In search of new pizza, Scot and I considered our options. In four years here in the Willamette Valley, I'll admit we've had many disappointments and only one or two real thrills when it comes to the much loved pizza pie.
Someone had sworn that JC's Pizzaria in Keizer was the bees knees. We dropped in; we weren't really excited about the ambiance, and when we approached the counter and saw their picture menu we were even less interested. Out the door we went. (The pies looked just like Paddington's.)
It was a fine warm Friday evening, so we decided to take a little drive out to Stayton. I'd read some great things about Apizza right here on Eat Salem, but it hadn't been mentioned in a while. I'd even heard talk about possible changes afoot; I called to confirm their continued existence and hours, and indeed all was well.
Arriving in Stayton, it was easy to find on 3rd Street, and parking on the street was plentiful. Stayton is a pretty sleepy "downtown" in the evening. There's the Star Cinema in the next block, a lovely old vintage theater... so make a date night of it and get on out there... you will not regret it.
Apizza is a bit of a surprise. Walking in you see a table or two, plus a couple outside. The dining room is off to the left. A long, well stocked drink case is under the front counter, and the big, huge, awesome pizza cooking machinery in the kitchen catches your eye. That's a mighty big oven ya got there, sir. And the smell... ah, it was heavenly.
We ordered at the counter from the ultra simple menu (just self printed sheets folded in half). On offer are a number of pre-determined pies, and of course you can build your own. Or, you can enjoy lasagna or salads. The drink selection is impressive, with a cooler full of bottles, some beer on tap, and Pepsi products.
Our choice was a pepperoni, mushroon, sausage and black olive pie affectionately known as The Gut Buster. Scot commented that he was pleased to see mature, professional adults behind the counter, and not a bunch of slacker teenagers playing at working in a pizza joint.
After filling our sodas we walked into the dining room which is to the left of the kitchen and... just sort of stood there dumbfounded for a moment. The high ceilinged room was filled with boothes of warm reddish hardwood tables and dividers. Everything was spotless and warm, with nice colors and just a bit of decor. It was... nice. It's a pizza place in Stayton with a big lotto sign in the front window, so forgive me for totally expecting something... shabbier.
One thing we liked about the tables was their simplicity. The beautiful warm reddish wood butts up against cream wainscotting with simple salt and pepper shakers on the table. That's it. No Budweiser table talkers smeared with grease, no local yokel laminated mini newsletters with mystery goobers making the pages stick together.
We were one of half a dozen tables, and at the rear of the dining room is a very nice pool table. Of note is the demure sticker on the wall that explains that Apizza is a no-tipping restaurant. I asked the owner how that got started; he admitted he couldn't remember why they started it, but he explained all he did was bring the pizza to the table, and he hardly felt that was service deserving of a tip.
There is a small room at the front that contains some lottery machines. It was empty for the duration of our stay.
Our pizza arrived in a short time, and was a heavenly mix of perfect components. The crust is very flavorful, thin in most parts with just enough extra on the edge. It's moist, not dry, but still crisps up nicely on the outside. It was loaded with toppings, all of top quality, well installed and not thrown together. The balance was perfect: rich red sauce (not to sweet, not too spicy) with mozarella supporting the toppings, and all sprinkled with some toasted parmesan cheese.
The stone hearth oven doesn't appear to be wood fired, but you'd be hard pressed to tell it isn't. The finish the high heat gives to the pie is wonderful.
We discovered why it's named the Gut Buster. We couldn't stop eating until we were about to burst. As we ate, we saw beautiful salads being brought to the table behind us. We knew right then we had to come back to give those and the lasagna a try sometime. While not on the pizza menu, the windows touted other offerings, too, such as turkey sandwiches. They open at 8am according to the menu, so I assume there is some breakfast offerings as well.
But beware: they are NOT open Saturday and Sunday!
It's a perfect date night choice, because the place is nice, comfortable and makes a great place to hang out and talk.
I love you, Apizza.