It’s an exciting proposition: pizza and ice cream in one convenient location.
That’s just one of the benefits locals see in the new Otto Pizza restaurant, on Cottage Road across the street from the legendary Red’s Dairy Freeze ice cream stand.
Another benefit, of course, is the addition of innovative, high-quality pizzas for South Portlanders and people on the way home to Cape Elizabeth. It’s also a place for people to pick up a pie or a slice on the way to the various beaches and parks Cottage Road leads to, including Willard Beach, Fort Williams or Crescent Beach.
And when Otto opened in SoPo last fall, it also brightened up a worn-out gas station building. Now the building is bright yellow, with the pun “Filling Station” emblazoned on the facade.
Inside, the Otto folks play with the gas station idea some more. There’s a giant “Volkswagen” sign over the windows leading to the kitchen, and phrases like “full service” are written on the wall. Giant glass garage doors allow diners to watch all the comings and going on Cottage Road.
Otto has locations in Portland and in Massachusetts. The South Portland location serves a selection of slices for the lunch crowd, from about 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. It’s $3 for a cheese slice, and $3.50 each for pepperoni, a Margherita with slices of tomato and basil, or Otto’s famous mashed potato, bacon and scallion.
Otto in South Portland is right in the middle of a neighborhood with a lot of families, and it’s next door to the Brown Elementary School and the South Portland Public Library. So when I was there on a recent Friday evening, there were plenty of families with small children. Three families shared a giant table in the middle, other smaller groups sat at counters on stools or at smaller tables by the garage doors.
Pizza, after all, is perfect for kids. But Otto also has a nice beer selection for grownups.
The menu is full of very creative pizzas, all on a thin, crispy crust. The pizzas ranged in price from $10 for a small cheese to $21 for several of the large specialty pizzas.
Many of the pizzas, like the mashed potato, bacon and scallion ($13 for a small, $21 for a large) don’t have traditional red sauce. That may be because red sauce doesn’t go with mashed potatoes.
When I tried the mashed potato pizza, which I had before and loved, its potatoes were more smashed than mashed, with chunks of potato sitting atop the pie. The bacon was smoky and crisp. Overall a very nice pie.
But I also sampled an apple, bacon and red onion pizza, which did have a red sauce. Not only did the red sauce go with the apple and bacon, it made me wish more of the Otto pizzas had red sauce.
A server told us it was a “simple sauce” of Roma tomatoes, but it was tangy and fresh-tasting and as good a pizza sauce as I’ve had. The apple’s tartness was a nice counter to the sauce, and the bacon and red onions all worked together.
We also tried a plain cheese, which because of the sauce, was way above average for a plain cheese pie.
The service was quick and pleasant, as we were served about 10 minutes after ordering. We also saw an army of delivery folks waiting to pick up orders, so if you don’t want to dine in, delivery seems a good option.
All of Otto’s pies, except for the three-cheese tortellini, are available on gluten-free crusts.
Based on the pizzas I tried with things I normally wouldn’t put on a pizza – mashed potatoes, apples – I would certainly be open to trying some of the other odd-sounding creations at Otto.
Specifically, I’d like to try the butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry pie (no red sauce), the spinach, white bean and roasted garlic (with red sauce) and the meatloaf, mashed potato and herb (no sauce.)
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: