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Sorella, Newport, OR, July 26, 2017

Sorella, in the historic Nye Beach area of Newport, OR.

Sometimes the first pizza we have at a new-to-us restaurant does not thrill. We visited Sorella with high hopes a couple of months ago but found the pizza, while tasty, to be overly salty. I was ready to write it off as not-so-worthy; however, we were impressed by the overall menu and rather than judge on one pizza, we vowed to return before committing our impressions to the blog.

Ric’s choice, an amazing pizza capricciosa with oil cured artichokes, prosciutto, mushrooms.

Last night was the night. With the heavy tourist season upon us, we can no longer count on pizza Fridays or dining-out Saturdays, as has been our tradition. It’s just too damned busy along the coast. So we dine mid-week now.

Sorella was busy but not slammed this foggy Wednesday evening. Yes, foggy. Like San Francisco, the Oregon coast can become foggy in a moment as hot valley air collides with cold ocean breezes. But I digress…. We were able to claim a table right away even at 19:00.

To start, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and the usual insalata Caprese condiments.

There is a fine list of wines by the glass and excellent local brews on tap. I chose a hard-to-find Nebbiolo while Ric quaffed an IPA. Perusing the menu with every intention of ordering a pasta or secondi, we were once again drawn to the pizza. In a what-the-hell moment, we both ordered pies in order to give them another chance to wow us. I am so glad we did.

Local art, Sorella, Nye Beach. Sadly, no polpo on the menu, though.

The pizza was not as salty this time. The flavors of the excellent toppings shown through, with even the sweet subtlety of peperonata complementing the flavorful sausage and peppery arugula on my sausage pizza. The crust is flavorful in itself, not merely a conveyance for toppings. This, dear readers, is a major difference in excellent pizza versus run-of-the-mill: do you like the crust on its own?

Warm, wood walls, colorful local art.

I have to make one criticism: the dinner menu, on second look, did not appeal to us. The pasta preparations just did not strike us as truly Italian. They seemed too complex versus the simplicity we like in Italy. There is cream in the tagliatelle con vongole, for example, and thus I was driven to eat pizza. The antipasto menu is intriguing so perhaps we will return and just dine off that sheet.

The sausage pizza is so much more! I love arugula on pizza. More pizzerias need to do it.

It is a cute restaurant, not-quite cozy but pleasant, with well-spaced tables and fun artwork. The noise level is low, service is efficient and pleasant, and while the pizzas are sized for individual consumption they will happily box the leftovers for you.

We give an OWP 8 to Sorella, and kudos to them for making The Oregonian’s list of 20 must-visit Oregon coast restaurants!

Italian Food: Need I say more?

 

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Cafe on Hawk Creek, Neskowin, OR, June 20, 2017

Oh dear, I see I have not blogged about pizza in a very long time! Not to say we haven’t eaten it. We’ve been back to Hearth and Table where we learned our lesson and only ordered a regular sized pie. We’ve caved to convenience and had Papa Murphy’s which, as Ric says, is not pizza but it’s good. We are not eating it weekly, however. It’s just such a darn heavy dish in the U.S!

Proposal Rock guards the entrance to Hawk Creek. The vast Pacific stretches beyond.

We did enhance our experience at the Cafe on Hawk Creek (see prior post here) with a pre-pizza walk on the beach.

For those not acquainted with the Oregon Coast, the “beach” is not the same animal you find in say California or Florida. Sure, there is sand, but the water is cold and even going barefoot is to risk hypothermia in June. We chose Tuesday as our off-day from going to the gym. Warm temperatures inland caused fog to hug the coastline, but that did not deter early-in-the-season vacationers. Kids still played in the sand and couple walked dogs. The weather was dry (that is, no rain) and moderate, in the low 60s. Perfect for not working up a sweat but getting in a good aerobic walk. Nothing like working off the pizza before you eat it.

A lone hiker heads north into the fog on the beach at Neskowin. You can walk 4 miles north from Hawk Creek before you are forced inland.

Oregonians are not deterred by fog on the beach.

My hiking buddy along the creek.

View of the Cafe from across the creek.

Since we were able to eat on the lovely deck, I can push this rating to a rare OWP “10,” a bonus point for seasonal ambiance.

So we combined our love of hiking with our love of pizza. Not a bad thing on a Tuesday in June. Beats working.

Lovely garden.

Not a lot of outdoor diners today.

For me, a Widmer Hefeweizen. Summer in a glass.

A simple pie of Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, onions, and spinach. Practically health food.

