Other than Otto's
I won’t be returning to Otto’s Pizza anytime soon, unless I really cared about the prevailing hype and happenstance that has made it the Portland darling of the thin crust crowd.
I admit that I do like chunky, chewy, junk-food delicious, thick crust pies topped with commercial grade mozzarella and mystery marinara from places like Bill’s Pizza on Commercial Street, about as much as the coveted crisp-thin crust variety that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed at Bonobo or Flatbread. But that slice I had at Otto's should have been better.
In the realm of pizzerias, Otto’s tries to be off-beat. In contrast, I don’t mind the typical décor of American pizzerias whose only stab at modernity might be an ATM machine on premises. And those Formica topped tables, multi-generational Italians throwing the dough around, and the citrusy scent of lemon Fantastik are like wands of the genre’s seasoning palate.
When I went to Otto’s the other day on a cold, chilly noontime, I was surprised that it's just a mere slip of a retail space. They should have kept the door closed, however, instead of allowing a stiff west wind to waft through its tiny space not only chilling my heels, but wreaking havoc on the 20 or so whole pies on display on the counter above. It fostered a stale patina rather than something fresh out of the oven.
I ordered a slice with potato, bacon and scallions, the one that I heard so much about from Otto fans. I asked the counter girl what there was to drink and she pointed to a cooler on the shelf, which held cup sized cans of Coke and Ginger Ale, which are barely enough to wash the stuff down.
In a few short minutes my pizza slice was removed from the oven and put on the typical paper plate. One problem that I have with all pizzas by the slice is that they’re reheated to the sizzling hot stage, singing your upper palate for days. I always order mine a mouth-ready medium hot.
The offending wedge that I got was tepid and tired. There wasn’t much bacon or scallion flavor but the lumpy addition of potatoes (which sounds like a really bad pairing anyway) stayed with me all day like a chunk stuck somewhere in my digestive tract.
If you read the internet chatter on Portland pizza in general you see a lot of spurious praise for Otto’s by revelers who like to stop in late at night after heavy drinking: Nothing like a sloppy slab of pizza to make sensory perception sober and keen. For my money I’d stumble in to Leonardo’s for their choice of either thick or thin crust made with organic King Arthur flour.
Maybe it’s unfair to judge Otto’s on one slice of pizza at one visit. But, like I said, that slice should have been better.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.