New pizza spots offer choice of ovens: wood-fired or stone

Try a traditional Italian pie or rock atmosphere
by: Jim Clark Tony Gagliano, owner of Antonio's Pizza, came from Italy as a child and learned to make pizzas by watching his mother.

Truly authentic pizza is cooked one of two ways - in a stone oven or over a wood fire. Local pizza lovers now have their choice.

Antonio's Pizza, in Troutdale, features locally grown ingredients, layered atop a hand-thrown crust, baked in a stone oven. In Wood Village, The Rock uses a wood fire to produce its signature pizzas bearing non-traditional names.

While a night and day difference in terms of presentation, the restaurants have both brought Old World-style pizza to East County.

There are no gimmicks at Antonio's Pizza, where Italian-born owner Antonio Gagliano remains true to his heritage - and his mother - by doing only one thing and doing it well.

'I've been making pizza a really long time,' Gagliano said. 'I learned the recipe from my mother and keep it in my head. I have my own recipe for everything in here. I make my own sauces and cut all my vegetables fresh every day.'

Gagliano opened his pizzaria last November, after a nearly 20-year career as an air ship mechanic. An ex-Marine, Gagliano moved to Portland in 1991 to work for a Hillsboro blimp manufacturer, introducing his friends to his secret pizza prowess on the side. When the opportunity arose to pursue his dream, he embraced the chance, undaunted by a sluggish economy not very friendly to small businesses.

'My friends helped me open the business because this has always been a passion for me,' he said. 'It hasn't been easy, and I'm not really even a 'ma and pa' place - I'm just a 'pa.' I have about four employees, and I keep my labor costs down by doing a lot of the prep work myself. But there's a lot of satisfaction when people say, 'I love this pizza.' '

Red-checkered tablecloths top tables in the tidy storefront in the Troutdale Commons mall, framed by artwork done by Gagliano's two children. A metal sculpture of Italy, handmade by Gagliano, hangs above the oven, while maps of his homeland help create an authentic Italian atmosphere.

Gagliano is a stickler for details and answering his customer's needs. Wednesdays, he features Gluten-Intolerant cheese pies, which are made with peanut flour and prepared in a dedicated dough area. His tomato sauce is seasoned to taste, contains no sugars or added salt and his crust is dairy free. Gagliano plans to introduce organic pizzas this summer as well.

Along with the Old World stone oven or wood fired baking method, Gagliano said true Italian pizza is 'sheeted,' - cooked on steel sheets, which become seasoned with use like cast iron. Finding the implement to use commercially, he said, has become a mission.

'Pizza baked on steel sheets is very addictive,' he said. 'The rich olive oil coats the sheet and gives the pie a crispy texture and chewy dough. The pans are really hard to find.'

Antonio's Pizza isn't a cookie-cutter pizza place, Gagliano warns. Hand-tossed authentic Italian pizza is a labor of love and worth the wait.

'I don't have fast food here,' he said. 'When people come in for pizza, they have to be patient and wait 20 minutes or so. This is pizza based on an Old World recipe and cooked in a stone oven. I promise, straight up, you'll get the best pizza I can make.'

The Rock

A different kind of pizza ristorante is coming to Wood Village next week, when The Rock opens its first franchise in Oregon. Known for its wood-fired gourmet pizza and classic rock atmosphere, The Rock starts dishing up its full-service menu Monday, June 20.

'The family culture in Gresham is a great fit for The Rock concept,' said Don Bellis, co-founder and president of The Rock. 'Our fun, laid-back restaurant provides a place for the diverse, urban community to unwind and enjoy an excellent meal.'

Rustic and gritty, The Rock pulses amid a rock 'n' roll theme. Oversized album covers adorn the walls, while serving and cook stations are framed with bandboxes, stenciled with notables like Aerosmith and ZZ Top. Beer brewed specifically for the restaurant is poured from taps reading 'Jumpin Jack Black,' 'Suicide Blonde' and 'Light My Fire.' To access the small upstairs banquet room, customers climb the Stairway to Heaven.

And then there are the classic tunes.

'This is a generational place,' said Kim Graham, general manager. 'We cater to the 30 to 50 age group, but everybody knows the music, even the younger, Rock Band generation. The one thing you won't see in our restaurant is a white light. The lighting is all designed to reflect the rock n' roll theme.'

At the center of it all sits The Rock's signature wood-fired oven. Continually stoked with almond wood, the oven is reputed to be one of the largest wood-fired ovens in the world.

'That's what they tell me,' Graham said. 'This restaurant is the 12th Rock to open and only Renton, Wash., and Red Deer (Alberta) Canada, have this oven. The wood comes from orchards in California. The trees are past their prime and the orchards are being pruned for new plantings. We like to think we're doing our part to help their industry.'

First opened in Tacoma, Wash., in 1995, The Rock's unique atmosphere quickly caught on throughout the Northwest. The company now boasts 10 restaurants in Washington State, one in Canada and has plans to open seven more locations in both Vancouver, Wash., and Portland. The Wood Village franchise is owned by Hot Stone, which not only operates the Vancouver Rock location, but also owns Taco Del Mars in Portland and Papa Murphy's restaurants in Seattle.

The Rock may not seem like a traditional pizza restaurant. From the gargoyles at the front door to the skeleton in a truck keeping watch above the dining room, The Rock blends family dining, good fun and something for everyone.

'You can come in here 20 times, and you'll see something different every time,' Graham said. 'I can give away all our secrets! We want people to come in and see for themselves.'

The Rock

WHEN: 11 a.m. to midnight daily

• Lunch buffet served 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

WHERE: 22401 N.E. Glisan St., Wood Village

INFO: 503-328-8498

Antonio's Pizza

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

• Home delivery is available after 4 p.m. within a 3-mile radius

• Sundays, Gagliano welcomes children younger than 13 to enjoy free pizza and arts and crafts at the restaurant.

WHERE: 3149 S.W. 257th Ave.,Troutdale

INFO: 503-492-9500