 

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The Cafe on Hawk Creek, Neskowin, OR, April 1 and 22, 2017

I shouldn’t write about The Cafe on Hawk Creek. It’s too busy already. We may not even be able to get a table come high tourist season. Although once the rains pass, perhaps some evenings will be warm enough to enjoy their generous deck.

An architectural style completely at home, nestled into tiny Neskowin.

This is a find on the Oregon Coast. I had been to Hawk Creek a couple of time back in 2005-2006 when our son was moving to Lincoln City to take a chef job. I remembered enjoying the pizza, but that was before our Italian adventure and neither Ric nor I were pizza snobs aficionados at the time. Rediscovering Hawk Creek over a couple of visits, I know it is going to be in the regular rotation not only for pizza but for the overall excellent menu.

Authentic wood-fired brick oven manned by two pizzaioli.

A 15-minute drive through coastal woodlands brings us to Neskowin faster than we used to walk Rossini in Rome. We went to Hawk Creek twice this month. Early in the month we waltzed in at 18:30 and were immediately shown a table. Last Saturday we arrive a few minutes before 19:00 and had a 30-minute wait. The wait was very entertaining as we had a great view of the pizzaioli making pies as fast as they could. The lesson (at least on Saturday night): come early. Or late. There are no reservations for smaller parties. Or you can take your pizza to go but to us, that is an inauthentic experience.

Pizza! Here the “Deluxe” with 3 types of meat and several veggie items on board. We worked out way through half…. The rest was Sunday breakfast.

The pizza is robust. American in size (enormous) and topping choices, it is Italian-ish in that the sauce is housemade and the crust is chewy yet tender, slightly charred from the wood-fired brick oven. We ordered a large Deluxe (Salami, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and Italian sausage) but could barely eat half. The leftovers made a fine breakfast on Sunday.

On our second visit, we promised ourselves we would not order pizza but would try something from the dinner menu. Unfortunately, the menu on their website does not include the half-dozen dinner selections which included salmon, halibut, and scallops. Our selections were scallops and salmon, each not only prepared perfectly but served with a creative veg and scrumptious potatoes.  This is something I really appreciate about Northwest cuisine. No boring steamed asparagus, but rather braised-to-a-state-of-caramelized Brussels sprouts with sweet bits of butternut squash. The starch accompanying Ric’s scallops were pesto mashed potatoes. A salad was included, selection of ultra-fresh greens, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes capped with slivered hazelnuts.

Ric hoists a local brew.

Hawk Creek has an impressive selection of beers on tap and an equally impressive wine list. There are a few by-the-glass options.

We can’t wait to try their breakfast, but the pizza is calling to me for a sooner-rather-than-later encounter.

Pizza Quality: 3  Fresh dough made daily, housemade sauce, fresh mozzarella, great produce and a wood-fired oven combine to make an excellent pie. I am not big on creative pizza toppings preferring a more Italian approach, but there are some interesting combos for those more adventurous than me.

My roasted salmon with berry reduction accompanied by almost-caramelized veg and lovely mashed potatoes. Served on an alder plank, of course. (It’s a thing in the PNW.)

Service: 3  Despite the busyness, the comings-and-goings of people picking up pies, and the no reservations system, Hawk Creek servers are never harried, always polite, and give an excellent estimate on how long you’ll have to wait. The electronic buzzer they give you while you wait has a range of over a mile, so it’s OK to walk around a bit.

Ambiance: 3   Cute and cozy in a pleasant and almost rural setting (Neskowin is very small). Mostly four-tops but they can serve larger groups with creative rearrangement. There are a few seats at the bar and the deck will be grand in summer.

Total Points: 9

Returnability:  The Best! Go out-of-your-way to eat here. If you are on the Central Oregon Coast, make the trek to Neskowin!

Ric’s choice, seared scallops with the lovely veg and a new-to-us twist, pesto mashed potatoes.

When we were served honey with our pizza, the owner explained it was to use on the crust “for dessert.”

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Fultano’s, Cannon Beach, OR, March 23, 2017

Cannon Beach used to be a twice-a-year jaunt for us. We’ve probably traveled here more than any single place on earth, although the number of visits we’ve made to Venezia is closing in on comparable. We came here with our collie each spring and fall for years and the first-night supper was always take-out pizza from Fultano’s.

A rare sunny moment on the beach this week with a view to Tillamook Head.

Our stint in Italy made Cannon Beach a long commute, so we haven’t been here since 2011. We’ve found much has stayed the same but there have also been changes. A new high-end grocery store, Fresh Foods, is a fine alternative to the old and musty Mariner Market. There are fun new restaurants such as the Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House, AKA “Screw and Brew,” while old favorites like Bill’s Tavern and Sleepy Monk Coffee endure. Luckily, Fultano’s is also still here.

