EUGENE- …Pizza pie that is. Take it from an ex-doughthrower, the pizza scene in Eugene is where it’s at. The first time I laid hands on dough I was 17, the last time was only a few months ago. I’ve been slinging pepperoni since Clinton was cool and Cobain was alive. From the fast-food production line at Little Caesars to the homemade hangout of Mezza Luna, this boy has seen him some pies.
I truly think that pizza, as we know it today, is the real American food. I know there is a whole camp of Burger people out there I’m stirring up, but face it, your time has passed guys. Make way for the dough boys. We’re the wallet-chained, facial-haired pie bandits of America, and you love us. I mean, let’s face it, pizza is delicious. From the crispy-bottomed cheesy madness of Papa’s Pizza to Sy’s signature Large Cheese To Go that taunts your nostrils with basil and Parmesan when you go in for a bite. Whether you like tomato-based traditional or Alfredo-garlic chicken (RIP Pizza Schmizza and your Spaghetti and Meatballs pizza), any way you slice it- pizza is hot, cheesy, and just plain good.
When I walked into Sy’s Pizza for the first time in 1998, I had never seen anything like it before. I had worked at Little Caesars in and after high school, but there we pre-sheeted all our dough- and ran it all through a hopper (for evenly flattening dough)… it was stream-line… but back in 1994 Little Caesars was good (Pizza! Pizza!). So when I saw a kid hand tossing dough I thought it was so exotic and cool, we’d had a pizza-by-the-slice joint in downtown Salem, but nothing compared to Sy’s. Let me say it now, and let it forever be heard- Sy’s NY Pizza is hands down the best pizza in Oregon and only comes second to Michelangelo’s in the Castro (SF) for best on the west coast. I’ve never eaten anything other than the cheese, but as far as a slice o’ plain goes, nothing beats Sy’s period. Sy’s NY Pizza has been a Eugene staple for over 30 years, and if you have yet to go, drop everything and do it.
When it comes to gourmet pizza, nothing touches Mezza Luna Pizzeria. Mezza Luna (or MLP as we called it) started over 5 years ago by two guys with a dream about bringing New York Style/Gourmet pizza together. That dream has come to fruition, and now you can reap the rewards at either the downtown or Crescent Village location. MLP offers pizza-by-the-slice with an assortment of toppings from plain to a cashew-based vegan-spread base that is to die for. Oh and did I mention that everything in the store is made from scratch? (Well, besides the Blue Cheese dressing you can order). MLP offers some of the best food at a low price in town.
Now… I’m leaving out the big guys, I know… mainly because it’s been sooo long since I had any fast-food pizza that it’s unfair to judge. However... Pizza Hut is one of my favorite places to get pizza (don’t tell anyone!) There’s something about their Thick-Crusted Half Supreme/Half Hawaiian pizza that makes me wanna grab a roll of paper towels and have some grease-soaked goodness. Let’s not forget to give props to Domino’s for trying to step it up lately as well. Even though their marketing campaign is about as close to the mark as Charlie Sheen is to getting his job back… (That commercial with the pull-away walls…? “Surprise! You’re on a dairy farm!” How the hell did those people not know they were on a moving truck?) Domino’s has actually improved the taste and gut-friendliness of their pizza enough to make it an option on a Saturday night.
If we keep it closer to home, there’s still the local big guys, Papa’s Pizza. Talk about family-fun and spreadin’ disease… how many screaming 8-year-olds can we cram into a plastic tube that dumps them out into a ball-pit? I’m not sure, but with the gigantic rack of ovens in Papas’ kitchen, it’s one of the busiest places in town. Everyone has been to, or at least heard of Papa’s Pizza. Whether it’s from taking your OLCC training there on Friday’s or attending a little one’s unsanitary birthday party, Papa’s has been a mainstay in the Willamette Valley for decades. Their pizza is the bottom-is-crispy kind that they layer with cheese and cut into smaller slices than most other places. Order a large half pep/half Hawaiian, and I dare you not to love it after a decent night’s festivities.
If campus-life is more your style, right up Alder from Sy’s is Pegasus Pizza, an oasis in the desert of student-housing on 14th street. Pegasus offers a Papa’s Pizza-style (with a little crispier of a crust) but with much better ingredients. Their toppings are delicious and their dough is hand-tossed. Pegasus has been feeding U of O students for 23 years, and if you have never been down to check it out- stand up, put on your shoes and coat, and go right now. There are a couple of places I haven’t mentioned, Track Town, La Perla, and the Pizza Research Institute, mainly because I haven’t eaten their pizza yet… not because I hear that they’re overpriced and not really worth it… honestly!
Take it from an ex-doughthrower, whether you’re craving gourmet slices with hand-made toppings or greasy pools of pepperoni, in Eugene- heaven comes one slice at a time.