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Rally Pizza owners reopen at Victor 23 Brewing, take over Portland’s Lucky Horseshoe Lounge

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Rally Pizza has a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobi to it. Three months after the great Vancouver pizzeria’s original location was struck down, it is returning more powerful than I would have imagined.

Alan Maniscalco and Shan Wickham, the longtime chef and pastry chef, respectively, at Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Portland, opened Rally in 2016 at The Mill, a shopping center off East Mill Plain Boulevard. They figured the location, across the Columbia River from Portland International Airport and not far from I-205, would bring in pizza fans from far and wide. With apologies to La Sorrentina, Nonavo and a handful of others, Rally was my personal favorite among the recent class of Vancouver pizzerias.

But with a “chef-driven” menu, a full bar, tasty desserts and around 100 seats inside and out, Maniscalco and Wickham found they needed a staff of at least 20 to keep operations running things smoothly.

“In 2016, that was 20 people at $9 an hour,” Wickham said during a phone interview Wednesday. “By the time we closed, it was 20 people at a minimum of $16 an hour, and line cooks at $20-plus, combined with paying downtown Portland rent in a strip mall in the middle of Vancouver.”

“We are huge supporters of the minimum wage,” Maniscalco added. “It just happens to be that the style of restaurant we opened in 2016 probably wasn’t advisable for 2016, and certainly not for 2023.”

“We actually did Ok during the pandemic,” Wickham said. “If we could have split the space in half with more takeout and just a little dine-in, we would have been fine. As it was, it was never going to pencil out.”

The couple pulled the plug in December. Then, just one month later, Victor 23 Brewing owner Bryan Ward reached out about taking over the food program at his 7-year-old brewery Vancouver brewery. That might sound like good fortune, but in my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.

This week, Maniscalco and Wickham began serving a slimmed down version of the Rally menu at the brewery, with spicy almonds, a chop salad, garlic bread, cauliflower with harissa and lemon and “brewpub-sized” versions of their top-selling pies, including a classic marinara, a margherita, a pepperoni, a white pie, a three salami and a four cheese.

But that’s not all. In April, Maniscalco and Wickham will take over Portland’s Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, 2524 S.E. Clinton St. No, they’re not planning another pizzeria, though they do have a couple of portable backyard ovens for future pizza pop-ups. Instead, the couple will transform the neighborhood watering hole into an Italian-inspired cocktail bar.

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