Chris Ryan
Stark Naked Pizza
2835 SE Stark 459-4450

After spending two weeks in New York City, I thought I'd never eat another piece of pizza again. With probably 10 late-night pizza pit stops, a few mid-afternoon pizza snacks, and even one or two leftover-pizza breakfasts, I thought I'd finally gotten enough cheese and dough under my belt--not to mention my jeans. But then along came Stark Naked Pizza, a low-key neighborhood restaurant with addictive pie made in the unbeatable New York style.

Stark Naked produces a spectacular signature pie that rivals the East Coast's pizza delicacies. The crust is rolled thin, painted with olive oil, and cooked under 20 minutes. The generous slices bend easily to show off their toppings, yet the crust is neither chewy nor undercooked. Likewise, the tomato sauce is spread thin, adding just a hint of sweetness that compliments the savory ingredients--and makes the toppings (like big chunks of salty, spicy sausage) that much more delicious.

Stark Naked's true ace in the hole, however, is that they know when to say when. I mean, seriously--half the time I eat pizza, I fear I might choke to death on a huge glob of cheese that's broken loose from the crust, or have to endure an obscene mound of soggy toppings that turns the whole pizza soggy and disgusting. If I wanted a pile of water-logged pepperoni and artichoke hearts, I'd go to the grocery store, then indulge my nasty craving in private.

Ranting aside, Stark Naked doesn't fall victim to novice blunders. Instead of subscribing to the gluttony-is-king method of pizza making, they sprinkle their creations with a perfectly moderate layer of cheese and a smartly positioned layer of toppings. When I enjoyed Stark Naked's mushroom and olive pie, I found bites of thin-sliced mushroom here, hearty circles of black olive there, plus the rich tastes of mozzarella, sauce, and lightly buttered crust. It's a nuanced eating experience rather than a stoner-style cheese and bread gorge fest.

Besides pizza, the restaurant offers specialty hoagies--which aren't as authentically East Coast as the pizza, but regardless, are quite tasty--and deli sandwiches dressed with pickles, pepperoncinis, a tangy homemade vinaigrette, plus lettuce, mayo, and the rest. The BBQ chicken hoagie is made with hearty chunks of chicken bathed in a sweet barbecue sauce, then topped with cheddar, cilantro, and red onion, and served on a big, crusty, toasted roll. Next time you're looking for lunch in the neighborhood, save yourself a wallet-gouging at Wild Oats and grab your sandwich here.

Stark Naked's only been open for a few weeks, so they're still working out the kinks--namely, they're still setting up the stereo system and perfecting their timing, and there's no delivery service yet. But worry not--this restaurant comes from the two dudes who've made the next-door Bonfire Lounge a Portland staple for great drinks and food, so we're not dealing with amateurs--which is undoubtedly why Stark Naked comes off looking so damn good.