Category Archives: Portland

Escape from New York Portland Pizza

“More like Clown York City,” says DT, though I can’t say I agree wholeheartedly. The Escape from New York pizza shop located on 622 NW 23rd 503-227-5423 is definitely up there among the best ones in Portland: the old cash register’s nice; the employees are no-nonsense folk who move people through the line fast; and the staff pictures are pretty cool. But one does wonder if this shop actually escaped from New York or was simply kicked out.

The first slice I ever had here a couple years ago was fantastic. Each time I’ve returned, however, I’ve been served a different kind of slice. While they’ve all had the same slightly sweet sauce (which I’m not a huge fan of), the crust has always varied in crispiness, from almost cracker-like to floppy and doughy. The cheese is fine and evenly distributed, but nothing special.

This place has been at the top of everyone’s list for some time now; and while its notoriety will keep it up there among the best, it can’t and won’t propel it to the top in this growing Portland pizza scene.  I will give Escape from New York 5 out of 8 slices.

JMR Portland Pizza

Ken’s Artisan Pizza Portland Oregon

The first thing you see when you walk into Ken’s Artisan Pizza on Burnside is a large, neat stack of firewood that fits in so well with the restaurant decor that it actually took me a while to realize that it was the same wood that was being used to keep the oven fired. The combination of warm, well-placed hanging lights and the fiery pizza oven makes the spacious Ken’s a cozy, elegant pizza place.

Just like the pizza I miss so much from home, the pizza at Ken’s located at 304 SE 28th (503) 517-9951, is crispy-crusted and charred just enough to give you a taste of the oven it was fired in. I tried a total of four of their pizzas: fennel sausage with onion, spicy sopresatta, winter squash with a hard goat cheese, and, of course, the standard margherita.

If you’re looking to grab a cheap slice of pizza, then Ken’s Artisan Pizza isn’t the place you want. Rather than slices Ken’s does individual 12” pies cut into quarters, which, at 12.99 each and made with such high quality ingredients, I’d say are priced extremely fairly. According to the menu each pizza serves 1-2 people, which in my experience translates to: serves 2 unless you’re really pretty hungry and aren’t drinking a couple pints of the microbrews (Amnesia red, Terminal Gravity IPA) they have on tap.

This is our first review of artisanal pizza. We plan on making our way over to Apizza Scholl’s and Nostrana soon to give us a better sense of this slice of the pizza industry here in Portland, but I will say that though the crust is charred, it’s not slightly scorched all throughout the underside, which some may deem inauthentic. It’s a crispy crust but not crackery. Our waitress got the job done efficiently but was a little cold at first. I look forward to going back after visits to the two places mentioned above (plus anywhere else you, our gracious readers, recommend).  I will give Ken’s Artisan Pizza 5 out of 8 slices.

EDP Portland Pizza

Mississippi Pizza in Portland Oregon

Lots of people here, always. Expect a line at Mississippi Pizza Pub on 3552 N Mississippi (503) 288-3231. Sometimes people sing in the adjacent room, or Pete Rock reads. This time the water cooler was low. Not a big deal though cause Dan reminded me that the soda machine makes water.

Pizza guys are always friendly here but not too friendly. They’ll ask you if you want a beer if you don’t order a beer, which is good. Maybe the guys feel sorry for the slices when they leave the counter without beer since the two go so well together and really don’t like being separated? I don’t know.

A nice crust. I generally like mine a bit crispier, but this was okay. It made for good folding. Nothing falling apart like American Dream(’)s. An excellent sauce-to-cheese ratio, though I have to say that the sauce could be more flavorful (which is the biggest reason why I’m not giving this za 5 stars).

This is certainly one of the better pizza joints in Portland, so I’d recommend trying it out–and then going to The Albina Press afterwards…. I will give Mississippi Pizza 6 out of 8 slices.

