Slice: Portland

Pizza reviews in the Portland area.

Portland, Oregon: Gladstone Street Pizza

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[Photographs: Derek Arent]

Gladstone Street Pizza

3813 SE Gladstone Street, Portland OR 97202 (map); 503-775-1537; gladstonepizza.com
Oven Type: Bakers Pride
Price: $11-plus for 12-inch, $17-plus for 16-inch

I was surprised to see the oft-buzzed-about Gladstone Street Pizza left off of Portland Monthly's March 2011 Portland pizza round-up. What once was a coffee shop dabbling in pizza has recently become a full-time pizzeria, and the sharpened focus has allowed the pizza quality to improve, steadily approaching Portland's top tier.

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Gladstone Street Pizza's Margherita ($19) is both a delicate and savory affair. The crust is airy and thin, with a balanced ratio of crisp to chew. Pleasant development allowed for a structurally sound yet light end crust.

The uncooked sauce delivers a bold level of acidity accented by fresh garlic, oregano, and a touch of salt. Canned California tomatoes are exclusively used at Gladstone Pizza, complete with a mild disdain for the hype surrounding San Marzanos. Mozzarella plays second-fiddle to the sharp pecorino romano used to finish the pie. Fresh basil chiffonade is added just prior to presentation, layering the pizza with an additional dimension of garden brightness.

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The 1/2 sweet onion and 1/2 sausage and pepper pie ($25) was a bit cheesier than the Margherita and offered a heartier, less dainty experience. The distinct aroma of baked thinly sliced sweet onion dominated the entire pie, and its deep, rich flavor stood at the forefront of the slices on that half.

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The sausage half was another beast entirely. The locally-produced pork product from Otto's was in loosely ground form versus the more common rabbit pellets or frisbee discs. This made the slices remarkably light, but unfortunately downplayed any spice or fat flavors present in the meat. The pickled peppers from Mama Lil's really dominated here, making the pie more about acidic tang than the desired porcine richness. After taking a step back and reevaluating, letting my expectations dictate perception of quality wasn't quite fair; this was still a great pie, just with a pickled twist.

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The pizzamaking process at the Gladstone is a scientific wonder, with several timers going off to signal the next step of the intricate process. Care was evident every step along the way, from the hand toss to a post-service tableside survey from the chef, John Mitchell. While we waited for our pizza, the staff offered up samples of in-house pickling projects.

Despite the bare-bones feel of Gladstone Street Pizza, it's a spot that will satisfy the pizza nerd soul. Thinking back on the meal, I realize how inconsequential 'best of' lists can be.

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