Monday, March 02, 2009
Al Forno Ferruzza
The interior of Al Forno Ferruzza is presently a rather cavernous space with high ceilings and just a couple tables and some counter space by the windows. Next to the register is a bit of a haphazard display case showing off the olives, a large can of San Marzano tomatoes, and pizzas by the slice. What the space lacks in warmth, the proprieters make up for in friendliness (one of them chatted to me a bit about his home's wood-burning oven, and even offered a free taste of their spiced olives). And though the space feels empty, it looks like the owner has some big plans with one wall boasting a large mural of a pizzaiolo attending his oven and another wall an image of Mt. Vesuvius.
Previously (and still?) a food cart in SW Portland, Al Forno Ferruzza (which translates to something about an oven—I can't find a definition of ferruzza), produces thin-crusted pizzas and in a stone-floored oven run at 800 degrees F. How do they keep the oven so hot? Propane. Apparently the standard gas used in gas ovens doesn't do the trick. I ordered a plain pie with half arugula. What they produced was a beautifully charred pizza, topped with a chunky sauce of San Marzano tomatoes; fresh mozzarella; a parmagiano-reggiano cheese made in Argentina, which they also sell hunks of; and a sprinkling of what looked like home grown arugula. Their list of toppings includes, among others, fresh oregano, caramelized onions, and house cured olives. Their crust was head and shoulders above Tastebud's in terms of flavor—smokey, yeasty, umami-y. Over all, I found the pizza's major fault, besides a glaring lack of basil, was balance—it was sauce heavy, which, I think I've mentioned maybe once before, is an uncommon complaint for me, as I find most pizzerias seem to skimp on the sauce and focus too much on the cheese and other toppings... "meat-lover's"... eugh. But I digress. Despite its faults, Al Forno Ferruzza's pizza certainly ranks highly on the Portland pizza chart, possibly unseating my own works at the highly coveted number three position.
Al Forno, sadly, is replacing what was an admittedly low-rent looking Ethiopian deli/restaurant. Outside of using their ATM a couple of times, I never took advantage of the establishment and I regret that, as it certainly added to the eclectic feel of an area that's increasingly gentrified every month. It was one of those places that reminded me that one of my favorite quotes about Portland isn't entirely true, which is good. (I quoteth: "I think I feel my temperature rise a degree every time someone says, 'Keep Portland weird,' because it's just a bunch of white people drinking pinot noir.") In its place though is potentially a Portland institution and I look forward to eating many a slice out of its piping hot oven.