#96 Micucci’s Grocery (+ an extra)

June 4th, 2016

Portland, ME

You really don’t know what a “slab” of pizza is until you go up to Portland. When we were on our camping trip last year for Eric’s birthday, we made some day trips into Portland (in between trying to steer our canoe without capsizing and also trying to start a fire with wet wood).

Walking up to Miccuci’s Grocery, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place. The grocery is sort of near the outskirts of downtown and from first glance looks like a regular local Italian market. It sells fresh and dried pastas, homemade sauce, imported olives and specialty goods, and it has a counter for sandwiches and pre-made sides. Everything smelled and looked great, but we didn’t see any pizza.

We walked around the back of the store, though, and we saw these slices. You might think that a “slab” of pizza is the same thing as a “sicilian” slice of pizza (we did). After seeing these slices, though, it is easy to see that they are two totally different types of slice. We think we like “slabs” better.

Micucci’s has a few stools inside to eat your pizza, or else you can take it to go and eat at one of the small tables outside. They generally have only two styles of slab – plain and pepperoni. They don’t take advance orders. The pizzas are made throughout the day, so you always seem to get a fresh slice waiting for you. Sometimes you have to wait a little while for a new pizza to come out of the oven, but we didn’t have to. We got two slabs of cheese, and grabbed seats at the bench.

The crust on these slices is SO fluffy. It is really like a giant slice of freshly baked bread. You’d think that having that much bread would overwhelm the pizza, but that wasn’t the case at all. The sauce steals the show on these slices. So much so that we took home 3 jars of the sauce from the store so that we could use it on our pizza at home. There isn’t too much cheese, either, so the sauce and crust were really the stars here. We loved it.

I was back in Portland this past summer and stopped in again at Micucci’s Grocery, to buy another slab of pizza AND more sauce. While I was in town, I made another stop for another slice at Slab

  

Slab was started by the original baker and creator of the slab at Micucci’s back in 2013.  He was fired from Micucci’s in June of that year, so opened his own restaurant in the Portland Public Market space right downtown. I made it a double-slab day and tried grabbed a slice (a “hand slab”) to take outside.

The two slabs are very similar. This slab was even bigger than the one at Micucci’s and had even more crust, which I actually thought was a bit too much. I didn’t end up finishing it (Eric would have, though). I didn’t think there was enough sauce, and the sauce wasn’t as good as the sauce at Micucci’s.

I don’t know if I’d recommend eating these two slabs back-to-back like I did, but they are both excellent choices if you are in Portland. This was one time when I really wished Eric had been with me because I hated having any part of these two slices go to waste.

To visit:

Micucci’s Grocery
45 India St
Portland, ME 04101

Slab
25 Preble Street Extension
Portland, ME 04101

#80 Otto

June 3rd, 2016

Portland, ME

If you read my last post, we were on our way up to Portland to go camping with our newly acquired canoe. We were slightly worried about driving up to Maine with a canoe on the top of Eric’s little Mazda6 but we made it! The canoe didn’t get stolen when we parked it near Area Four in Cambridge, but then of course, what is a student at MIT going to do with a canoe? It also didn’t fall off or come loose. Probably because we were driving well below 65 mph. We unloaded it at our campsite and set off to explore downtown Portland!

Our first pizza dinner stop was at Otto. Until I saw the logo, I didn’t realize that I had actually been to one of the other locations of the restaurant, in Coolidge Corner, MA. This was a few years before our pizza adventure began, though. We had a short wait (Friday night) but there was a street art fair going on around Portland, so we spent the time wandering around and looking at all of the art that we were definitely not going to buy. We were eventually seated, and the wait paid off because we snagged a great table right by the window.

 

We really loved this place because they have a HUGE selection of great vegetable-based pies. We aren’t vegetarian, but we are pretty healthy eaters, believe it or not. It was really hard to choose a pizza to go with, and we ended up ordering the fresh eggplant, ricotta, and basil. And we also had a slice of the famous mashed potato and bacon while we were waiting.

Question: what are thoughts on eggplant on pizza? We are split on this between the two of us – I will only eat the eggplant if it isn’t breaded. Eric likes it both ways. Usually, when we see eggplant on a pizza as a topping, we assume that it is breaded. Modern is famous for its (breaded) eggplant pizza. In all of my google searching, I couldn’t figure out if this is actually an issue for anyone else? Maybe no one else cares…

In any case, the eggplant on this pizza was fresh, which was unusual. It was delicious because it wasn’t watery and was cooked just the right amount. I imagine this is why people don’t use eggplant much on pizza – because it is hard to get right. The ricotta on this really elevated the pizza to the next level. Anyone who has read this blog before knows how much we love our ricotta. The basil was snipped in strips across the top of the pie, which was also unique but really got the basil flavor in every bite. The crust was slightly salty and the sauce was also very good.

