Bronx Born Pizza

Food: () Outstanding New York-style pizza with dozens of variations available.

Service: () Friendly staff takes orders at the counter, but there’s no table service.

Atmosphere: () Bright, spacious room has big windows but sparse decor.

More Info

Location: 1005 NW Galveston Ave., Bend

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. every day

Cuisine: Pizza and salads

Price range: Salads $8 and $9, pizzas $14 to $26,

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Special attention to dietary needs, with house-made gluten-free crust

Alcoholic beverages: Beer and wine

Outdoor seating: Sidewalk

Reservations: Suggested for large parties

Contact: bronxbornpizza.com, 541-323-6323

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“Bronx Born” is not just a name. Thomas Schiffer was born and raised in the New York city borough of the Bronx. It’s where he got his first job making pizzas when he was 13.

He took his skills with him when he moved to Boston, then to greater Los Angeles, where he established Abbot’s Pizza in Venice Beach. When he met a girl from Central Oregon, she, too, was captivated by the thin crispy crust of true New York-style pizza.

Before long, Tom and Leah Schiffer were partners in life, as well as in pizza. They opened another pizza joint in Santa Monica. But after the birth of their two children, 5 and 3, Leah convinced Tom it was time to relocate the family to that beautiful part of the world where she had grown up.

They completed the move to Bend in August 2016. By the following summer, they had purchased Versante Pizza, in the former Westside Bakery on Galveston Avenue. After lengthy remodeling, they opened toward the end of March this year.

The one thing they wanted to do, it seemed, was to make good pizza.

“It’s what we do,” Leah said, “and we take a lot of pride in it.”

Minimalist decor

West-siders who remember previous occupants may not recognize this space, so thorough has been Bronx Born’s renovation. The decor is almost minimalist, with garage-door-like windows beside the Galveston Avenue sidewalk and white-tile walls behind the shiny new aluminum appliances in the open kitchen. A single, flat-screen television mounted on the west wall provides rare splashes of color, rising above an armada of tables on the hardwood floor.

The food is outstanding. When the Schiffers came to Oregon, they made sure to bring with them their executive pizza chef, Johnny Guardado. He’s been a part of their family operation for 23 years.

A three-part menu on the wall suggests nearly a score of pizza options, but many diners choose to build their own pizza from the selection of meats (10), cheeses (11) and vegetables (21) available.

There are also seven house-made sauces and nine crust variations, not including gluten-free Sicilian flatbread, made from scratch with Manini’s flour.

“It took us almost a year to perfect our gluten-free crust,” Leah said.

Hand-tossed crust

New York-style pizza differs from others with its large, hand-tossed crust. Sold as a whole pie or by the slice, its wide pieces are soft enough that they can be folded in half to eat. The crust is thick and crispier at its edge, but thin through the middle. Said to have originated in Naples, Italy, the style was embraced by New Yorkers in the early 1900s.

On recent visits with my dining companion, I have delighted in ordering by the slice (typically $3.75 for one-sixth of a pie). Several varieties are offered from a circular rack beside the cash register, from more standard varieties (including pepperoni and margarita, with mozzarella, tomato and basil) to the chef’s-choice Wutang (chicken Italian sausage, pepperoni, sage and Parmesan).

My friend and I differed in which pizzas we liked best. Her first choice was the Bathgate, fresh sliced tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, basil and goat cheese on a bed of basil pesto sauce. I was a fan of the spicy Hunt’s Point, offering tequila and lime-marinated chicken on mozzarella and tomato sauce with jalapeño peppers and cilantro.

As mushroom lovers, we agreed that we loved the Highbridge, a blend of four mushrooms — portobello, oyster, button and shiitake — with four cheeses (Parmesan, fontina, romano and mozzarella) on an olive pesto sauce.

Our favorite crusts were those with poppy and sesame seeds. Others featured garlic, onion and cheese. Or a diner could opt for “everything.”

Salad two ways

We often like a salad with our pizza, and Bronx Born offers three. We enjoyed one called The Bronx Chop, with fresh and crispy mixed greens tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots and feta cheese.

But the restaurant did this one better with its Original Salad Pizza. Salad ingredients were heaped upon a cheese-and-red-onion crust, and served with a lemon-olive oil dressing and fresh avocados. And this pizza is available by the slice as well as by the full pie.

Bronx Born also offers 16-inch calzones (basically, pizzas in a pocket for $16) and a handful of homemade desserts, including a triple chocolate brownie for $4. And delivery can be scheduled within a 5-mile radius.

With a nod to the Bronx’s reputation as a rough-and-tumble neighborhood — it is, after all, home to the New York Yankees, the original Bronx Bombers — the restaurant has adopted the slogan, “Pizza so good, it’s almost criminal.” It would be criminal, indeed, if a Central Oregon pizza lover didn’t at least give this new restaurant a try.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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