Pizza is near and dear to my heart (ok, tastebuds). I love that it can be fancy, it can be casual, it can be greasy, cheesy, covered in classic ingredients, or ingredients that you’ve never seen on a pizza before. In Portland, there are an insane amount of pizza places (or places you can get pizza), many of which are really delicious. When we decide we want pizza for dinner, we still have a decision to make. Do we want neapolitan, slightly soggy in the middle from Firehouse? Do we want slighty classed-up parlor-style from Apizza Scholls? Do we want slab pizza from Roman Candle? Do we want slightly adventurous, mix between neapolitan and pizza parlor but always delicious Oven & Shaker? The list goes on.
Up at Ned Ludd, they do this thing on Mondays. You see, Ned Ludd uses a wood-fired oven to cook all their food, but they don’t make pizza. So on Monday nights, pizza it is. P.R.E.A.M. (standing for Pizza Rules Everything Around Me) used to be the regular pop up in the spot, but then got big enough that they decided to open their own restaurant. Pizza socials still happen on Monday nights at Ned Ludd, with great Portland chefs coming in to design their own specialty pies.
I had never been to P.R.E.A.M. I wanted to go, but Monday nights were tricky, and I never could squeeze in a pizza dinner. But oh how I wanted to. I had heard great things. So as soon as I heard they were opening their own spot, I knew I needed to go. And now, having been twice, I figure it’s time to tell you about it.
First of all, they were bumping all my favorite 90s and early aughts hip hop and rap hits. You know, some Destiny’s Child, Ludacris, Ja Rule. Just really nailing it. Second, there’s a quote from Francis Mallman at the bottom of the menu. If you haven’t been watching Chef’s Table on Netflix, do it. But maybe just skip to the episode about Francis Mellman. The guy is quite a character, and cooks some of the most beautiful, rustic looking food I’ve ever seen. His love and knowledge of fire and cooking over it, in it, and with it was jaw dropping. Moving right along though – the menu is divided into Intro, Hook, Chorus, Verse, and Outro. Think appetizers, sides, pizzas, salads, and desserts. The staff was a great resource when picking dishes, which I always appreciate. Aside from that though, they seem a little green: not offering alternatives when they were out of something, and not always being on the same page regarding which server was helping us at certain points during the meal.
Let’s talk beverages. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the name of the cocktail I got the first time – it was nearly three months ago. Plus I can’t find the drink menu online. But I will say this: it was good. It was a hot day, and my beverage hit all the right notes: fruity and refreshing while still being boozy and not overly sweet. The second trip, I got a mix between a shandy and a shrub, which was good. But be warned, on my second visit they were out of many of their beers, both on tap and bottled.
Our first time there, Jonah and I tried the escarole salad with smoked buttermilk dressing and chicken skin, which was awesome. I love crispy chicken skin, an they didn’t skimp. The dressing was creamy, but not heavy, which is a delicate balance. The second time we went with friends, we ate the summer squash with za’atar, sumac, and olive oil, which was a great, light dish. We also tried the black garlic knots in puttanesca which were tasty, but I wished there had been more black garlic in them.
Let’s get to the pizzas. These are some of the cheesiest, meltiest pizzas I can remember having, and the crust is rocking. Perfectly chewy and charred and brushed with what seems like a garlic oil. Rarely do I enjoy eating the crust as much as I do the cheesy, topping-laden part of the pizza, but this was different. In my two visits I’ve tried three pies: the fennel sausage pizza (so. much. cheese.) with lightly dressed arugula on top, plus a spicy sriracha like sauce the ‘Nduja with chicories and marinated peppers, and the tomato leaf with basil, and caramelized onion. The favorite for me is a tossup between the tomato leaf and the fennel sausage. Totally different, but both great. And the menu is changing all the time, so who knows what they’ll have next time I go.
The dessert I had there on my first trip was an olive oil cake on mascarpone cream, topped with green granita made of parsely and cilantro (nice and savory/salty), topped with marinated strawberries. Yes, the granita might sound weird, but it was a perfect salty and savory addition to what otherwise could’ve been an overly sweet dish. Plus it cooled the whole dessert down on a hot day. It was an awesome end to the meal – unexpected, playful, and refreshing.
Would I go back to P.R.E.A.M.? Absolutely. Especially if I’m in the mood for fun, nostalgic music, a good drink, and some cheesy, creative pizza.