Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Impressions: Dove Vivi

2727 NE Glisan St.
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 239-4444

[Photographs: Adam Lindsley]
Typically, using the words “cornmeal” and “pizza” in the same sentence is a surefire way to send my attention scurrying elsewhere. It isn’t that I dislike deep-dish pizza, it’s just that I’ve never had one that I thought was anywhere near comparable in quality to pizza made with a dough of traditional wheat flour and yeast. Part of the problem comes with comparing the two in the first place, the crowbar separation between conventional pizza and deep-dish pies--particularly those of the Chicago persuasion--and the generalization of lumping it all together. And while Dove Vivi doesn’t revolutionize cornmeal crust pizza, it takes it in a direction that, for the most part, I find preferable to most deep-dish gut bombs and their ilk.

Perhaps the most important distinction between a regular cornmeal crust pizza and the crust served at Dove Vivi is that Dove Vivi’s crust is not, in fact, strictly cornmeal. Rather, it’s a blend of cornmeal and Shepherd’s Grain wheat flour, well-salted and buttery in flavor.

It’s a great crust. And it should be, given that owners Gavin and Delane Blackstock are the third generation to make use of it; it has been passed down to them after serving time in San Francisco’s Vicolo and L.A.’s Zelo restaurants. Dove Vivi parbakes over 100 of them (which start out as 19-ounce balls of dough) in an oven cranked to 600 degrees ahead of the dinner hour, as you can see when you walk in the door:

Those beauties then get baked for up to 15 additional minutes when the toppings are piled in. The result has the soft, chewy interior of homemade shortbread and the crunchy exterior of cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet. It doesn’t crumble like cornbread, though, maintaining its structure and withstanding the not-insubstantial payload of toppings admirably.

So now that we’ve established that this is a crust worthy of your time, what about what goes in the crust? Is that any good? Well, it really depends on the pizza.

What sounded great on paper but didn’t come off nearly as well as I’d hoped was the Sausage & Peppers pizza (all pizzas are 12” and are priced at $4.25/slice, $11.50/half, $22.50/whole). For this pie, Dove Vivi fills that wonderful crust with aged mozzarella, house-made fennel sausage, caramelized onions, marinated green peppers, and tomato sauce. I wasn’t kidding when I said it sounded great, was I?

Unfortunately, the pie, as prepared on this visit, wanted for flavor. The large, bright red hunks of tomato that comprised the “sauce” were heavily herbed and had a stewed quality to them, but I was surprised to find that they really didn’t taste like much. It felt as though everything about the flavors in the tomatoes--the acidity, the brightness, even the herbs--had been toned down. Same goes for the sausage, which despite the ample presence of fennel seeds could barely shout over the competing toppings. The onions, when plucked and eaten separately from the slice, had a nice softness and mild sweetness to them, but caramelized they were not; more like heavily sweated (see the fennel sausage & onions pizza at Ken's for properly caramelized onions). I liked that the green peppers were marinated to lessen both the crunch and the sometimes-too-bitter-for-me overtones of raw green peppers, but yet again, there just wasn't much flavor there.

The same could not be said for the Goat Cheese pizza, which got just about everything right. Goat cheese and mozzarella comprised the bulk of the toppings, and while that sounds like the very definition of rich & heavy, it wasn’t overwhelmingly so. Sure, there’s quite a lot of goat cheese on each of these slices, but it pairs very well with the crust and its richness is cut by the acids in the huge slab of marinated tomato resting over the slice. That tomato triumphed where the tomato “sauce” on the Sausage & Peppers pizza failed: it was juicy, bright, and a little sweet. A better foil for thick, creamy goat cheese you couldn’t ask for. The marinated green peppers made a second appearance here, bringing only the same muted flavors they brought to the  Sausage & Peppers pizza, but the addition of rosemary was a subtle touch that added some complexity to this pizza’s flavor profile.

This is hearty, hearty pizza, about half the thickness of Chicago-style pizza but just as filling (two slices will do most people in). I appreciate the way Dove Vivi embraces unusual toppings, because let’s be honest, this is unusual pizza that probably won’t scratch your “pizza itch,” although it is certainly satisfying. I for one am looking forward to returning for the pie with fresh sweet corn and smoked mozzarella.


RECOMMENDED: Goat Cheese pizza


  1. A screen won't shatter if I drop it on the floor or heat it improperly, like a pizza stone.

  2. I am going to the Italian Pizza Championships in Dublin, any pizza recommendations, one of my friend recommended me Toscana Italian Restaurant
    what do u suggest as i am just a pizza freak.

  3. Hi Ruth. I've never been to Dublin, but here's a recommendation from Serious Eats:

  4. Hi
    Adam I have just came across your reply, its nice and i have gone through the site, but i was looking for a some great Pizzeria in Dublin apart from Toscana Restaurant as i was looking for low budget to give a treat for my friends who travel with me.

    So looking for a great association ahead
    Thanks and regards
    Ruth Bishop

  5. Ruth, have you tried Paulie's? The photos on their website look promising:

  6. wow its great adam, i have not tried it great you have shown me i will definitely go an try there:
    Number 58,
    Upper Grand Canal Street,
    Dublin 4

    YOU JUST MADE MY TONGUE TO TRIGGER MY TH SENSE "ANDY GO AND HAVE THIS RIGHT NOW" its really really great thanks for mentioning bro

  7. I wish I could say that I've tried as many pizza places as you Adam! My friend told me the loved the pizza they had at lincoln park chicago pizza and I'm tempted to try them out. I have worked at a few pizza places and it's been interesting to see what each does differently. For me, I find that I don't really have a favorite place for pizza, it just depends on my mood. Are you the same way, or do you have a place that you can call your favorite? Thanks for your post!

  8. @Liam: Thanks for checking out the blog! I don't get out to Chicago nearly as often as I'd like, but I'll remember your friend's recommendation when I'm visiting next. My favorite pizza anywhere is Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ, but around town here my mood usually dictates the pizza I eat. The best in Portland, for me, is a tie between Apizza Scholls or Ken's, and I eat at those far more than anywhere else, but I also get strong cravings for plenty of other pie shops in town, like Pizza Depokos, Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, and Firehouse. Just depends on my mood (and how long I'm willing to wait in line!).

  9. "Very good post. I think this is one of the most helpful blog posts to date.


  10. Gotta try this whenever I go to Portland. Looks pretty good too.

  11. Yummy...I'm feeling hungry...anybody...?

  12. That is very good comment you shared.Thank you so much that for you shared those things with us.Im wishing you to carry on with ur achivments.All the best

  13. Real solid blog you got here. Love the posts, because well, I love pizza. I was curious to know if you were aware of any pizza places that employ Bakers Pride ovens? Kind of like this one. My roomate's sister owns a pizzeria and she just got a Bakers Pride Y-802 and it's making great pizza (even deep dish... kinda like this place). Keep up the good work!

  14. @forkzandkinvez: Almost every NY-style place I've been to uses Bakers Pride ovens, and even some non-NY-style joints, too (like Portobello here in PDX). Pretty sure I saw a Baker's Pride in Baby Doll Pizza, which I'll be writing up next. Apizza Scholls, arguably the best pizza in Portland, uses the electric (not gas) Bakers Pride.

  15. Thanks for responding! And that's sort of what I figured, but I wasn't quite sure. Looking forward to the new posts.

  16. Wow that look likes gorgeous.....

  17. Hi Pizza Girl,
    I have found your blog, which I really like it. I enjoyed to read your posts.