Saturday, March 14, 2015
Let's Light This Candle - Great Pizza and More at Roman Candle
Recently, Fooditka and I went out for dinner with two friends of ours to Roman Candle Baking Co. on Division St. in Southeast. I know I'm playing the role of broken record here lately, but once again, the pizza that we tried was excellent. More than just a pizzeria, however, Roman Candle also does breakfast and lunch, in addition to a wide variety of baked goodies. Fooditka wrote up the breakfast deliciousness a few weeks back if you're curious. As I'm pizza boy, I will stick to what I know.
Roman Candle's layout is relatively straightforward. There is one very long communal table in the center of the dining area right when you walk in, as well as several smaller tables arranged throughout. The register is towards the back, between the pizza and the glass bakery cases that show off all the delectable looking treats. The restaurant is well situated on a part of Division St. that is heavily populated with other restaurants, bars, theaters and sweet shops. It fits right in. The decor presents a pretty clean look, with the heavy wooden tables balanced out by gleaming white tiles that back the food counter. You order at the counter, take your beverages and a number, and then sit down and wait for your food.
Obviously, pizza. But unlike the multitude of Neapolitan style pizza restaurants in Portland, Roman Candle is Roman style pizza, meaning bigger square slices, almost like Sicilian, but not quite as thick. They do what they do quite well, and there is a wide array of options from which to choose. They also have a bunch of different antipasti and salads to whet the appetite before you dive face-first into pizza. As we are grown-ups these days, we did the responsible thing and ate our vegetables.
Salads - We ordered three salads for the four of us: A veggie plate made up of lentils, Brussels sprouts, and radicchio among other ingredients; a Farro salad with carrots, pistachios, dates and ricotta; and a Misticanza salad, made with farm greens, Asian pear, caperberries and pancetta.
They were all great. My personal favorite was the Misticanza. The pancetta was delicious, obviously, and the greens and pears as well, but the highlight was the caperberries. I'd never had one before, in fact, I'd never even heard the word, but they were fantastic. Tart and tangy, they had an almost pickled taste, and a very interesting texture. I'm guessing all the seeds inside were actually capers, just tiny ones, as the berries are probably picked before they reach their full size. The farro salad was also very good, again the texture of each bite was terrific and the pistachios, dates, and ricotta all mingled very well. O.K., enough about the salad. On to the pizza.
Pizza - We ordered four slices to share between the four of us. They were big, square slices cut from huge rectangular pizzas, and the four pieces we got plus the salad was plenty of food. The four varieties we opted for were the mushroom, the pepperoni, the meat-lovers, and the daily special. They were all very good to excellent, and surprisingly, my favorite was the mushroom slice. I say surprisingly, because I don't really like mushrooms. However, there weren't a ton of them, and the rest of the slice was essentially a white slice, with ricotta on the mozzarella and no red sauce. For whatever reason, it just worked really well. Each slice goes between $6-$8.00, which sounds pretty pricey, but again, they are very substantial, and all the ingredients are quite good.
Another interesting note: the pizza is served with giant metal scissors with which to cut it up. I'd never seen this method before, but it is incredibly effective. Literally, you can snip off any size piece you'd like with phenomenal precision. The advantages to this method are two-fold. We all got to try every different variety on the table, and the fact that you can cut your pizza into bite size pieces basically ensures it will all get eaten. Personally, I can always eat just one more bite of anything, especially pizza. Thankfully, Gianni is of a similar mindset, so I didn't have to polish off all that pizza by myself once the ladies decided they'd had enough.
Service and Cost:
As Roman Candle is another order at the counter and then go sit down kind of place, our interaction with the staff was limited, but they were as cheerful and friendly as any place I've been in Portland. As far as cost, $8.00 a slice and $12.00 per salad obviously isn't cheap. However, the quality and quantity of the food was well worth the price, and I'm sure I'll be back soon.
Roman Candle Baking Co. - 3377 S.E. Division St Portland, OR 97202