interest. A crowd of ex-Detroiters flooded the bar; soon, it became a hit with pizza aficionados throughout Portland. Now, Detroit pizza is a regular menu item at this neighborhood spot. These deep-dish square pies come in eight-inch-by-ten-inch squares, with four slices blanketed in mozzarella and Wisconsin brick cheese that slide around the edges while cooking, creating the distinctive lacy caramelized cheese perimeter characteristic of Detroit pizza.