It’s not in N.Y., but it’s a great pie

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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Why: As a Boston expat, I find myself constantly on the hunt for real Northeast pizza.

And by “real” I mean utterly flat slices, slathered in crisp, brownish-orange cheese, that you have to fold in half before they’ll fit in your mouth.

Real pizza should also probably be served in a greasy dive where the owner growls at you in a thick Boston brogue.

East Vancouver’s N.Y.C. Pizzeria didn’t live up to my hopelessly unrealistic expectations. When it comes to my ideal pie, there really is no place like home.

That said, though, they do make a fine pizza — one I’d be more than willing to eat again, even if I don’t consider it particularly Northeastern.

And really, I suppose it wasn’t a huge disappointment to find that the restaurant was very clean, nicely decorated, well-lit and seemed like a comfortable neighborhood hangout.

Atmosphere: The dining room is open and spacious, with triangular mirrors and black cityscapes painted on its tan walls. You order at a large walk-up counter and a server will bring your pie to your table.

When intrepid features assistant Ashley Swanson and I went for lunch, there was college football playing on the shop’s flat screen TV and a handful of other patrons were there.

What I tried: Ashley and I started off with the N.Y.C. Garlic Knots.

An interesting and tasty take on the usual breadsticks or garlic bread, the knots were soft, doughy, compact and covered in real chopped garlic. They were wonderful dipped in the homemade marinara sauce.

Ashley says a bread appetizer is the litmus test for pizza places because they tell you what to expect from your pizza. She gave them a big thumbs up as well.

“There’s just nothing like crispy, salty, garlicky dough,” Ashley said.

For our meal, the two of us decided to get a pizza that was half meat and half vegetables. We picked the Classic Combo for the meat side, which is absolutely covered in pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and onions. We chose the Classic Margherita for the vegetable side.

Our half-and-half pie was terrific. We were surprised to see real slices of garlic on the veggie side, along with quartered tomato slices and bits of fresh basil.

“I like how all their vegetables are really fresh,” Ashley said. “You can tell it was really cut by human hands.”

The meat side had layers of meat, including a whole lot of juicy sausage, punctuated with fresh slices of vegetables.

The crust was thin, but not Northeastern thin. I’d call it a lot more brick-oven style than New York style. It had some crunch to it and wasn’t particularly foldable.

In response to my wanting something more Northeastern, young Ashley had one thing to say to me: “Oh, boo hoo.”

Sigh. Kids these days.

Highlights beyond what I tried: The calzones, pasta and meatball Parmesan sub all looked very tasty. I think I might have to go beyond simple pizza next time I go back.

Ashley wanted to check out the selection of Gyros.

Like most good Northwestern eateries, the place does have a decent choice of good microbrew beers on tap. That’s one area where most of the joints back home fail utterly.

Other observations: When we first got our pizza, the cheese and toppings were so hot that when we tried to pull a slice out they all slid off the top. After letting the pie cool for a few minutes, it was fine, though.

One thing I would have loved to see offered was cannoli. It’s common in Northeast pizza joints. But a gal can’t have everything.

On the plus side, the restaurant also sells take-and-bake pizzas, and patrons with dietary concerns can order vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free varieties.

Cost: Pizzas range from $11.50-$14 for small, $14.75-$18 for medium, $18-$22 for large, $23-$27 for giant, and $23-$27 for Sicilian. You can also buy pizza by the slice for $2.25 for cheese and 50 cents for each additional topping.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sundays.

Where: 700 S.E. Chkalov Drive, No. 1.

Info: 360-882-7670 or http://nycpizzeria-van.com.

Health Score: N.Y.C. Pizzeria received a zero, a perfect score, on its most recent health inspection, on Aug. 1. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.