Pisano's is owned and operated by Ed Barbeau, and it's the restaurant's second location in Central Oregon - the original Pisano's is in Prineville, but Barbeau said he plans to close its doors by the end of this month due to the slumping economy. The Northwest Crossing location is doing fairly well, he said, thanks to a steady volume of customers attracted to the mixed-use neighborhood center, which according to its website has 20-or-so businesses whose doors remain open.
And in case you were wondering, yes, this is the same Pisano's that is embroiled in a legal battle over recipes and non-compete clauses with Cibelli's. Apparently, Barbeau founded the restaurant with former employees/business partners of Cibelli's, although he said those partners have since moved on to other opportunities, leaving Barbeau as the sole proprietor.
Being from the East Coast, I can be somewhat of a snob when it comes to Pizza, and I have been a fan of Cibelli's since moving back to Oregon a little more than one year ago. However, pizza aficionados take note - Pisano's is the real deal, even if its slices aren't as large and greasy (translation: Yum) as Cibelli's.
I made three trips to Pisano's recently, and called in one pick up order for an entire pie on a football-focused Sunday afternoon, and not one of my experiences was disappointing in the least. The first thing that struck me upon walking through the front door is how clean the restaurant appears. Most pizza joints seem to be dusted with a layer of flour, but Pisano's is immaculate in appearance. Barbeau said this comes from his desire to serve food that is quick and easy, but also comfort food for those who wish to dine in, and there are enough booths, tables and counter space along the front window to withstand even the biggest lunch rush from students at nearby Summit High School.
I ordered a simple slice of pepperoni pizza ($3.50) and was sure I was going to taste sugar in the sauce. Instead, my taste buds were grabbed by the distinct taste of oregano - not too overpowering but definitely enough to make you sit up and take notice. I thought the slice was excellent. Not so hot that it burns the roof of your mouth - an experience I don't care for, even though I realize some people do.
Pisano's pizza-by-the-slice is pre-made and tossed in the oven to warm up when ordered. The pies sit inside glass casings by the cash register next to long pieces of Stromboli, which are too inviting to ignore. An order of Stromboli - a type of Italian turnover consisting of rolled pizza crust with pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella cheese and served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping - will set you back just $5.50 and keep you full for the rest of the day.
Pisano's also offers Pannino ($6.50) - a pizza sandwich with the crust folded over various toppings of your choice - which is a nice change of pace from the usual pizza shop offerings found around these parts. You can also go all out and order an 18-inch (feeds four at $15.50) or 25-inch pie (feeds eight at $20), but trust me on this, you're going to want to do this when you have some friends around to help you eat it. For something a little different, try a white pizza, brushed with garlic sauce and topped with mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, basil and oregano, for just a couple of bucks more.
All in all, Pisano's is well worth the trip to Northwest Crossing. Barbeau, who personally prepares the food each day, will gladly chat with foodies who come with questions as well as appetites.
2755 NW Crossing Drive. (541)312-9349. Mon - Wed: 11am-8pm, Thurs-Sat: 11am-10pm, Sun: 1pm-8pm.