Even after almost five years of pizza degustazione in Italy, Fultano’s was a nice surprise. Not as good as Hearth and Table, and certainly not as good as our faves in Roma, but an enjoyable American-style pizza.

The interior is built for large groups. A party of eight had just vacated the table in front of us. Order and pay at the counter.

The ambiance is not much, but then we’ve been in pizzerias in Italy that lacked atmosphere, too. (Not every Italian eatery is charming.) The people are very nice, and on this cold, blustery, March evening it was bustling with two family groups of eight people, a pair of couples, and several people stopped in for to-go orders.

Fultano’s abundant Haystack Pizza. A little-bit-of-everything….

Our favorite pizza at Fultano’s is very non-Italian: the overloaded “Haystack” pizza. Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock and this pizza is piled high with ingredients, thus the name. It includes Salami, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, Italian sausage, seasoned ground beef, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, olives, pineapple and Roma tomatoes. At $26.00 for a medium, it is far more expensive than two individual pizzas in Rome at our favorite places. Luckily, we could only eat half (unlike in Italy) so we had it for lunch the next day.

This is iconic Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Fultano’s pizza crust is dusted in cornmeal. While not particularly thick, the crust is substantial and the cornmeal makes it stand up to the pile of ingredients. Even overnight the use-ups did not get soggy. Their sausage is particularly flavorful, the peppers and onions come out a bit al dente, and the tomatoes are added fresh after baking.

So you might ask why, if we live in Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast, we traveled to Cannon Beach. It is too far to drive just for pizza at two hours door-to-door. We came on a nostalgia trip and to celebrate Ric’s birthday. We have a nice ocean-front room and are living dangerously in the tsunami zone for three nights. (At home, we are safely away from the wave action.) It’s always nice to go back to a favorite haunt. Since we can’t get to Venice in 3 hours anymore, we’ll pop up to Cannon Bach now-and-again.

Pizza Quality: 2  Fresh ingredients, very tasty, but the crust and lack of wood-fired oven mean an OWP “3” is out-of-reach for Fultano’s.

Pre-sliced, of course, like most American pizza.

Service: 2 Order at the counter from the nice woman and they’ll call you when it’s ready. 

Ambiance: 2   Long communal tables, great for big groups, but not date-night charming. At least kids were not running amok like they do at Gallucci’s

Returnability: Go-to Place  a good choice in Cannon Beach

Bonus: 1 Extra credit for good wine and beer choices. Oregon wines and on-tap regional beers. 

Total Points: 7

 

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Hearth and Table, Lincoln City, March 1, 2017

We had double-good fortune at Hearth and Table. Not only did we find excellent pizza, we met local farmers who will be supplying us cicoria (chicory in English), something we have missed terribly since leaving Italy.

Our friend Amethyst had heard that Hearth and Table was supposed to be good. Papa Murphy’s is “supposed to be good.” This pizza, my dear readers, is on par with Apizza Scholls: some of the best pizza we’ve had in the U.S.

A classic of Italian pizzeria or salumeria interior decor, a wild boar, akak cinghiale.

A classic of Italian pizzeria or salumeria interior decor, a wild boar, aka cinghiale.

It was a busy Wednesday night when we arrived, buzzing with people eating in and especially with to-go orders. Their approach to pizza at H&T is to customize your pie (but no more than four toppings!) when you order at the desk, then you await the magic while enjoying the adult beverage of your choice. They have an excellent selection of craft brews in bottles and on tap. Pizza toppings are unique: caramelized onions, kale, chevre, and feta as well as the more traditional spicy salami, sausage, and olives. All pizzas have mozzarella and tomato sauce.

The whole pie, 16" of goodness. Sorry about the lighting. I never use a flash and this does not do it justice.

The whole pie, 16″ of goodness. Sorry about the lighting. I never use a flash and this does not do it justice.

As owner Ethan said, it’s not exactly Italian, but it is good. He is right. With all pizza, the crust is the most important component and H&T knocks it out of the park compared to most American pizzas. The ovens are hot hot hot though not wood-fired, so the crust is chewy with spots of char. The same ovens churn out tempting bread and cookies, to be tried on a future date.

