As pizza is the perfect takeout and delivery food, four new pizza places have opened in the last year despite most restaurants’ challenges with closures.

Grace and Hammer in Redmond opened before 2020, but hadn’t been open 6 months when they had to close down to dining in. As fall 2020 approached, Deschutes Junction took over Round Table pizza in Bend and Redmond. And in the past month, The Fold in Sunriver and delivery-only Bend Deep Dish opened for business. A fifth new pizza place, Abe Capanna’s Detroit Pan Pizza, opened in May, as covered in the Crosscut Tap House food trucks article.

Everyone has an opinion about what makes the best pizza, which is influenced by our preferences and where we have lived. Chicago residents might prefer a deep dish pizza. New Yorkers may be purists that enjoy a thin crust pizza that can be folded with few toppings — meat, cheese and lots of oil. Other pizza lovers may like those pies influenced by California pizza chefs Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Ed LaDou of Prego. LaDou later designed the menu for the California Pizza Kitchen. Toppings made popular by these California pizzas include chicken, duck sausage, goat cheese and truffles. Also, they started the trend to use barbecue sauce instead of marinara

While everyone has their favorite, there’s no need to declare which style is best. All can co-exist, and we can all enjoy what we like. The new pizzerias in Central Oregon represent each pizza style.

The Fold, Sunriver

The Fold was opened in December by Lisa Cassidy, Lauren and Chris Copelan, owners of fine dining restaurants and Hook and Plow in Southern California. I spoke with Chef Shawn Smith, who grew up in Connecticut, where his father was a New York-style pizza purist. With experience in several fine-dining kitchens, Smith understands the importance of quality ingredients and how to combine spices and toppings to come up with a pizza of complementary flavors. Most pizza offerings are limited to three toppings so the crust can support it. Each topping is carefully chosen. A notation on the menu tells you that you cannot add other ingredients but may request to leave anything off the pizza.

We ordered two pizzas the first time we picked up from The Fold. They had run out of the artichoke pizza we chose (one of the issues arising from the pandemic shutdown is that restaurants are being conservative in ordering ingredients). So we created our own with mushrooms, onion and pepperoni. My son’s initial reaction was that this was the most “normal” pizza we had of all the pizzas. Indeed, there was a good marinara sauce with herbs at its base.

The second pizza was Pepperoni, Goat Cheese and Pineapple. I don’t hate pineapple on pizza, but it can overwhelm the other flavors.

The pineapple’s preparation mellowed the flavor considerably so that it added just a bit of sweet/sour to the savory pepperoni pizza. Jalapeños balanced the flavor profile to add a bit of a kick. If you are a pineapple pizza eater, this is an excellent pie.

When I heard about one seasonal specialty pizza, I had to return. Topped with roasted pork, broccoli rabe, and chanterelle mushrooms, the rich flavors were seasoned with creamy cloves of roast garlic, crispy fried sage leaves, and a generous sprinkling of fresh rosemary. Melted mounds of burrata cheese added coolness, and peppers added heat. This was an authentic craft pizza.

Note: The Fold delivers in Sunriver.

Grace and Hammer Pizzeria, Redmond

This pizzeria opened in August 2019 in the beautiful 1912 Church building on 7th Street in Redmond. The whitewashed old church and steeple is an impressive building and part of Grace and Hammer’s brand. They have continued to offer takeout from the beginning and have a beautiful heated deck, but you won’t find delivery. Owner/Manager Pio Valensin explained that the building is part of the experience. They want customers to experience a bit of the ambiance when picking up their pizza from the vaulted ceiling to the open-air kitchen. The restaurant is “The Church of Crust,” Valensin said. “We can’t wait to get our congregation back.”

Everything is made from scratch using the finest ingredients. Grace and Hammer imports tomatoes from Italy. The crust is a three-day cold-fermented dough with three rises. They cure their own bacon and brisket.

Pizzas are made in a wood-fired oven that can reach temperatures upward of 700 degrees. Not only does it cut the cooking time and preserve the nutrients in fresh toppings, but the wood-fire also adds a smoky flavor. Valensin, who has been making pizza for over a decade, said that a chef has to burn some crust before getting it right.

The pizzas’ thin crust with thick, chewy edges is near perfect. We had the Saint Stanley pizza with pepperoni and caramelized onions. The thick tomato sauce had chunks of Italian sausage and tomatoes. Calabrian chiles gave it a kick.

We also had the Pio Special with extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella and fontina, Calabrian chiles with a balsamic reduction. Thinly sliced prosciutto played against the other flavors of the pizza for a balanced, tasty pizza.

Bend Deep Dish

When Bob Matthews moved here five years ago, he was disappointed that he couldn’t find an authentic deep dish pizza. Having come from Chicago, he liked thick, flavorful pizzas with plenty of ingredients. Working in his field as an accountant, he has spent the last five years learning to make the signature laminated crust. In December, Matthews began delivering his deep-dish creations initially to Bend’s Westside and the Eastside on weekends.

Bend Deep Dish truly has the taste of a homemade pizza. Garlic and herbs are simmered in tomato sauce for a complex, yet subtle blend. We chose classic pepperoni. Huge pepperoni slices cover the top. The nine or twelve-inch pizzas are put together with a thick, buttery, flakey crust with cornmeal that adds a sweet corn flavor. There is the option to order the pizza with extra cheese.

The pizzas are delivered take-and-bake in spring pans with specific instructions for baking in your oven. Until Matthews can find a disposable solution, they will arrange to pick up the pan the next day.

Bend Deep Dish has been taking off because of social media. Matthews is searching for a commercial kitchen to increase production. Once more people get a taste of this Chicago style pizza, I’d bet Matthews will have to quit his day job.

Deschutes Junction

In the summer of 2020, Deschutes Junction took over Round Table Pizza in Bend and Redmond. While it also offers beer and pub fare, it continues to follow its predecessor’s pizza offering. There is a huge selection of toppings, meats, and sauce choices (including a Polynesian sauce). Choose from several combos or create one of your own. The Bend and Redmond grills do delivery. All pies come in a variety of sizes, and there is a gluten-free crust option

We opted for the California Chicken with garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, red & green onions, and artichoke hearts in a white sauce. The dough was puffy and chewy. The 3rd Street Combo included pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, linguiça, mushrooms, yellow onions, black olives on a red sauce.

While there is no shortage of pizza parlors in Central Oregon, these are worth a try no matter your preference. All menus are available online.

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