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Portland, OR – Old Town Pizza

Old Town Pizza, Portland

Old Town Pizza, Portland

Everybody raves about Old Town Pizza, just look at the front page of their website:  “Something to Experience before You Die”;  “Visited by the Tonight Show and Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels“.

So what are my raves about Old Town?  It’s a really nice building and space.  Oh, and it’s a really nice building and space.

I went with their normal crust, which is kind of “Boboli-like” in nature; they now offer a “new thin crust” but it only comes in a smaller version. (Wot? Wot?).

The sauce is non-descript, and the cheese, well, is cheese.  I was really excited from the menu description of the “house-made sausage”, but it wasn’t all that flavorful, and the bits were miniscule.   There are lots of great house-made sausages around town, and this isn’t one of them.

You place your order at the ‘order counter’, and it’s not really clear that if you want drinks, you can pay together or separate (at least it wasn’t to me).

The order-taker gives you a playing card, and your pizza is brought out when it is ready.  If your server is ambitious, you’ll get flatware, plates, and napkins.  If they aren’t, you’ll have to ask.

Standard seasonings adorn each table.

I’m just moving into a new office in Old Town, and I was really hoping this place was going to be my twice-weekly stop or delivery choice.

Did I mention it’s a really nice building?

Old Town Pizza, Portland

Old Town Pizza, Portland


Old Town Pizza on Urbanspoon


Nationwide – Villa Pizza


Waiting at the local mall the other day, actually waiting to have lunch with a client nearby, was feeling a might peckish and decided to have a pre-lunch slice. The food court option was Villa Pizza, an outlet of the nationwide brand chain, Villa Enterprises.

The origin of the pizza stems from a single outlet in NYC’s Times Square, and now they have over 200 locations in malls and airports across the country.

It was $3.50 for a good-sized slice of “New York style” pepperoni, and I liked it. Thin crust, capable of a good roll if you wanted to eat it “New York style”, with a crispy edge and chewy middle. The sauce has a bit of heat to it, and the pepperoni is low in fat enough to prevent cupping or charring.

I’d hit it up again.  Menu is online.


Villa Pizza

Villa Pizza



Villa Pizza

Villa Pizza

 Villa Pizza on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Rocco’s Pizza #Fail


Rocco's Pizza Portland

Rocco's Pizza Portland

I walk by Rocco’s a hundred times a week. It’s across Burnside from Powell’s, and semi-attached to late nite haunt, Rocco’s Bar. I’ve never been in the pizza place, but was walking by today at the appropriate hour, and decided to try a slice. I glanced at the menu board, which was really no help, and the ever so (not) polite counterman pointed me at a blackboard, with today’s slices. OK.

I ordered a slice of “Texas” something, basically a three meat pie, and a small coke. $6.50. Did I hear you right? $5.00 for a slice of pizza and $1.50 for a 12 oz fountain coke?

I thought, this is either the best fuckin’ pizza in town, or there are no other pizza places within miles. Neither turned out to be true.

When you walk in the place, you’ll note on the door that the “restrooms are for customers only,” or maybe it’s “no public restrooms.” I really hate this about Portland merchants. I get it, but I still hate it. While I was at the counter, I noticed the restroom door and it had a large sign that said “key required.”

At most slice places (like Sbarro or Schmizza, for example), the counterman will take your choice and toss it in the oven for a couple minutes to bring it back to life. I assumed that would be the case here, as well, even tho I don’t give a rat’s about whether they do this, or not.

In any case, after I ordered, I said “may I have the restroom key while I am waiting?” His retort: “After you pay and complete your transaction.” Wow, “restrooms for customers only,” indeed!

I started to say, “well…” but the slice and empty beverage cup where in front of me and the dude was looking for my coin. I forked it over, and he gave me my change, slid the plate forward, and pointed at the bathroom key. I put the plate aside at the counter, and went to ‘wash my hands.”

Coming back to the counter, I picked up the slice, which was spread across two paper plates, because it was fairly large, but it’s also a marketing thing, too, isn’t it?

I filled my cola cup and went outside to the picnic tables to sit in the (seldom seen, but often rumored) Portland sun.

I was pretty happy to escape the innards of Rocco’s, it doesn’t give the appearance or comfort of being all that clean. We’ll see tomorrow if any signs haunt me that would confirm that.  But cleanliness was non-existent at the picnic tables as well, with food and paper leavings from previous customers.

Other than size, Rocco’s pizza is nondescript. Standard food service precooked sausage crumbles, a smattering of processed cheese, an aerosol wisp of sauce, and a heavily cornmeal laden crust. Cornmeal, as you probably know, is used as a ‘crisper’ in a lot of pizzerias; some incorporate it in the dough, some merely use it as a bed for baking. Rocco’s seems to employ both methods, leading to some online reviews comparing the crust to being at the beach and eating sand.

