Rudy’s Pizza

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An unpretentious pizza joint off SE Powell complete with a flatscreen 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.

Rudy’s Delivery

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).

Definitely give this shop a visit if you’re in the area.

JMR

Rudy’s Pizza
4716 SE Powell (map)
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Escape from New York

Escape From New York

“More like Clown York City,” says DT, though I can’t say I agree wholeheartedly. This ‘za shop 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 ‘za scene.

JMR

Escape from New York
622 NW 23rd (map)
(503) 227-5423
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Hammy’s Pizza

SECOND UPDATE, Still Summer 2008: We were misinformed! Our fact-checking has revealed the previous update to be in error. ‘Za still attainable at distance.

UPDATE, Summer 2008: Hammy’s has changed their regular and late-night delivery policy. Now delivering no further south than Holgate. Customers who once ordered multiple times per week–and reviewed them way back in 2006, before Hammy-mania hit Portland!–feel totally abandoned. Not that they shouldn’t do what they have to do to keep the business thriving, but it is a major blow.

Hammy’s personal pie

Hammy’s is a cute little start up ‘za 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 ‘za 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 ‘za 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.

DT.

Update: Delivery!

Breakfast ‘za.

Ordered a breakfast ‘za for delivery sometime after midnight last week and boy was it delicious (especially on my way to work the next morning). Egg, bacon, potatoes, tabasco sauce–what more could you ask for? Although I’ll have to eat there a few more times to make any conclusions, I think the specialty pizzas are actually the way to go here, which certainly makes sense given their menu.

The breakfast pizza cost us $7. You have to order $10 worth of goods, so we tacked on a calzone (for a non-reviewer friend) and a few Shastas. We heard that the delivery charge is $1 , but it was $2 a few hours later—so it increases as the night wears on, but I’m not sure what the max. fee is. We paid $19 total (excluding tip), which, with the calzone and the pie at $7 each and the $2 delivery charge, means the Shastas were a buck each. This doesn’t seem right because they go for 50 cents at the shop but perhaps the soda increases in value the more miles it travels.

Bottom line, though: they make a mean breakfast pizza and deliver late in the night. I look forward to visiting here more often and giving more comprehensive reviews as it establishes itself in the SE portland community.

JMR

Hammy’s Pizza
2114 SE Clinton (map)
(503) 235-1035
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Bellagio’s

Bellagio’s

Bellagio’s: “The Very Best”—hahahahaha. So let me tell you about Bellagio’s. This ‘za 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.

DT.

Bellagio’s Pizza
8112 SE 13th (map)
(503) 230-2900
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Ken’s Artisan Pizza

margherita

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 ‘za I miss so much from home, the pizza at Ken’s 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.

Winter squash and goat cheese

If you’re looking to grab a cheap slice of ‘za, then KAP 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).

EDP

Ken’s Artisan Pizza
304 SE 28th (map)
(503) 517-9951
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Mississippi Pizza

mississippi

Lots of people here, always. Expect a line. 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….

JMR

Mississippi Pizza Pub
3552 N Mississippi (map)
(503) 288-3231
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Stark Naked

Stark Naked offered a quiet escape from the bustling avenue adjacent its doors. The Saturday night we ventured within was a surprisingly slow night for the establishment, us four weary travelers accompanied by perhaps two other patrons and the young lady behind the counter. The interior was black and kitschy, with only the fluorescence of a bright beer cooler penetrating the dark. Most of the seating opinions immediately within the entrance were booths of hard and perpendicular wood, which may offer some insight into the relative dearth of customers. There was additional seating back beyond the counter, but the atmosphere was too dark to make a proper assessment of the space, besides to say that no human noises emanated from it.

Approximately four pies spun, with a quiet buzz, beneath a heat lamp atop the counter, drawing us near not unlike one of those blue lights that attracts and electrocutes insects. But instead of a horrific death, we were treated to a pizza of admirable balance. The crust was thin and agile, but well equipped to handle the pizza attached to it. Grease was present, but not in such a quantity that required a napkin dabbing. Subtle waves of cheese crested to a beautiful light brown, reflecting a conscious attention to quality that is sure to guarantee a fine slice of ‘za. Price wise, Stark Naked is a good value, though if you are in search of a jumbo New York-style slice, you may need to invest in more than one. Unfortunately, issues of size, and of course an absence of orgasmic-quality, prevent us from giving a rating higher than a 3.

DT.

Stark Naked Pizza
2835 SE Stark (map)
(503) 459-4450
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