Pizza is not the only offering. At both lunch and dinner, the menu changes based on what is fresh. For lunch, there are tempting sandwiches, and we saw many diners enjoying Wednesday’s pork chop special. The veggie side dishes (aka contorni in Italy) especially caught our eye. In particular, there was cicoria on the menu. We had not seen that available since we left Rome! But we were undeterred in our pursuit of fine pizza and ignoring the healthy cicoria we ordered a large (16″) pie with caramelized onions, salami, sausage, and fresh tomatoes. Excellent choice, if I do say so myself. The caramelized onions added delicate a sweetness while the meats were among some of the tastiest you can find in Oregon. We managed to get through half of the pizza, the rest thankfully boxed for us to take home. Next time we’ll order two small pies and try different ingredients.

A large communal table dominates the room. There are also 2-and-4 tops.

A large communal table dominates the room. There are also 2-and-4 tops.

Ethan sources local ingredients such as Olympic Provisions salami and produce from local farmers. In fact, when we inquired about his source of chicory, he pointed us to two other diners, Chloe and Jesse of Osprey Farm. The were at H&T enjoying some of the evening specials (not pizza). As a result of this divine series of coincidences (cicoria on the menu, Ethan available to chat, the farmers present) we have a cicoria delivery on Tuesday!

Pizza on the plate. Knife-and-fork required.

Pizza on the plate. Knife-and-fork required.

Going back is a no-brainer. We may have to try hard to not eat there every week.

Pizza Quality: 3 This is expensive pizza, but you get what you pay for. Fresh mozzarella, high-end meats, beautiful produce, and an excellent hand made crust. You can watch the baker (Ethan’s wife) work.

Service: 3 Caring and friendly, with a purpose and efficiency but always time to chat. We love that Ethan is present and shows such pride in the products he is serving. 

Ambiance: 3   Subdued but atmospheric — in fact dark enough that my photos are horrible. It is comfortable, with tables not too crowded. There is not a lot of seating, and I suspect Friday and Saturday finding a table at 7:00 pm would be a challenge. 

Total Points: 9

Returnability:  The Best! Go out-of-your-way to eat here. If you are on the Central Oregon Coast, make the trek to Lincoln City!

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Gallucci’s Pizzeria, Lincoln City, January 4, 2017

Sometimes you walk into a pizzeria and know you’ve made a mistake. That was the case with Gallucci’s.

Cavernous and institutional, and empty in January. But I'll bet it's rockin' in July.

Cavernous and institutional, and empty in January. But I’ll bet it’s rockin’ in July.

We were staying in Lincoln City for a couple of days making arrangements for some work on our new house prior to moving. (See Left Coast Life over at GoodDayRome.com.)  We figured this was a good time to start learning the pizza options in our new town, and Gallucci’s was close by.

We walked into this cavernous place teeming with rugrats and found it was self-service. Order and pay, then they call your number to pick up your pie. Charming. At least it was cheap.

The whole pie, cut American-style, which is actually nice when you are going to share.

The whole pie, cut American-style, which is actually nice when you are going to share.

This is everything that is wrong with American pizza. I put it in a class with Shakey’s, Roundtable, and Godfather’s: a very low class. The unremarkable crust was piled with too many ingredients and topped off with cheese that does not melt so much as fuse in a browned, chewy layer. The meat on the pizza was okay, the veggies fresh, but there was just too much stuff, perhaps to obscure the lackluster crust and meet the American need to have everything be huge.

The salad bar was not bad, but the paper plates we use in America, ugh!

The salad bar was not bad.

There was a salad bar that was not-too-bad, but from the quality of the wine they served, I’d say they don’t serve it too often. This is more of a beer place.

As far as atmosphere, I’d give it a 1 on the OWP scale. This was a very cold night and the interior was anything but snug and cozy. It is designed to serve large groups of tourists in the summer and the small children running unrestrained, coupled with the biggest game room outside of Chuckie Cheese (another sad excuse for a pizzeria), made it less than ideal.

This gives a better perspective on how much stuff was piled on. No wood-fired oven.

This gives a better perspective on how much stuff was piled on. No wood-fired oven.

We will be moving on to try others in Lincoln City, never to return to Gallucci’s. Funny thing is, before our time in Italy, we probably would have accepted this as average.

Pizza Quality: 1 

Service: 1 The employees were nice enough, but the self-service model was awful.

Unsupervised children and a game room.

Unsupervised children and a game room.

Ambiance: 1  Children running amok, video games, paper plates. Go here if you are in the company of 3-to-10 year olds who you prefer not to sit with.

Total Points: 3

Returnability: DNR – Do not return under any circumstances. Mistakes were made; do not compound them.

Unremarkable i=outside and in.

Unremarkable outside and in.

