Earlier this month, Otto (576 Congress) expanded into the space next door, last occupied by Good Earth Furniture. Previously, Otto was almost exclusively a take-out shop, with only a few seats in the window and a small table outside during the warm months. Now, you can enjoy Otto’s pizza fresh out of the oven at Enzo Wine Bar next door.
Enzo is a small space, with three tables, a few seats in the window, and eight seats at the bar. Although only open a few weeks, the restaurant already has the warm, welcoming feel of a place that has been in business for years. This feeling is accentuated by the dark-stained wood bar, tables, and wine bottle shelves behind the bar. The subway tile and green painted tin tiles lighten things up and bring some color to the room. Adding to the comfortable, casual decor, the specialty pizza menu is hand painted in blue on the subway tile just inside the entrance. (A few additional Enzo-only pizzas are listed on the laminated menus, including wild mushroom and herb; eggs, bacon, and asparagus; and one with short ribs).
Although promoted as a wine bar, don’t go to Enzo looking for a long, creative wine list. Instead, the restaurant features several different Italian reds and whites along with three beers (Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Moretti Lager, and Gritty’s Vacationland Ale). But, you’re not here to sample exotic wines or the the latest craft brew, you’re here to eat the best pizza in Portland.
And the best it is. By far. Besides the wood-oven pizza at Bonobo and Flatbread (which is really a category unto itself), no pizza in Portland compares to Otto. Before Otto opened last year, I tried pies from a number of different local pizza restaurants and was consistently disappointed. Indeed, I had resigned myself to having to travel to Boston for my pizza fix (at Santarpio’s in Eastie or the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End).
Otto gets pizza right. The plain cheese has a good ratio of cheese to sauce, with small amounts of sauce on top of the pizza. The sauce is fresh tasting and a bit sweet, its acidity nicely balancing the cheese and grease. (Yes, you’ll find some grease on the pizza at Otto. This is not a bad thing.). The crust is crisp on the outside, slightly charred in spots, while maintaining a good chew; it is definitely being cooked at high temperatures, as it should.
Although, I usually stick to traditional toppings such as mushrooms or pepperoni (or often plain cheese), I have tried a number of the specialty pies at Otto and they are great options. All that I’ve tasted feature toppings that actually work well together and don’t overwhelm the crust beneath. Both the mushroom cauliflower and wild mushroom and herb are white pizzas, where the absence of tomato sauce allows the mushroom flavor to truly stand out. The Genoa salami, tomato and scallion is also quite tasty, with the salami a less-greasy stand in for the usual pepperoni.
Before Enzo opened, your dining choices at Otto were limited to the few seats at the restaurant, standing outside on Congress, or take-out to enjoy at home. All are workable options, particularly when talking about pies of this quality. However, pizza is at its best when freshly prepared and straight from the oven (with a cold beer). Thankfully, with the recent expansion, Otto has created a comfortable and inviting space in which to enjoy the city’s best pizza.