I happened to stop at the slice shop in Cambridge while I was there a few weeks ago with a friend. We tried the mashed potato and bacon slice again, and also a ricotta and basil plain slice. Honestly, the slices didn’t live up to the pizzas at the original location. Maybe because they were reheated. The slices were decently sized for lunch, but the ricotta was a little sparse and the crust didn’t have the same crunch or saltiness that I remembered. We’d recommend just going to one of the sit-down locations and ordering a whole pie.

 

To visit:

Otto
576 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101

#69 Double Mountain Brewery & #64 Ken’s Artisan Pizza

April 26th, 2016

Hood River & Portland, Oregon

We stayed overnight in Portland, and woke up early the next morning to drive out to Hood River, which took us a little over an hour. We were excited to get in a day (or, half day) of hiking! We ended up hiking the Angel’s Rest-Devil’s Rest Loop, which was on the way out to Hood River. After our morning of hiking, we were looking forward to some pizza and beer at Double Mountain Brewery.

We walked in to the tap room and it was pretty empty, so we grabbed a nice seat right by the open window. The weather was amazing. We quickly ordered our beer (for Eric) and cider (for Barb).

I’m not sure how this brewery got known for its pizza, but they had a great selection of pies on their menu. We had a hard time decided which to go for, and ultimately chose the special of the day, which was a white pie with asparagus, roasted red peppers, and plenty of cheese. It was a really good choice, especially with a side of the chips and salsa.

 

The pizzas here are also “New Haven-style”, in that they are cooked around 700 degrees to a nice char. The style is also similar to Apizza Scholls, and I think the main reason that both of these places don’t get full “New Haven” marks is because they aren’t quite as charred and aren’t quite as thin. At least as compared to Pepe’s, Sally’s, Modern, and BAR. I guess that they are more similar to other “New Haven” pizzas, like those at Zuppardi’s.

  

We really enjoyed these beers and pies, and the hiking! We had one more stop on the list that we saved for our last dinner before we drove back up to Seattle. This was Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and we met up with our friend Travis a bit on the early side for dinner, on our way out of town. This ended up being perfect timing, though. Apparently Ken’s Artisan can have quite a line, even on a weeknight.

Ken’s Artisan pizza started out as a Monday pizza night at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, which became so popular that Ken started his own pizzeria. You can’t get a reservation, but they do have take-out a couple of nights a week. The pizzas here are Neapolitan-like, but a little less doughy and a little more charred. Definitely artisan, with the wide variety of specialized toppings.

The pizzas here are wood-fired, and we ordered a Margherita and one with Soppressata. Both were really good, with a sweeter sauce and not too much cheese. The crust held up nicely to the toppings.

We recognized Ken from his book, and if you are interested in trying to make his pizza at home, the recipe is here. We will have to give it a go and will let you know how it turns out (although we doubt that it will be as good as the original!).

We’re off the next couple of weeks to a trip around Norway and Sweden! We will certainly be eating pizza there, and will pop back in with a couple of posts when we return to the US.

To visit:

Double Mountain Brewery
8 4th St
Hood River, OR 97031

Ken’s Artisan Pizza
304 SE 28th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214

#27 Apizza Scholls

April 25th, 2016

Portland, OR

While we were staying in Seattle, we took a quick side trip up to Portland. Our friend Dave kindly leant us his car, and we drove up to see our friends Arron and Amanda, who had recently moved to a house there from New Haven. We got there around mid-afternoon and we were easily able to convince our friends to go for dinner at Apizza Scholls.

 

With all four of us having spent time in New Haven, we are pretty harsh pizza critics. We decided to order one of the New York Red pizzas, and another one with sausage and peppers. The New York Red was probably our favorite, although the sausage pie was also solid.

Apizza Scholls is said to be the best pizza in Portland, although they do have some limitations on how many toppings you can get on a single pie (3 ingredients, no more than 2 meats). We didn’t have a problem with this. To us, simpler is often better.

 

The style of this pizza is very similar to what you would find in New York or New Jersey.We’ve seen a few reviews referring to this pizza as “New Haven-style”. Well, sorry everyone, but this is not New Haven style pizza.

The story is that the owner, who was traditionally a bread maker, couldn’t find any pizza that he liked in Portland, so he started Apizza Scholls (originally named Scholls Public House) in 2004. The style of pizza was modeled after the NY greats: Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, and Patsy’s. All of these NY pizzerias serve coal-fired pizzas, but Apizza Scholls actually bakes their pies in an electric oven. Hey, whatever works! We honestly couldn’t tell the difference.

The sauce on the New York Red was really good, and the crust was amazing. Probably better than the crust at Grimaldi’s or Patsy’s (but maybe not quite as good as Totonno’s). Somehow, they managed to get that awesome char on the crust with an electric oven.

We thought that this was a great first stop in Portland, and we would 100% come back here again. After looking at these photos again, I think we need to plan another trip back to Portland ASAP.

 

To visit:

Apizza Scholls
4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, Oregon 97215