Montavilla has long been home to some of Portland's better pizza. To my mind, at least. Flying Pie makes excellent classic pizzeria pies, moderately thick and covered in a blanket of salty processed mozzarella and a slick of bright red pepperoni grease.
But now that Montavillans own homes that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most of the hookers have migrated north to Parkrose, the neighborhood has developed more sophisticated tastes. And thus, a grateful embrace of East Glisan Pizza Lounge, which tops Neapolitan-style dough with rapini, Calabrian peppers and roasted eggplant.
The dimly lit East Glisan is indeed a lounge. Roughly half the seating is bar stools or couches, and the front sidewalk is home to a fleet of those rugged wooden picnic tables where smokers huddle outside Portland dive bars. It's all '90s classics on the radio: early Wilco and Liz Phair, midcareer Whitney Houston and Tina Turner.
From the short list of appetizers, go for the meatballs ($7), which crumble into large pieces of ground pork and onion under glowing red marinara, shaved Parmesan and whole basil leaves. The green salad ($5), a massive pile of greens in a salty herb vinaigrette, will happily serve two.
The pies are uniformly good, though they don't yet stand up to Apizza Scholls or Ken's Artisan. The crust is the problem: It's well-made but indistinctive, thin, crackery and lacking elasticity and tang. The sauce is simple, bright and fresh, but lightly applied, which left the basic Margherita unmemorable.
Some of the pies seem light on toppings—the peppers and capicola ($14 small, $26 large) were lost under a blanket of bitter arugula—while others, like the sausage, ricotta and olive ($14 small, $26 large), were extremely rich, topped with generous crumbles of sausage and fluffy ricotta lumps as large as walnuts.
The most exciting part of the menu, for me, was a few oddities, including pepperoni rolls ($3) and a dessert of peanut butter pineapple rice pudding.
The pepperoni rolls aren't great: The secret to a West Virginia-style pepperoni roll is using as much low-grade pepperoni as bread dough, but you'd have to squeeze this pale dough tube to get any grease to drip out.
The rice pudding, on the other hand, was interesting. We basically had to beg the waitress to bring it ("It's a hard sell," she said), and unfortunately it was neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. But the ambitious and novel flavor combination kept my attention through the bowl.
I'd like to see East Glisan take more such risks. As for thick piles of pepperoni, I already have a favorite spot nearby.
- Order this: Sausage pizza and green salad.
- Iâll pass: Pepperoni rolls, capicola pizza.
EAT: East Glisan Pizza Lounge, 8001 NE Glisan St., 971-279-4273, eastglisan.com. 4 pm-midnight Tuesday-Sunday.