Slice: Portland

Pizza reviews in the Portland area.

Oregon City, Oregon: Mi Famiglia Wood Oven Pizzeria

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[Photographs: Derek Arent]

Mi Famiglia Wood Oven Pizzeria

701 Main Street, Oregon City OR 97045 (map); 503-594-0601; mi-famiglia.com
Oven Type: Wood-fired
Price: $9 to $12 for 10-inch pizzas

Mi Famiglia is located in the Canemah district of Oregon City, an outlying Portland suburb which marks the end of the historic Oregon Trail. These days, a hungry Lewis-and-Clark type has no need for elk trapping or mushroom hunting. Instead, you can find a cozy, homey spot for wood-fired pies at the end of the fabled pioneering pathway. You'd expect something more basic in the 'burbs, yet the menu at this corner eatery was all over the pizza map.

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The unexpected seemed commonplace at Mi Famiglia. The pizza menu was quite extensive, with 40 plus 'do it yourself' ingredients, in addition to their prefab combinations. Pies were advertised in the 10" personal size, but in a strange twist (new to this reviewer), a small menu side-note offered everything in a 5" size upon request. The crust on the pies was a topic of intense discussion. It was both sweet and savory; laced with cinnamon. Despite the typical dessert-y application of the spice, it really worked with most savory flavor combinations presented. The crusts were nicely charred and achieved a balance of crisp and chew, but lacked puff. The oven here is held around 850 degrees Fahrenheit, and a local pizza flour mix from Shepherd's Grain is utilized in their dough.

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You say Margherita ("The Original", $8.99), I say plain cheese. Either way, this pie was approachable, simple, and cheese-forward. The basil accented the warm spice flavors of the cinnamon-tinged crust. A salty note, however, was sorely missed here. The sauce seemed properly herbed and seasoned, but the pizza could have used more of it. The leopard-spotting on the cheese's surface, and the matching spots underneath made for an attractive slice.

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A Roasted Garlic ($9.79) pizza can go either way: abrasive and overpowering, or savory and rich. Most striking about this pie was the creaminess inside the orbs of roasted garlic which, upon visual examination, appeared rather potently numbered. Some slices had upwards of 8-10 cloves, which raised some eyebrows around the table. However, proper roasting mellowed the garlic's sharpness to produce a pizza that any garlic lover would undoubtedly deem a crave-worthy success. Texturally, the soft garlic, browned cheese, and crisp crust created an almost-perfect bite of pizza.

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Mi Famiglia's penchant for creative pies is evidenced by their experimental riff on the traditional Hawaiian pie, the Prosciutto and Mango ($10.99). At its best this topping combo was unforgettable, but best passed on. The extreme heat of the wood fired oven melted the mango cubes, making them taste sweet and vegetal, a characteristic that brought out a salty gaminess in the prosciutto.

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The Garlic Shrimp Pesto ($11.99) was the clear winner of the lot. Perfectly-cooked, the springy shrimp added briny harmony to Mi Famiglia's sweeter plain pie base. Toasted pine nuts added an additional textural dimension, and sweet red peppers brightened the overall affect of the pesto-topped pizza. On paper, it sounds like a bit of a mess, but in its execution this is the pie that will demand additional visits to this restaurant.
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Mi Famiglia was a welcome surprise. Their willingness to play around with flavor combinations was inspirational and impressive. If you live in Oregon City, I don't think you're going to do much better than this for local pizza of any sort. If you're coming south from the big city, leave the simpler options behind and order up something creative and exciting. You will be rewarded with a memorable experience and can consider yourself a Lewis and Clark of pizza for making the trip.

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