I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to pizza. Heck, ever since my dad brought home a pizza drenched in olive oil and dripping cheese when I was maybe eight, I've been on a quest to find and devour the perfect pie. And if statistics can be believed, my craving puts me in good stead with many Americans - pizza is said to have supplanted burgers and hot dogs as America's favorite food.
I've no shortage of pizza-loving friends, either, so it was no sweat gathering a few of them to scour the region's pizzerias. Below is a summary of our culinary adventures, complete with comments from my crew of taste testers.
Bubba's Homespun Pizza
3100 Pacific Way, Seaview, Wash.
Owner Bubba Kuhn knows pizza, and he lovingly crafts all his pies, which begin with a ball of dough and exit the oven as aromatic medium-thin beauts spread with a zesty sauce and ringed with a golden crust. Our Bronx pie arrived chock-a-block with choice fixings -- red, green and yellow julienned peppers, sliced onions, Italian sausage and a copious quantity of cheese.
Strength: Every pizza boasts a doughy and chewy medium-thin crust spread with zesty sauce and baked to a golden hue.
Flaw: For some of us, an overdose of cheese; also, take-out, only
Cost: $17.50 - large Bronx pizza
Comments: "I loved the excess cheese." "Perfect crust." "A very pretty pizza; I especially liked the three colors of peppers."
620 Olney Ave., Astoria
(503) 325-2855, along with locations in Warrenton, Seaside and Cannon Beach
A glance in any Fultano's parking lot tells the story of how wildly popular this local pizza chain has become. No wonder; the thin-crusted pizza served here is suitable for a wide range of tastes, and every Fultano's is family-friendly. Kids and adults alike keep coming back for the thin-crusted, crispy-crunchy pizzas purveyed by youthful enthusiastic staffs.
Strength: A thin crusts beloved by many; super fast service
Flaw: That thin prefab crust is hard-pressed to support a multitude ot toppings.
Cost: $16.65 - large Canadian bacon and pineapple
Comments: "The crust is too wimpy." "The amount of sauce and cheese is just right." "Fultano's has always been my favorite."
3693 Leif Erickson Drive, Astoria
Toppings galore. You won't find a pizzeria that piles 'em on like this East-end Astoria hangout. Our large vegetarian arrived blanketed with, seemingly, at least five chopped tomatoes, along with mucho green peppers, onions, sliced mushrooms and black olives. Also of note here was the crust, a stout, extra-crispy base for Geno's mild sauce and melted mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
Strength: Mucho toppings, crispy crust
Flaw: Concerning toppings, how much is too much?
Cost: $18.95 - large vegetarian pizza
Comments: "The crust reminds me of a deep-dish pie." "The toppings are as thick as the crust." "I won't eat another tomato for weeks."
60 Laneda Ave., Manzanita
Every town should have an eatery such as Marzano's, the coast's closest approximation to a neighborhood pizzeria. Following much discussion (hey, the menu lists more than a dozen choices) we opted for a smoked prosciutto pie. The selection proved a winner; our pizza came fashioned with a soft and chewy crust brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic and herbs and topped with roasted red onions, mozzarella and other cheeses. Still, the bulk of our raves were reserved for the thinly sliced red potatoes and prosciutto, neither of them traditional toppings (although not everybody was impressed). The spuds helped temper the saltiness of the meat, which might have otherwise overpowered the pizza.
Strength: A slew of yummy imaginative pizzas
Flaw: Long waits when the place gets crowded
Cost: $23.75 - large smoked prosciutto pizza
Comments: "What are potatoes doing on a pizza?" "They look weird but taste fine." "What a great location; the beach is only a block away."
Pizza a fetta
231 N. Hemlock St., Cannon Beach
Upwards of 30 toppings can be had at this thriving pizzeria tucked mid-block along bustling Hemlock Street in downtown Cannon Beach. The interior is pint-sized, but an adjacent courtyard affords a people-friendly locale with a picniclike atmosphere. It's fun to eat here; our crew wowed the crowds with a Thai pizza smeared in a zesty peanut sauce and trimmed with peppers, roasted garlic and such, plus some irresistible grilled chicken. Every taster - including a couple of passersby who gave us longing looks - thought the chewy, flaky crust was top-drawer.
Strength: Amply seasoned pizzas, many vegetarian choices, pizza available by the slice
Flaw: Small interior with limited seating (more outside)
Cost: $28.75 - large Thai grilled chicken pizza
Comments: "I could smell those Italian herbs a block away." "This peanut sauce is addictive." "Hey, quit giving away our pizza!"
Richie B's Pizza
300 S. Roosevelt Drive, Seaside
This highway pizzeria serves the requisitely gooey, gloppy and doughy pizza the New York area has made famous, although it's thicker-rimmed and more doughy than some East Coast versions. Mildly seasoned, the slightly sweet sauce is concentrated around the edges instead of spread evenly over the entire pizza. Compared to West Coast pizzas, toppings are used as accents instead of center pieces; still, our combo pizza came with a heaping helping of sausage and thin-sliced pepperoni.
Strength: Sauce and three cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, Romano) complement each other well
Flaw: Oily and messy to eat
Cost: $21.50 - large pepperoni combo
Comments: "Not enough sauce and not enough sausage." "Just the right amount of toppings." "Darn it! The sausage slid off the pizza and landed in my lap."
1102 Marine Drive, Astoria
A couple of the region's more unorthodox pizzas can be had at this quirky cross between a black-arts parlor and a big happy tomb that's frequented by everybody from frenetic Gen-X'ers to laid-back seniors. Our non-dairy veggie was slathered with an onion-garlic sauce, then sprinkled with spinach, tomato, basil and oregano. The hotnicks among our crew savored the mouth-scorching Voodoo pie, a generous doughy crust topped with a similar onion-garlic sauce and arrayed with ample portions of pepper-jack cheese, tiny Pacific shrimp, whole cloves of roasted garlic and chopped habaneros.
Strength: Superior crust, zesty sauces and creative toppings
Flaw: It's a bar, after all, and the quirky atmosphere isn't suitable for some tastes
Cost: $15 - large nondairy pizza; $18 - large Voodoo pizza
Comments: "Vegan pizza - right on!" "The crust is perfect." "I like garlic and chilies, but this Voodoo pizza is over the top."
Contact the Mouth at The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or phone (503) 325-3211 or e-mail email@example.com