Sarah Minnick of Lovely’s Fifty Fifty

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What were you doing before you opened Lovely’s Fifty Fifty and how did you end up in the pizza game?
Prior to opening Lovely’s I had a restaurant down the street called Lovely Hula Hands. When it first opened in 2004, my boyfriend at the time ran the kitchen and my sister and I ran the front of the house. We ran that for almost five years and worked with different chefs throughout those years after my ex moved on from the kitchen. The process of hiring chefs and trying to find the right fit was very tiresome. I had the pleasure of working with some amazing people but I knew that I had to be in charge of the kitchen so that it had staying power. In 2000 when we opened Fifty-Fifty I started working in the kitchen making starters and ice cream and there was a friend of mine who made the pizzas. When he left after a couple years I took over the pizza making and I was pleasantly surprised that I loved it! At first I was a little terrified since I had never made pizza or bread, but I got a copy of Tartine Bread and started making bread every day. That process inspired the process for my dough and to this day, five years later, I still make the dough the same way.

Your pizzas are absolutely stunning both visually and in terms of taste. What inspires you in the creative process?
I am inspired by beautiful farm produce and I am a visual person and that is what grabs me first. Beautiful produce is also delicious so that part is easy. I like bright flavors and most pies I make don’t have sauce so the vegetables stand out. I work with farmers who also love vegetables and they bring me what they are most excited about and inspired by, so that collaboration is a thrill. Also traveling to Italy has been a huge inspiration for me, the pizzas there span so many methods and genres, not just what most people think of as Italian Pizza. Although the pizza in Naples is also delicious.

In a single word, how would you describe the pizza you make at Lovely’s Fifty Fifty?
That’s hard! I would say, Seasonal.

What does the name Lovely’s Fifty Fifty even MEAN!????!?!?!
It’s Lovely’s, which pays homage to our first restaurant, and fifty fifty, which is half pizza half ice cream.

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The food landscape in Portland, OR is pretty incredible. What’s the public perception of pizza? Is it still considered a junk food or is there a general acceptance that pizza is a worthy vehicle for expression and culinary greatness?
I think by now people know that the pizza at Lovely’s is healthy, organic and very good for you. But I still hear people say that pizza is junk food. If they don’t directly say that, they tell me that they are avoiding bread, or pizza, or other foods that they deem unhealthy at that moment. To me, pizza is the most complete food. Wheat comes from seeds. It’s one of the oldest foods and one of the most nutritious and fiber rich foods you can eat. My dough has 40% local whole grains, all of it is organic, and it’s sourdough with a long fermentation which makes it supremely easy to digest. Cheese is also nutritious, and vegetables, which my pizzas have tons of, are the best.

What’s your favorite ingredient at the moment?
Right now it’s any organic cheese from Cascadia Creamery up in Washington state – they have a lava tube cave where they age their cheeses! Right now I also have tons of spring vegetables coming in like Nettles, Fava Greens, Pea Greens and even a little asparagus.

Do you have any big plans coming up for the pizzeria?
My only plans right now are improving Lovely’s every day. I try to learn new things that make it better by reading, traveling and meeting other people who make great pizza and love what they do.

[Photos by Shawn Linehan Photography]

*This post is part of a month-long series featuring women in the pizza industry in honor of Women’s History Month!

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