Sunday, March 9, 2014
Doug Jones/Staff Photographer, Tuesday, January,15, 2007: Stephan Lanzalotta prepares pizza dough for this Eat and Run for go is Micucci's on India.
Stephen Lanzalotta -- author of ''The Diet Code'' and former proprietor of Sophia's in Portland -- now works at a bakery tucked into the back of Micucci's, where he makes bread, pastries and Sicilian-style pizza that he serves as ''Sicilian slabs.''
I took a trip to Micucci's one recent afternoon to try some. Each ample slab costs $3.99. The pizza has a thick crust that is both light and satisfyingly chewy. It's topped with a juicy, sweet tomato-based sauce with oregano and scattered pockets of mozzarella. In Lanzalotta's words, ''It's very 'crave-able'.''
The slabs are self-serve, set on a rack alongside bread and other pastries. Free coffee is available as well. There's a small café space with two tables and little lights strung from a ceiling. Through a glass window in the wall, you can watch Lanzalotta at work.
Lanzalotta describes the pizza as ''just like what your grandmother used to make.''
''It's very authentic,'' he said. ''We have 80- and 90-year-olds who are addicted. They say things like, 'This tastes just like my mom used to make.'''
Lanzalotta has been at Micucci's since May of last year, after closing Sophia's a few months earlier.
For Lanzalotta, the pizza is something of a service to customers. ''You come in and your mouth is watering because all this food is available,'' he said. But before the pizza, there was no ''ready-to-eat food.''
Surprisingly, the pizza was not an immediate success. ''I was cutting it into tiny little pieces,'' said Lanzalotta. ''It wasn't selling. I got kind of frustrated and cut this big piece.'' Lanzalotta thought the piece looked like a slab, and the ''Sicilian slab'' was born. ''It was crazy. As soon as I started cutting it into these big slabs and calling it that, people were just pulling it off the shelf, and we couldn't keep up with it.''
Pizza is also sold in whole sheets ($32) and half sheets ($16). On Fridays, there's an apple pizza. Lanzalotta takes a limited amount of pizza orders throughout the day, and occasionally caters parties.
Lanzalotta likes that the slabs retain flavor. ''You can take a sheet or half sheet home and serve it at night and it stays great,'' he said. ''It doesn't get brittle and it doesn't get dried out.''
The bakery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Pizza is made throughout the day, although a fresh batch tends to go quickly.
For Lanzalotta, the pizza is really only a tertiary offering -- the focus is on the many breads and pastries -- but it serves a purpose. ''It was just a way to add genuine Italian warmth and feeling to the place,'' he said.
The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.