In Woodlawn, new pizzeria fires up the neighborhood

by: KATIE HARTLEY,  Ryan Wade, of Good Neighbor Pizzeria, holds an Old World pizza topped with salami, peppers, olives, onions and pepperoni.

There will always be rich people. That's a fact. And they surely will continue to go out regularly to fancy restaurants no matter what's going on with the stock market, the price of oil or the unemployment rate.

But what about folks who are not wealthy and who may need to budget more diligently in the coming months? Will they still be willing to drop $26 for an entree or $8 for a cocktail next year? My guess is, not so often.

Except for places (like Hurley's or Giorgio's) that cater to the very rich, I think many restaurant owners in Portland will end up having to adjust their menus and/or their prices to attract customers who have been forced to do some penny-pinching.

I'm not an economist but I love to eat out, and I enjoy good food. Lately I've found myself being more cost conscious while perusing menus.

It's something I think local restaurateurs should consider.

Fortunately, there are quite a few spots in our fair city that don't require a big bank account to buy a decent meal.

A new one on Northeast Dekum Street (just east of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the Woodlawn neighborhood) serves the ultimate budget food: pizza.

Good Neighbor Pizzeria (800 N.E. Dekum St., 503-285-7400) opened about three months ago in a building that used to hold the Dekum Street Market but has stood empty for a few years.

Good Neighbor Pizzeria owner Mark Saldaña (who lives a few blocks away) said that when he saw the lease sign on the building he jumped at the chance, 'and when I walked in, the space just spoke pizza.'

Saldaña, who was the original chef at Por Que No Taqueria, persuaded two friends (Ryan Wade and Jeff Ray) to join his endeavor and thus began a year of renovating the old market building.

'There were old packages of Ho Hos still on the shelves. There was a lot of work to do,' Saldaña says.

Today the pizzeria is a cheerful spot with big roll-up windows, an exposed wood ceiling, a couple of finished picnic tables, a long wooden bench against one wall with tables and chairs, and a 21-foot bar made from Douglas fir salvaged from an old barn.

The pizza is thin crust, and combinations include four vegetarian pies and five for carnivores. We liked one with artichokes, roasted peppers and onions. Salads and sandwiches also are on the menu.

Try an order of garlic knots, which are knots of dough baked with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan and served with a cup of marinara sauce for dipping. They're tasty, especially washed down with a beer.

Servers at the pizzeria are friendly and accommodating.

The neighborhood is a bit run-down (two sad-looking junkyard dogs periodically bark behind a cyclone fence at a business down the street), but it's improving.

According to Saldaña, an Italian restaurant and a homeopathic medicine office will open in the old firehouse across the street in coming months, and in about a year a coffee shop will open next door to Good Neighbor Pizzeria and a yoga studio will go in down the block.

'We just needed someone to start it,' says Saldaña, adding, 'we've made a cool place to hang out in the neighborhood. I've lived here six years, and I've met so many more of my neighbors since I opened the place.'

Young neighborhood families and hipsters already have discovered the pizzeria. If you live nearby, you should check it out, too.

Good Neighbor Pizzeria is open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

They also deliver. Call 503-285-7400 to find out if you're in the delivery area.

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Still want more pizza? Lucca (3449 N.E. 24th Ave., 503-287-7372) is set to open Jan. 22, serving pizzas from a wood-fired oven plus pastas and entrees like short ribs, roasted chicken and baked fish.

Lucca is the result of a trip to Italy by partners (and novice restaurateurs) Nancy Salta and Sue Davidson. According to Salta, 'We spent two months in Italy and we loved it. We were going to buy a house there, but we ended up buying a restaurant here instead.'

Davidson, who owns a real estate company, and Salta, who worked as a hairdresser for years before becoming a home renovator, want Lucca to be a place where neighbors will feel comfortable coming with their kids in the early evening or coming later (sans children) for a more adult atmosphere.

Salta says she isn't worried about the fact that three restaurants in that location haven't lasted (most recently Aja Pacific Kitchen).

'I think it's a perfect neighborhood spot. It's a completely different environment now,' she says. 'Part of the problem before was the décor, but we've totally renovated the space including moving the kitchen, removing the awning outside, adding new windows and relocating the bathrooms. We've created a hip but casual atmosphere.'

Lucca will be open for dinner 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Brunch and then lunch soon will follow.