JMR from Portland Pizza

Bellagios Pizza Portland Oregon

Bellagio’s: “The Very Best”—hahahahaha. So let me tell you about Bellagio’s located on 8112 SE 13th (503) 230-2900. This pizza shop is part of a collection of pizza places, of the same name, located across Oregon. As such, it naturally suffers the way any food suffers when it is subjected to a scientific construction that guarantees consistency across retailers.

The cheese pie we picked up could be confused, in a pizza lineup, with a pie from Rovente’s, except it’ll set you back about $7 more than a slice from that beloved Hawthorne shack. The pizza is characterized by a thin crust, with a layer of cheese so bound to its bready foundation that it might have been painted on. Faint traces of sauce tinted red the between-space, but any flavor remained elusive to the taste buds. The XL pie is also cut in to 12 pieces, which I sort of like, since you don’t have to commit yourself to big slices, and so there are more opportunities for equitable distribution among various group sizes.

Though the standard extra-large cheese pie will run you about $15, it is only a dollar or so for more toppings, so it sort of fills a niche left wanting by the gross price differential between Rovente’s plain pizzas and their fancier toppinged siblings. The two establishments also share a similarity in their unwelcoming atmospheres (one, clean and corporate, the other, dingy and on the verge of collapse), so any reader contemplating a slice “for here” is advised to reconsider.  I will give Bellagio’s Pizza in Portland 1 out of 8 slices.

DT. Portland Pizza

Hammys Pizza Portland Oregon

Hammy’s Pizza is a cute little start up pizza shop on SE Clinton. The vaguely anime/Japanese star graphic adorning their exterior caught my eye from the 10 bus one day as I was returning from downtown, and I made a note to get off and give it a shot the next time I found myself in the same situation.

J and I were caught a little off guard when we first entered, primarily because we encountered a cavernous space that offered only carryout service. A huge oven, some stairs and a sink sparsely populated the area behind the counter. A drink refrigerator to the right of the register had a wide selection of Shasta beverages, which, as a connoisseur of discount carbonated beverages, I appreciated. The pizzaiolo was a young girl, exuding the excitement and nervousness one would expect from the proprietor of a new and risky business venture.

She ran a glob of dough through a flattener a couple of times, sauced it up, tossed on some cheese and shoved it in to the oven. As you can see in the picture, Hammy’s only does complete pies. The advantage is that every piece of pizza you get will be freshly made, and will come in its own little tiny box. The disadvantage is that you must commit to a whole pie, or else come to a consensus with other pizza goers if there is a heterogeneity of pizza preferences.

The pizza itself is reasonably good. The crust is doughy and thick; the sauce is a little sweet with no zingy bite. The cheese complements the other ingredients well. Overall if you’re into thicker pizza, and you’re in the ‘hood, Hammy’s might be worth a visit—especially if you have an interest in supporting local start-ups.

The small cheese above will cost you $4, which I feel is pretty reasonable for what you get.  I will give Hammy’s Pizza 4 out of 8 slices.

DT. from Portland Pizza

Bella Faccia Pizzeria Portland

This review is from DT at Portland Pizza. Bella Faccia is another one of those NE PDX pizza establishments that is all the rage these days. Most likely, this stems from the cozy but disjointed atmosphere, the slightly detached pizzaiolos, and the guaranteed vegan fare. Portlanders…

Anyway, the pizza is good. Thin crust, even cheese distribution, sizable slice. If you get there between 4 and 6, the beers (Laurelwood, Terminal Gravity… PBR) are a little cheaper. JMR and I can’t remember anything special about the sauce, so it can’t be awesome (or terrible, for that matter), but the overall experience is generally a positive one.

Though the ladies behind the counter seem a bit distant, their lack of warmth is more than made up for by the pace at which they can serve the long lines that tend to spontaneously form in the shop. Even with a dozen people in front of you, it never seems to take more than a few minutes before you step away from the counter with a little slice of heaven in your hand.

