For decades, Chicagoans have visited bars and eaten what they call tavern-style pizza: A thin-crusted, crispy, borderline cracker-eque round pie cut into squares. It’s a phenomenon throughout the Midwest; many — including Eater Chicago’s Ashok Selvam — argue that Chicago’s tavern-style pies are more Chicago than the ubiquitous deep-dish, set aside for special occasions or tourists. Tavern-style pizza, on the other hand, is weeknight pizza, the stuff the locals eat on a Friday night.
Portland has several pies represented within city limits: Neapolitan, Detroit-style, Sicilian squares, even something similar to New Haven’s famous apizza. Chicago deep-dish can be found at places like The Star and Via Chicago. But until Jerry Benedetto began hawking square-cut pies via Instagram, it was difficult to find tavern-style pizza within Portland, outside of places like Bridge City. Benedetto’s Instagram, @JerrysPizzaPDX, became an absolute sensation among Midwestern expats and pizza aficionados and the waiting list for pies exceeded a year in length. But soon, Benedetto will move into a real-deal tavern to sell his tavern-style pies: Jerry’s Pizza will operate out of the Bear Paw Inn, the Southeast Portland bar, Willamette Week first reported. The long-term goal is that customers will be able to order beverages from the bar and order pizzas from Jerry’s.
The magic in Benedetto’s pies starts with the crust: He cooks his well-done, crispy but also chewy, so someone can pick it up and the piece stays rigid. “When I’m back in Chicago, some people over-cheese and undercook,” he says. “Then it’s a greasy flop; it’s gross.” From there, he adds a touch of his Grandma Pat’s tomato sauce as a base, and just enough cheese. When things get up and running at Bear Paw, Benedetto plans to offer build-your-own pies and six signature pies: Ones topped with his house fennel sausage, thinly-sliced fresh mushrooms, and pepperoni; ones topped with his house giardiniera and Italian beef; his version of a traditional supreme; a number with jalapenos, pepperoni, and garlic. He’ll stock two-litres of RC Cola, too, a family tradition, and may start packaging up jars of his giardiniera to take home.
Beyond that, Benedetto is still chewing on how he wants to run his business. He still has quite a few pre-orders to work through, and he wants to manage expectations. “I’m literally one person doing everything. I’m thinking of hiring someone two weeks in, but I want to see if I can do it myself,” he says. “The thing I’m doing isn’t a normal brick and mortar, but… I get to do it the way I want to do it.”
Benedetto has yet to set an opening date; follow along on Instagram for more details.
• Jerry’s Pizza [Instagram]
• Chicago’s Tavern-Style Pizza Reigns Supreme [ECHI]
• No Restaurant? No Problem: Chefs Have Found a Certain Freedom in Selling Meals on Instagram. [EPDX]
• Portland’s Most Anticipated Restaurant and Bar Openings for 2021 [EPDX]