Owner Will Fain makes every pie himself, starting with a dough recipe he's spent years perfecting. Of his dough, Fain says, "My dough recipe is pretty standard. Flour, salt, water, yeast. It doesn't vary drastically from the realm of Kenji's Neapolitan recipe or Varasano's. I do have a sourdough that I use in conjunction with baker's yeast. Everything is mixed by hand too—no machinery required. Generally I give it at least a 6 hour proof, but usually it's 2 days. I have successfully used dough aged up to about 10 days, but it starts to get a little too sourdough-y for pizza at that point."
You Call It a Garage, I Call It a Pizzeria
Residing in a former auto detailing shop, Handsome Pizza may not earn a spot in Architectural Digest, but it certainly earns its "Handsome" monikor elsewhere...
East Coast Inspiration
Well, it's called Handsome Pizza, isn't it? This gorgeous Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta pizza was inspired by the same pie at Motorino.
A Peek Beneath
Charring on the underbelly that'll make any pizzaiolo green with envy.
Stack o' Fuel
To fire his oven, Fain typically uses a combination of maple and fir, the easiest varieties to find in Portland. "I've found the variety matters less than how well cured and dry the wood is," says Fain. "I'd rather take a cord of well dried and cured fir than a cord of damp oak any day."
Feed the Fire
Mastering the wood-fired oven was a skill that required serious commitment. Fain: "The oven is barrel-vaulted instead of domed and the oven entrance seems much larger than most other pizza ovens, so it's a little different than what most pizzerias have. The fire sits in the back, so I can't see the side of the pizza that's baking most rapidly. It took some time, but I've gotten steadily better at reading the various indicators—how the embers look, how high the flame is, what the last pizza looked like, etc.—of what the heat is like and how to judge when to turn a pie. It's still guesswork, but it's a much more educated guess now."
The menu's popular white pie, the Rico Suave, seen here with the addition of Fain's housemade fennel sausage.
Handsome Pizza has teamed up with local ice cream purveyor Scoop to bring delicious frozen desserts and shakes to his customers. "Working with Scoop has been a win-win," says Fain. "I think it's some of the best ice cream on the west coast. We figured out that if we rearranged my kitchen a little, we could serve pretty much their cart's entire menu out of my kitchen, which allowed them to essentially have two retail outlets and brings in extra income for both of us struggling small-business types. The trouble now is that I eat exclusively pizza and ice cream. My physician will be displeased."
The Man Behind the Counter
Having an interior space for customers means protection from the elements, a feature that cannot be under-appreciated in a town with weather like Portland, Oregon. Fain: "It's a unique space—a 1950's era auto garage that is converted into a restaurant in only the most superficial ways. The old office or convenience mart is now my prep kitchen, while the service kitchen and seating is in the garage space, plus there's a ton of outdoor seating. The seating is also shared with all the other food carts on the lot, so it's turned into a nice communal area for the neighborhood, especially in the summer. It's a giant metal building, which is nice and airy in the summer, but can be difficult to work in the winter. We do have hanging heaters in the seating area though. And a friend of mine made these fantastic hanging lamps out of comic books (three of them featuring local Portland artists), which seem to get all the attention these days."