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Trio of Southeast restaurants add to citys menu of tasty dishes

Bread and Brew • Taste Unique, Pacific Pie, Gladstone Coffee worth a bite or two
by: L.E. BASKOW, 
Owner John Mitchell tosses, then slices freshly made pizza pies at the Gladstone Coffee & Pizza restaurant in Southeast Portland.

Southeast Portland is full of modest neighborhood places that are turning out prize-worthy food. Here are three new winners to add to the list:

Taste Unique

Stefania Toscano cooks up pasta sauces and Italian specialties like lasagna, cannelloni and risotto in the back of a little shop on Southeast Division Street. Most of the dishes are refrigerated for take-out, to be baked at home.

I'm not sure why they decided to name the place Taste Unique; the two dishes I tried were not so much unique as comfortingly, skillfully familiar.

A rich red ragu, made with grass-fed beef, dominates the lasagna. Mozzarella and parmesan are mere accessories, with wide, tender homemade noodles woven through. I generally prefer my lasagna to have a bit more structural integrity, but in this case, taste trumps appearance.

The tiramisu is more architecturally correct, and it's pleasantly light and bittersweet. It's flavored with coffee and chocolate only, rather than the traditional Marsala or rum, but the bite of booze almost seems to be there in the mingling of sweet cream and bitter cocoa. It's a rare opportunity for anyone who has been avoiding this dessert due to its alcohol content.

Meat-avoiders will also find themselves accommodated at Taste Unique with a vegetarian lasagna and other options.

Lunch is served at a few small tables from noon to 2 p.m.

Taste Unique, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday, 2134 S.E. Division St., 503-206-7059, www.tasteunique.com.

Pacific Pie Company

From Australia come individual meat pies of the Pacific Pie Company, with a kitchen and cafe on lower Southeast Ankeny. You can get the pies warm from the shop, or take them home cold and heat them up when the time is right.

One afternoon I purchased a beef and mushroom pie to take home. The woman behind the counter helpfully wrote '325 degrees 20 minutes' on the pie's paper sack. About a block away, I decided to taste just a little tiny bit of crust. It was savory, flaky, irresistible - although it seemed like it would be even better if I tasted it with just a little bit of the meat inside. The pie was gone before I got to the car.

Pacific Pie makes a point of using high-quality, sustainable ingredients including free-range chicken and organic vegetables. Crusts are made with butter. Each day offers a rotating selection of homey, reassuring flavors like creamy chicken with peas and carrots and tangy Greek lamb, reminiscent of a gyro.

Pacific Pie Company, Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Monday, 609 S.E. Ankeny St. Suite C, 503-381-6157, http://pacificpieco.com.

Gladstone Coffee and Pizza

Speaking of pie, Gladstone Coffee, a small neighborhood coffee shop, has expanded into a pizza parlor. If you like your pizza fresh, light and simple, this is the place for you.

The sauce is excellent with a clean tomato taste. A lot of this sauce's appeal is in what it avoids: not too sweet, not too thick and not overloaded with oregano or anything else. The cheese is lightly administered, and I thought both the cheese and the pepperoni could have been a little more pungent. On the other hand, their role is to play second fiddle to the crust.

After you order a pizza here, you can watch the cook spinning your dough in the air. It comes out of the oven tender and crisp at the same time, not overly charred, and good enough to eat by itself.

The final charm of this place is that it's not crowded - three of us arrived here about 7 p.m. on a Saturday and were seated immediately in the small, funky dining room. But that's an asset that's not guaranteed to last.

Gladstone Coffee and Pizza, pizza served Wednesday-Friday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon to 9 p.m., 3813 S.E. Gladstone St., 503-775-1537, www.gladstonecoffee.com.