It's official: Northeast Sandy Boulevard is undergoing a restaurant renaissance. On the heels of BTU Brasserie's recent opening, a new wood-fired pizza joint is getting ready to open just a few blocks away, with Italian-trained pizzaiolo Justin Clarke, formerly of Via Tribunali and Cibo, manning the beautifully tiled oven.
It's a dream come true for owner Clark Hale, co-founder of Monsoon Software and a self-described "pizza freak." The father of two has lived in the neighborhood for over a decade, and spent about that long wishing for something other than noodles within walking distance.
"I love the pho and Thai places," he says, "but I wanted more variety up here. And I know this area is full of young families who want more options, too."
So he took matters into his own hands, quite literally. After taking over the corner wedge of a cavernous, purple-hued antique store, he set about renovating the space himself, from jack-hammering the concrete floor (there was no plumbing) to hauling freshly milled, live-edge wood for the bar and tabletops from his friend's dad's farm in Philomath. "I could see it was a cool space. And I knew I could do a lot of the work myself," says Hale. "And the rent is good, so it made sense."
It's been a six-month process, but the build-out of the 36-seat restaurant is nearly finished. Hale expects an opening date of mid-October.
At first, the menu will focus almost exclusively on simple Neapolitan-style pizzas using local ingredients and house-made components, like sausage, whenever possible. "I'm a bit of a purist, but we're not going to fly things over from Italy when we have so many great ingredients here in the Northwest," he says. "Rounding out the menu will be salads and a small selection of desserts, including a Nutella and ricotta stromboli. Hale and Clarke are working on developing chickpea-based flatbreads for the gluten-free crowd, and in time plan to expand the menu into meatier range.
Three rotating taps will focus on local brewers like Double Mountain and The Commons, but much of the beverage emphasis will be on wine. "I feel like wine is under-served in this area, so we'll have eight or nine by-the-glass options of local and Italian wines."
With a TV for Timbers and Blazers games, outdoor seating and healthy sodas and juices for kids, Pizzeria Otto isn't trying to be a destination, just fill a much-needed niche. "I wanted to do a neighborhood joint," says Hale, "but with amazingly good food."
Pizzeria Otto: 6708 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Portland, 971-570-4496; pizzeriaotto.com.