I wouldn’t go that far. And I won’t go as far as Rocco’s again. Their complete menu is online, and they boast their large pizza will feed 8 adults. With a top price of $27.50 per pie, it damn well better feed 8. That’s a lot of dough for the dough. Unheard of these days.

In checking Google maps, it appears there are at least 8 pizza joints within a one mile radius of Rocco’s, including the Silver Dollar on Broadway, one I kinda like. So the theory I expounded on above, regarding there being a dearth of pizza nearby, isn’t true either.

Rocco’s charges the prices they do because they can, I guess. But damned if I can figure out why consumers are willing to pay.  You know, I should have known how bad this was going to be.  Any commercial business that chooses to use a domain ending with .ORG…..well, that’s says a lot, doesn’t it?  Idiots.

Rocco's Pizza, Portland, OR

Rocco's Pizza, Portland, OR

Rocco's Pizza on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Pazzo Ristorante


In my opinion, it’s hard to find anything affiliated with the Kimpton Hotel chain that is “wrong.” Our experiences in these hotels, around the country, and here in Portland, have been absolutely superb. In fact, the Portland Monaco (formerly Fifth Avenue Suites) was Mrs. BDB and my choice to host our wedding party, back in the day. The concierge there, during our visit, saved our bacon on more than one occasion during the turmoil of putting a wedding together!

We’ve also stayed at their sister hotel across the street, the Vintage Plaza, and been equally impressed. Pazzo is the in-house restaurant at the Vintage Plaza, and we have eaten there on several occasions. We ventured there last night looking for a happy hour where we could enjoy Portland’s brief flirtation with the sun, and sit outside, if possible.

Wednesdays are our “happy hour” night out, and we set out early, arriving just after 5p, so there was no problem getting a table outside, to enjoy the evening sun and watch the pedestrian traffic on Broadway.

Pazzo has a bar menu all the time, and the happy hour menu is the same, but at greatly reduced prices. So reduced, that we shot our wad and ordered the entire menu, skipping only the pasta. This is the bar menu, but with the regular (not happy hour) prices:

Everything we tried was absolutely “Kimpton wonderful,” as was the over the top service from our waitress, who is in her third year at the Pazzo, previously having been down the street at Portland’s luxe hostelry, the Benson.

We grazed in the order the dishes were served, starting with complementary breads and oil,  the salad, and one of the impressive aspects of our server is she went ahead and delivered the smaller items on two plates, so sharing was easily.   The salad was delightfully refreshing in the evening heat, and we followed that with the salumi plate, loaded up with beautiful Italian processed pork products, olives, and, fresh mozzarella.

The wood-fired pizza came next, I had chosed sausage, fresh mozzarella, and basil for the toppings, the crust was cracker thin and had a nice char around the edges from the oven.  Pazzo also operates a take-out shop and bakery next door to the restaurant, opening during the daytime only, and they have a great pizza, as well, but their version is not baked in the wood oven.   The sausage was tasty, the basil and mozzarella fresh, the cheese added a nice creaminess to the pie.  Since I do so love ‘cracker-thin’, this is one of my favorite pizzas in Portland.

After the bread, salad, salamis, and some pizza, I couldn’t even touch the hero sandwich, but Mrs. BDB had a bite and said it was excellent. Upon our departure, the served boxed up the remaining food, and we’ll have enough to get through the morning after…if not the day.

Like most people, we enjoy these happy hour meals because they are inexpensive, and allow us to sample the fare of a variety of Portland restaurants.   We went over the top here, with an $80 tab, but that included over $50 in beverages.   You can get by for much less, well drinks during happy hour at Pazzo are only $3.00.

I really love the folks at Kimpton.  Luxurious accomodations, top notch staff, plush amenities, a wine party at night at most hotels, pet friendly.

And food like Pazzo. BRAVO! Ahhhhhhh.

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Pazzo Ristorante on Urbanspoon


Oregon & Washington – Abby’s Legendary Pizza


There are a lot of these around (35) the area, but none of them are really near me, so when I was driving up I-5 yesterday, I took advantage of seeing one of their locations, and stopping in for a take-out pie for my ride.

Can’t really say what town it was in, Southern Oregon somewhere, just off the Interstate, and it was lunchtime, they were doing a fairly brisk business, two women behind the counter, seemed to be a little overtaxed work wise, but nonplussed all the same. They took my order with a good attitude, and were kind enough to caution me the cooking time might be a little longer than usual, which was fine with me.

They had a salad bar, but I was surprised at their not being a lunch buffet, so popular with so many of the pizza chains these days. The salad bar has the usual assortment of items we have grown used to seeing at pizzerias. I generally don’t like pizza buffets, the last one I was at, every single pie seemed to have pineapple on it – not a favorite topping of mine.

