When I moved to Maine, my pizza consumption dropped significantly. There just wasn’t, in my opinion, good pie to be had (which is to say, strictly in Portland). I wanted charred, thin crust pizza with just a touch of homemade sauce and quality cheese. What I found was overly doughy, covered in painfully salty sauce and plasticky cheese. Pizza Villa was my only salvation at the time (and no, I had, and still have, not gone to Flatbread for any other reason than an irrational bias against that style of pizza).
Then, even though it is the antithesis of what I’ve sought in a pizza, I fell in love with the sweet and pillowy ‘Slab‘ from Micucci’s. Truthfully, just based on the quality of ingredients(Luna bread as a base!) and the uniqueness of the sauce, how can one not find themselves just a wee bit smitten with it? And, while all was well and good and I was content with loving a chubbier slice, there was still a void.
Then the Missus introduced me to Otto’s.
I was a bit slow to come around to them, honestly. The first pie she brought home, just after they opened, didn’t really wow me. I think we had Fontina and mushroom but I can’t really recall. It just wasn’t that memorable. While the Missus has been back to Otto’s many times since then, I hadn’t really had the desire and was quite content with swinging by Miccuci’s when the pizza jones hit. Then, without reason, I asked her to bring home a pie from Otto’s last week when I was home from work and unable to cook because of an injury. The Missus chose her, and everyone else it seems, favorite: Mashed Potato, Scallion and Bacon pie.
Before I tried Otto’s, I had made my own attempt at the pie at home. Looking back now, I realize mine was more akin to the Pizza Skins from Pizzeria Uno’s. Again, I was facing a pizza that didn’t quite embody what I was looking for in a slice–there wasn’t even a drop of sauce on it, for Christ’s sake–but when I bit into the first slice, I smiled.
It was creamy with the rough mashed potatoes subbing for the sauce as the base, which was laid down on a wonderfully thin, crunchy and charred crust. The thin crisps of bacon added a nice saltiness while the scallions brought in a bit of pepperiness. I sat and ate four slices from the large pie, which is double my normal bored pizza consumption.
A week later, while babysitting a friends son, we picked up two small pies for dinner. We did grab one of their plain cheese and brought along another mashed pizza as our little friend said he was, “In the mood to try something different.” He’s 4. We thought he would love the pizza because what sane person (outside of my ex-wife) doesn’t like mashed potatoes? We were wrong. Little man spent the entire meal digging on the plain cheese.
“Who made this pizza,” he asked between mouthfuls.
“Otto’s. Do you like it?”
Can’t say that I disagreed with him at all. The cheese slice was just as righteous as I thought it would be. Their sauce, neither too sweet nor too salty, was more acidic than anything. The cheese wasn’t dense or plasticky and, again, the crust was perfectly charred and crunchy. It was a cheese slice that reminded me of so many I had eaten while visiting New York City before I moved up here.
I have finally, whether it’s a traditional or unconventionally topped pie, found what I was looking for in Portland pizza.