On a personal note: Last time I visited Bella Faccia, I bought $8.50 worth of pizza and brew. When I checked my bank e-statement several days later, I noticed I was charged $13.50. I don’t know if this was an honest mistake, or if it was a well calculated attempt to shake me down, but I was/am pretty annoyed. Moral of the story is, either pay with cash, or hold on to your receipt so you can make sure you don’t get stiffed.  I will give Bella Faccia in Portland 5 out of 8 slices.


Rudy’s Pizza in Portland Oregon

Thanks to JMR from PortlandPizza for another great review.  An unpretentious pizza joint off SE Powell complete with a flat screen tv and plenty of movie memorabilia, Rudy’s pulls off what most other Portland pizza places can’t. As soon as I walked in, I had flashbacks of being in Kustom Pizza Co., and might have walked out immediately if not for the friendly lady behind the counter, who greeted us warmly before asking for our IDs (a 21+ ‘za shop!). I soon realized that the posters on the walls were in no way creepy like at Kustom Pizza Co., where the decorations are in such wild juxtaposition that one forgets he’s eating in an official eating establishment and instead fancies himself a visitor of a rather gay funhouse.

As for the ‘za, it’s American Dream without the crackery, intolerable crust (read: much better). Tons of cheese cooked to a slight scorch thrown onto a thick, chewy crust. As a result, you get a great slice of ‘za but its sauce suffers, serving only to provide a respectable barrier between crust and cheese.

Though I do like the way the cheese is cooked, I can’t say any distinct flavors in it popped out at me. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t take on that rubbery quality like so many cheeses sitting atop ‘zas of this nature seem to possess. And while I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to taste any zing in the sauce, I am grateful that they didn’t plop a bunch on, which would’ve made this ‘za a mess to handle. As is, I’m happy with the proportions but am interested to see how Rudy’s develops a way to give their sauce its own voice in a world dominated by cheese and crust.

Other pluses include free bottled water when you eat in the shop, packets of very potent red pepper when you get it delivered, and a super friendly staff (extremely pleasant delivery guy).  I will give Rudy’s Pizza 5 out of 8 slices. Definitely give this shop a visit if you’re in the area.

Rovente Pizza SE Portland

Another great post from IZ at Portland Pizza. First off, I’m starving. Famished. In need of a slice. J and E agreed that pizza was a good idea and I saddled up to my first review. As I waited around for them to return from Hawthorne, I thought of Rovente’s Pizza with anticipation. Would it be overly buttery like Rudy’s? Soggy like Hammy’s delivery? A slice of that Ninja Turtles pie I’ve been waiting 17 years to taste? Truly though, these questions don’t really matter when an extra-large cheese costs 7.99 for pickup. It’s a deal. It’s a steal. Sale of the freaking century.

To be completely honest, I desperately wanted to maintain my skepticism of Rovente’s Pizza. All the hype, the arguments, and, most importantly, the low low price made me think that I’d get some cardboard dough, cheap and overly salted sauce, and a thin, insubstantial layer of a plastic-like cheese. I’ll be the first to admit, I was wrong. This SE pizzeria actually brought forth a tasty pie. The crust was pleasantly doughy, a bit par-baked, but not offensive; cheese was generous and added more than just texture; and the sauce was surprising, tasting like tomatoes, not paste, though canned it must be. Hot out of the box, I couldn’t get enough (again, four slices in approximately three minutes) – the bottom of the crust crisp, the cheese ever so slightly browned. I was hungry and now I am not, which is, in the most essential of views, an important quality for pizza.

However, I must now give my 20-minutes later check-in. Gurgling in my stomach, probably more to do with my rapid eating than the quality of the slice, I’m not sure I’m such a glowing fan of this pizza as I was before. It seems secretly greasy. Indeed(!), what seemed a dry, reasonably oiled pie at first has now left only its trace – residue on my fingers and lips, plus a bit of indigestion. Very similar to what I’ve always thought of as “salt-butter” around my mouth when dealing with Rudy’s, Rovente’s leaves me in much the same discomfort, but to an admittedly lesser degree. I guess the thing you have to watch out for when dealing with both of these pizzas is the high salt content. I’m no kid with an iron stomach anymore and sodium really gets me. But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to visit Milwaukee Teriyaki and it won’t make me pass up Rovente’s again.  I will give Rovente’s Pizza 5 out of 8 slices.