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Guido’s, Durango, CO, December 31, 2016

Our first Christmas in the U.S. since 2010 was a rousing good time and memorable for the people, the food, and the snow. (We have tried to forget the five hour flight delay in Denver.) We passed the holidays at about 7400 feet above sea level in Durango, CO, with my brother Rick and sister-in-law Jane. We visited with a vast assortment of their friends and extended family. Derek was along, too, so we’ve managed to have two major U.S. holidays together in the 60 days since we returned from Italy.

A few barstools define one end of the room. Great wine selections.

A few barstools define one end of the room. Great wine selections.

We had one memorable meal after the other. Roast turkey, prime rib of beef, duck, salmon, lamb, Swedish pancakes, grilled filet, salume, rafts of mashed potatoes, huge fresh salads, all accompanied by fine wines and the best Scotch whiskey. Rick and Jane know how to entertain.

AND there was pizza to wrap up the 10-day visit. Guido’s Pizza Pasta Panini is a little oasis of Italian delights high in the Rocky Mountains. We’ve shared a few meals at Guido’s during our Durango visits. The owners trained in Italy, speak Italian, import their salume e formaggi from Italy (to the degree the law allows), and sell beautiful Italian products in their little mercato. Now there is pizza, new since our 2014 visit, so we had to try it. What better send-off for a long travel day than a fine pizza?

A classic Diavola has only spicy salami. I added arugula, one of the add-on choices.

A classic Diavola has only spicy salami. I added arugula, one of the add-on choices.

The snow was keeping the crowds at bay, plus Guido’s is located a couple of blocks away from the main tourist area, so it was not deluged this New Year’s Eve. We waltzed in and were seated immediately. The restaurant is fairly large, perhaps a bit industrial-modern, but the tables are not crowded together. There’s a lot of food available for home use, from beautiful cheeses and Italian-imported salume to canned goods and pasta made in Italy.

Two of our party ordered the funghi, a simple pizza that can be problematic with moisture. The crust stood up to the challenge. The addition of optional anchovies gave a flavor contrast.

Two of our party ordered the funghi, a simple pizza that can be problematic with moisture. The crust stood up to the challenge. The addition of optional anchovies gave a flavor contrast.

We came for pizza and fine pizza it is; Roman-style, featuring a thin crust and high-quality ingredients. San Marzano tomatoes form the base, and the mozzarella is melty and gooey like in Italy. Although the topping choices are limited, they are fresh and delicious. As with an Italian pizza, Guido’s does not pile on the groceries. Ingredients are judiciously applied. The result is a balance of flavor and a crust that stands up to the toppings retaining its tenderness without becoming soggy. The only thing missing is the flavor from a wood-fired oven, which in the U.S. seems to be a difficult-to-find option.

One side of the store offers (mostly) Italian products.

One side of the store offers (mostly) Italian products.

The pizzas are a tiny bit smaller than those served for dinner in Italy. However, I could seldom eat the whole thing in Italy, leaving extra for Ric. At Guido’s I ate it all. Hmm, maybe that’s not a good thing.

In addition to the New Year’s Eve pizza, we had lunch at Guido’s on Christmas Eve. The panini enjoyed by Rick and Derek were hearty and reported as tasty. They looked fabulous. My Ric enjoyed a large salad called the Ghiottone (the Glutton). With the prospect of Christmas Even dinner, I wimped out and chose the smoked salmon carpaccio. It was an excellent choice along with a glass of Verdicchio. 

Say formaggio! Too bad about the reflections but trust me, the cheese selections are awesome.

Say formaggio! Too bad about the reflections but trust me, the cheese selections are awesome.

While it is not Da Remo, La Pratolina, nor Dar Poeta, it is decidedly excellent and Italian-style. We would eat here again in a heartbeat. Maybe next Christmas if we are invited back.

Pizza Quality: 3 Few choices of toppings, but each pie is carefully crafted. You can add ingredients selectively but not load-it-up like an American pizza. Each ingredient thus stands out. 

Service: 3 Efficient, friendly, and casual, as would expect in a small Western town. Everyone knows everyone that lives here. The owner is present much of the time and makes a point to stop by the table.

Ambiance: 2   The atmosphere is a bit industrial for my taste, a cavernous room without much warmth, located in an office building. There are great windows that allowed us a view of the falling snow and in summer a patio out front.

Bonus: 1 Extra credit for Italian products and other menu items. 

Total Points: 9

Returnability:  The Best! Absolutely go here if you are in Durango. 

Large windows allowed us to watch the falling snow.

Large windows allowed us to watch the falling snow.

 

Entrance

Entrance

 

The room is big, but they have resisted the urge to cram it full of table.

The room is big, but they have resisted the urge to cram it full of tables.

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