I went with a medium thin crust Ultimate Meat, which includes Italian Sausage, Linguica, Pepperoni, Canadian Style Bacon, and extra cheese. After the required amount of prep and cooking time (no idea how long, I was doing a crossword puzzle), they called my name, and off I went.

It’s a good pie, better than most chains, and Abby’s are more than generous with toppings. The pie is thin enough to have a bit of “New York hang”, but no “slide” which is a good thing (when you pick up a piece, the toppings don’t end up on your plate.

There was plenty left by the time I reached home, and Mrs. Burgerdogboy pronounced it great, and she usually doesn’t care about pizza one way or another. I asked her what she liked, and I saw her scanning her brain for the word – she said “the dust”. I said “cornmeal?” “No, the meat crumbs – debris!” (Debris is a New Orleans food term.). What she was saying, between the toppings is there is a lot of small crumb bonus meat, which she liked.

Abby’s sauce is a bit sweet than most, but all in all, this pie is a winner. $20 for the medium. I would add the joint to my regular circuit if the closest one wasn’t 50 miles away. Their menu is online, but their website is not nearly as good as their pizza. They are also on FB, but apparently not Twitter.

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Abby's Legendary Pizza on Urbanspoon


Gold Beach, OR – Sunset Family Pizza


“Employee entrance only – Carla’s Kitchen” says the sign on the back door. Online references state that this is the former home of a place called “Grants Cafe”. But now, it’s all about “Sunset Family Pizza.” Is that a family named “Sunset?” Or an indication that the restaurant is “family friendly?” I didn’t care enough to ask, when I was zipping thru Gold Beach on a late night return from a biz meeting in Crescent City, California, a town so dreary, it doesn’t deserve more than this single sentence from me.

My cuisine preference for that drive was burgers, at first, but I had zipped thru a couple communities and come up empty…. not even the meanest, baddest, maximum security prison in the nation, Pelican Bay, didn’t have anything to offer as I scooted by – I was hoping for at least a brief stop at a prison gift shop.

It was too damned cold on the coast to wander any urban areas by foot, so my choices were limited to whatever signs my one good eye caught at 50 mph …. I probably wouldn’t have noticed Sunset Family if there hadn’t been a man outside stringing white twinkly lights on the front porch.

I have a very low threshold of patience when it comes to stopping, and Sunset almost stymied me with their tricky, back alley entrance to the parking lot. Apparently the city fathers didn’t want US 101 drivers entering and exiting the establishment from the highway (front) side.

Encouraged by the sign posted facing the parking lot, which offered “FRESH”pizza (as opposed to?), I meandered in and perused the menu of the mostly (Easter weekend) empty establishment, with delicious aromas coming from the large kitchen window directly behind the register. A nearly empty cooler of drinks gave me a clue to its newness, but complete apathy prevented me from asking questions about when they had landed.

I was dressed in my business outfit, and after ordering the large “all meat pie” (which included mushrooms and black olives, for some reason), I ducked into the little boy’s room to change into my “driving/pizza eating” outfit, which was comprised of jeans and my genuine “George Webb – Famous Hamburgers” hoodie. This thoroughly confused the counter girl, as upon exiting the loo, she asked if she could take my order. (I had evolved from Superman to Clark Kent!). I spent the balance of my waiting time pressed up against one of the two free-standing fireplaces in the room.

The pie was up shortly, and I scrambled to the car to continue my drive homeward, and dive into my “za”, armed with a boatload of napkins, and a couple of Coke Zeros.

The menu crows about “dough made fresh daily”, and it showed. Although the crust was thicker than my usual preference, it passed the test of being crispy and chewy at the same time. The crush holds the toppings well, has a minimum of “hang” and in general, the pie, cheese and toppings hold together well during the consuming part of the experience.

Cheese was real, ample, and had  nice “pull.”

The pie was amply packed with meat toppings, including large paper thin pepperoni slices, and a delightfully smoky linguicia (sic) (portugese sausage wiki reference). The menu touted other meat toppings as sausage and ground beef, which were crumbled and indistinguishable from each other, but certainly not objectionable. I had skipped the mushroom offering, but included the black olives, which were thinly sliced and far more flavorful than the standard Lindsay’s brand one is used to finding on pizza.

The sauce leans towards the sweeter variety, again, not my first preference, but again, not overpowering enough to turn me against the pie. Herb usage was moderate and added to the overall experience.

My true test, like many people, is how good the pie is the next morning after a night on the kitchen counter, and Sunset Family passes that test with flying colors.

Sunset makes a good pie. Not worth driving hundreds of miles out of your way, but if you find yourself in Gold Beach, it’s certainly worthy of including as a meal. If I lived there, I’d be at least a semi-regular.

Pix below of pizza (only) menu, tho the joint offers additional food like sandwiches, pastas, salads and appetizers; exterior; and the pie itself.

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Sunset Family Pizza on Urbanspoon

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