I’m satisfied; the lesson learned being more about my eating habits in general than of this pizza. It was good and enough is enough.

Dove Vivi Pizza Portland Oregon

Thanks to IZ from Portland Pizza for another great post.  Across the street from the garish colors and outdoor tables of Pambiché, the strip mall housing Dove Vivi Pizza is a calm, unassuming location.  Located at 2727 NE Glisan St in Portland (503) 239-4444. A big, black heart on a sign-pole stands in the parking lot. A few people drink beer outside. I couldn’t really tell if the design was supposed to be upscale, hip, or neighborhood-y, but the pans of deep-dish convinced an entrance.

The first thing you see when you walk through Dove Vivi’s glass doors is refrigerated display case full of half ‘zas. These must be the source of the individual slices ($3.75) and are, as their website stresses, not pre-cooked. A nice hostess informed us of a short wait and we were seated in approximately five minutes. Not too bad.


Nostrana Pizza Portland

This post comes from our friend IZ at PortlandPizza.  Sometimes, when I’m eating, I just don’t feel the need to be in a fancified warehouse. It’s not that I get vertigo looking up at those high, beamed ceilings, nor do I think about all the bugs and critters that may be inhabiting such lofty wood; these things don’t bother me. Perhaps its just that the emptiness of the space above my head seems to demand filling. Maybe one must look up with soaring ideas of how wonderful the food may be, eyes rolling to the tops of their sockets, tracing the beams, if one is so lucky, to put words to the sublime occurrence dancing across one’s taste-buds.

Well, most-likely not.  Sitting in a corner booth this weekend at Nostrana which is located at 1401 SE Morrison, (503) 234-2427, the space above my head felt decidedly vacant. This was to be my second trip to the well-known eatery in a few years and, I feel bad to say, I could never understand how it was ranked Restaurant of the Year in 2006. Don’t worry, I’ve had other things besides the pizza to make sure that my feelings were not in error and, across the board, I’ve felt let down. Their menu seems so interesting, ingredients so fresh; even on the plate the food looks amazing. Once it enters the mouth, on the other hand, not much lives up to Nostrana’s impressive pedigree. I don’t mean to say the food is bad, which it is not per se, its just lacking, as if each dish needed one thing, one spice, one technique to bring all the flavors together, but that something just wasn’t there.

As this is a Pizza Review, I’ll leave the other foodstuffs to the side and focus my efforts on a “traditionally” “uncut” Margherita pie. House mozzarella, tomato, basil, with added arugula, and proscuitto. Fancy. I’m sorry that the picture I have doesn’t do justice to the wonderful look of this pie, but you’ll have to believe me that my mouth was watering.

With the commencement of the cutting, however, things started to go downhill. In the middle, there seemed to be a pool of the most liquified elements of the sauce and melted cheese, which caused unnecessary difficulty in cutting a slice. Upon reaching the crust with the knife, I had a ball of dough and toppings, which I had to fold over into a sort of calzone in order even to attempt a bite. The sauce was good, very simple; the crust, inconsistent; the cheese, a bit over cooked; the arugula, a bit greasy; the prosciutto, very nice. On their own, each component had flavor, texture, and was most certainly fresh, but together, I found them bland. It was as if all the flavors canceled each other out. Very unfortunate.
Overall, Nostrana greeted me with high expectations and, when all was said and done, I left unsatisfied and with a hole in my wallet.  I will give Nostrana 2 out of 8 slices.

(Other notes: Service was aloof. They have Caldera IPA in a can.)