Portland, OR 97202
The 2010 edition of the Willamette Week's Cheap Eats guide asserts that Gladstone Coffee & Pizza slings the only good pies south of Powell. After my visit this afternoon, I'm inclined to agree with that statement.
For whatever reason, I wasn't able to convince any of my friends to join me on this pizza excursion (traitors!), so I approached the charming blue-and-salmon storefront at the stroke of noon a lone gunman. Stepping inside, I was struck by the sheer quiet of the place. Music drifted from the overhead speakers at such an inoffensive volume it may as well have been leaking from someone's iPod buds. Not a soul was speaking. I'll be honest, it was a little unsettling.
I strode to the counter to peruse the pleasantly lean menu and met one of the co-owners, Grace Emanuel. Gladstone C&P serves two types of pizza in two varieties: a 10-inch small ($9) and an 18-inch large ($19) cheese, and a small ($10) and large ($19) pesto & pecorino. Toppings are $1.50 - $2.50, depending on the type and size of pie. As I was alone, I opted for the small cheese pizza with half andouille sausage. Now, I have no idea what prompted me to order andouille sausage on my pizza instead of the Italian variety (which is what I really wanted). My mind must have decided to take a momentary leave of absence, prompting the mistaken order. That, or I was temporarily possessed by the spirit of Emeril Lagasse, God bless his still-beating heart.
Though the café wasn't at capacity, there was nowhere to sit inside. Every table had been claimed by a single patron, either sipping coffee or tapping away on a laptop, leaving me no choice but to journey outside to the surprisingly large backyard patio.
Although a cloudburst brought the showers down in full force, it wasn't particularly chilly out, so I settled into a chair beneath the wide canopy (bedecked with chandeliers, no less) to enjoy the fresh air and the pattering of the raindrops on the canvas above.
My pie arrived quickly, piping hot from the gas oven. A ring of bright red tomato sauce peeked out between the edge of the sea of aged mozzarella and the well-risen, perfectly cooked crust. Thick slices of andouille sausage had been strewn generously on its designated half. I dug into the cheese half first, noting the excellent charring on the chassis.
The combination of the sauce (tangy and garlicky), the aged mozz (salty), and the crust (wonderfully crisp) made the first slice very agreeable. In particular, the cornicione (end crust) is worth noting: fantastically crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside. Its crumb (hole structure) was dense in places and spectacularly airy in others, with the largest of the air pockets forming delicious, charred blisters.
As I had feared, the andouille sausage didn't work. It was delightful on its own--peppery and meaty--but on the pie it was just too overpowering for me. I plucked each hunk off with my fork and ate them separately as if they were an appetizer.
Aside from that, I enjoyed the pizza. If one were forced to categorize it, I suppose New York-style is close enough, though it also has much in common with American "pizza parlor" pies. They're pretty heavy-handed with the sauce and cheese, with both liberally applied to my pizza. The mozzarella in particular was laid on especially thick, so much so that its depth actually exceeded that of the crust beneath it (see the above photo). I suppose that would be my one suggestion to the owners of Gladstone Coffee & Pizza: go easy on the toppings! Co-owner (and pizza fanatic--it's his dough recipe) John Mitchell wasn't present that early afternoon (he'd be working later in the evening, I was informed), so perhaps this isn't a problem with the pizzas he constructs personally. Indeed, some of you may not even find extra sauce and cheese a problem at all!
Gladstone Coffee & Pizza is well worth a visit (don't be fooled by the name: it's not in Gladstone, thank God). It's cheap, tasty, and the portions are substantial (I'd guess one slice of the 18-inch pie is probably the perfect amount of food). Just skip the indoor tables and their introverted occupants: the patio's where it's at.
RECOMMENDED: Cheese Pizza