Pizza and pasta are the mainstays of The Gold Room, the recently opened restaurant at 100 N. Main St. in Joseph. The eatery is the reincarnation of its namesake, one of the most popular Wallowa County bar/restaurants through the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The restaurant, owned by former Portland residents and veterans of one of the city’s most highly respected Italian restaurants, Ross Effinger and JoMarie Pitino, created a lot of buzz around the county, mainly because of the couple’s culinary pedigree.
The Gold Room delivers on the hype.
In the twilight hours, the restaurant windows give an amber, welcoming glow. Entering, one is not disappointed. The glow from the large fireplace to the left helps with the inviting glow, as does the subdued lighting. Seating is available in several different forms — sturdy-built tables and benches, booths, at the finely crafted bar, or tables and chairs in the rear of the restaurant, where diners can watch their dishes, whether pizza or pasta, being finely crafted. The wood-fired oven also emits a warm and friendly glow to the place.
The wood floors and diner seating also help give the room a rustic feel while still letting the expectant guest know that this is fine dining. One can feel comfortable wearing Levis or slacks and a sports jacket and not feel out of place.
At 6:30 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 19, the place is two-thirds full and filling up rapidly. Noticing the waitress, Devaki Ghosho, and a busboy already deep in the evening’s hustle, one can order from the bar, manned by Jonathon Plummer — who also built it and refurbished the wood portion of much of the restaurant. Although he said he’s had only a few days of training, he works the bar like a pro, filling drink and cocktail orders while keeping up steady conversation and punching in food orders to the kitchen on a touch screen. His relative ease at multi-tasking marks him as probably the finest bartender in the county.
After ordering a sausage pizza and an IPA beer, the place is nearly full and the entire staff, including Effinger and Pitino in their cooking duties, are in full swing. The music at the bar is playing at a volume loud enough to be heard and enjoyed, but not loud enough to inhibit conversation.
The pizza takes a half hour to arrive, relatively quickly, considering the amount of diners and that the pizzas are handmade and baked one or two at a time.
The pizza is a work of art on arrival, with the tomatoes neatly arranged among the pickled peppers, oregano and mozzarella cheese. Baked to perfection, the crust shows just enough sear to show its wood-fired origins and just the right balance between crunchiness and chewiness.
The flavor of the pizza is delectable and likely the best this county has ever known. My assertions are backed by the couple down the bar, Casey Holland and Meghan Blair. The couple, residents of Portland for about a year, are in Wallowa County because of it’s heralded beauty.
The couple is originally from upstate New York. Holland said his hometown is about the size of Enterprise, but has in the neighborhood of 10 pizza eateries because New Yorkers, particularly up-staters, take their pizza seriously.
Blair said the couple regularly seeks the best in Portland pizza offerings and nothing in the state’s largest city equals the pizza available in the Gold Room. They ordered the Sam Ryan, which is a cheese pizza featuring both aged and fresh mozzarella as well as pecorino. It sounds like a ringing endorsement and no, they don’t know the owners.
If seeking a true, high-quality pasta or pizza meal in a relaxed, yet refined atmosphere, punch your ticket for the Gold Room — this train is going places.
The Gold Room is open Thursday through Monday from 4-9 p.m. Call 541-432-2100 for reservations or other information.