When Scottie Rivera, owner of Scotties Pizza Parlor in Portland, OR, set out to emulate a dish made famous by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters, he had no idea how much attention he’d attract during Portland Pizza Week.
“In a recent movie, there’s a scene where the Master Sensei, Splinter, unveils a 99-cheese pizza from Pizza Hut,” says Rivera. “He is using this as an incentive for the turtles to train and build their skills; we liked that parallel in terms of our pizza-making talents.”
Given that the comic book characters, made famous by cartoons, movies, video games and merchandise, are part of the restaurant’s culture, creating the world’s cheesiest pizza was not that far-fetched for Scottie’s.
Fortunately, Rivera had an “amazing” specialty cheese supplier in Gregory Hessel of Portland’s Cow Bell.
“We have worked with Greg since we opened in July of 2015 to find special Mozzarella curd from Rhode Island’s Narragansett Creamery,” says Rivera.
Hessel just happened to be eating a slice at Scottie’s when the brainstorming for the cheesiest pizza began. He laughed at first, but Rivera kept pressing. The goal was to go one step further than the Teenage Ninja Turtles and produce a pizza that included more than 99 different cheeses. This also would surpass the varieties used by an Australian pizzeria that also once emulated the characters’ concoction.
“I told Greg I was sure he had way more than that many cheeses to pull from,” says Rivera. “He realized we were serious, and we discussed how to make it happen.”
It was imperative to find cheeses that fit a certain profile; the flavors could not be too overwhelming and a variance in textures were to be carefully calculated. It also was decided a mixture of hard, soft and aged cheeses would work best.
To start, a prototype of 25 cheeses were combined that included Scottie’s house-made Ricotta. They then chose a combination of imports and domestics.
“I met with Greg at his walk-in refrigerator, which contained a ton of cheese racks,” says Rivera. “We had a large variety of Italian and French cheeses made with cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, but nothing too extreme. And we tried to stay away from Blues.”
Because Hessel is inspired by older, traditional cheese recipes that have come out of the Alps over the last century, the treasure trove he presented was not pedestrian in any way.
“We wanted to include tomato sauce and still have it look like a regular slice of cheese pizza, but one that would knock people off their feet,” says Rivera. “We played around with flavors, and it all came together.”
The menu would include 100-cheese pizza during the week and a stuffed crust version on Sunday that brought the amount up to 101.
Scottie’s anticipated a very busy week, preparing 1,000 of its mega cheese pizzas for the event. Slices were $2 a piece, and lines of eager guests were out the door. The pizzeria sold every last pie.
“It was insane, we were busier than we’ve ever been,” says Rivera. “We thought we bit off more than we could chew, but we didn’t have to turn anyone away.”
The only mishap was when Rivera attempted to freeze a couple extra pizzas, and the restaurant’s freezer broke down. Thus, the world’s cheesiest pizza is now only a memory for those lucky enough to have sampled it.
“We take great pride in our pizza, and it’s a blast for us to do fun gimmicks,” says Rivera. “We had no idea the level of national and international attention we’d get, but it was really for fun and to celebrate how awesome pizza is.”