Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty


Adam over at This is Pizza covered this spot a couple of weeks ago and he appeared to be optimistic about their pizzas, even if his initial experience left him somewhat underwhelmed (my interpretation of his review, not his words). He notes that Lovely's changed their mozzarella since his visit and that it's now homemade.

That said, let's get to it:

The four cheese pizza was really top notch. The menu does not list which four cheeses are contending for spots on your tongue nor the seasoning dusting the top of the pie, but it's a well-balanced, creamy, salty, and sweet pie.

The crust, which as I've noted previously is probably the hardest thing to get right and subsequently the thing I harp on the most, has a light, airy texture and gentle flavor that includes a sweetness not commonly found in pizza crusts. I'm not sure if this is maybe due to a sourdough culture or sugar added to the dough mixture. Perhaps it's the result of the pizzaiolo giving the pie's rim a quick swabbing of oil as they come out of the oven.

Regardless, despite its apparent lightness in feel, this crust is no namby-pamby wafer when it comes to actually filling your stomach. And this may have much to do with its ample portions. If I could change one thing about Lovely's pies, it would be to reduce the amount of edge crust—stretch out the rounds closer to the circumference. At the end of the slice, the crust was just too much, and the flavor just wasn't there enough to carry it.

Another nit-picky concern: the islands of mozzarella on the margherita were a little undercooked, i.e., not quite melted through, and ended up as kind of thick blob-ular discs in some cases. The mozzarella itself had a pretty delicate flavor, creamy, and just barely salted—quite tasty on its own.

Of the three types of pizzas we sampled margherita (2 of 'em), four cheese, and the black trumpet mushrooms with fontina val d'aosta and gremolata (a garlic and parsley mix), the four cheese takes the top prize. The menu doesn't list the types of cheeses or seasoning used, but it was a very pleasant balance between creamy, brackish, and sweet. And unlike a lot of four cheese pies, it was not overwhelmingly heavy. For all the pomp of the of mushroom pie's description, the flavors that took hold were mushroom, olive oil, and garlic. No complaints there, but it left the for a somewhat dryer pizza, which meant that it was up to the crust to do more than its share of the flavor-hoisting.

Keeping that in mind, the pizza offerings at Lovely's are good and a head and shoulders above the other options in the area (I'm looking at you, Mississippi Pizza). Fresh dough, tangy tomato sauce, and top quality cheeses make for lively and lovely pies. They clearly care about the pizzas they're making. I saw the pizza chef giving a little tutorial to his kitchen assistant on their wood-fired oven (based on his hand motions it looked like he was explaining the three types of heat transfer—conduction, convection, radiation). It's not a destination spot for me yet, but if they adjust the balance between the toppings and the crust and give their mozzarella a thorough melting, they'll be headed in the right direction. As it is, I probably won't make the trip across town on a regular basis...

...Except for one thing: the ice cream is ridiculously good. It is hands-down the best ice cream I've had in Portland. The salted caramel is heavy on the caramel, light on the salt and ranks right up there with Bi-Rite's in my book (of best ice cream establishments in cities with at least two bridges, forthcoming; Macmillan). A taste of the huckleberry ice cream reveals it to be made with actual huckleberries, and not some huckleberry syrup or extract—it contains actual berries. Meanwhile the coffee ice cream, made with Stumptown beans, is like a rich affogato and not to be missed. It's the most vibrantly coffee-flavored of any coffee ice cream I can recall. And their almond praline even gives Bleecker Street's Cones' almond cream a run for its money.

black trumpet mushrooms with fontina val d'aosta and gremolata

four cheese

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