November 15, 2012

Eat and Run: Micucci's, Portland

Delectables – including but not limited to the sublime slab pizza – make the Italian market a must for many.

I should have known better than to try to do a cheap eats visit to Micucci's.

click image to enlarge

Anna Micucci hoists two servings of Stephen Lanzalotta’s Sicilian slab pizza at Micucci’s in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

MICUCCI GROCERY

WHERE: 45 India St., Portland; 775-1854

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Sandwiches, $4.99

WAIT: No wait -- pick up from the deli case

PARKING: Yes

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

RATING: **** 1/2

Based on a five-star scale

Sure, you can easily get lunch there for $10 or under. But as fans of the Italian grocery know, you always leave with about a dozen more drool-worthy items than you came in for.

It's hard to resist stacking a package of egg linguine, a thick slice of New York-style cheesecake or a dozen other can't-resist items in your arms as well, which makes maintaining your balance on the way to the cash register a dicey proposition.

I'm already a regular customer of Micucci's, especially the bakery/cafe part, where Stephen Lanzalotta's Sicilian slab pizza is doled out to a long line of salivating customers jockeying for position. Lanzalotta's pizza makes all the pleasure centers in your brain light up like a pinball machine until you want to cry for your mama.

But now there are other choices, thanks to a small expansion that includes an extra deli and freezer case in the back of the store right next to Lanzalotta's bakery. There's not a huge selection at this point, but it's certainly enough to warrant a trip to India Street. And the store's Facebook page promises there will soon be prepared meals to go added to the mix.

Recently, the store began selling sandwiches to join its other lunch-friendly items such as dolmades with dill (four vegetarian stuffed grape leaves for 99 cents) and orange hummus on black olive bread for vegans.

The muffaletta, presented on Italian peasant bread, is filled with baked ham, genoa salami, mortadella, provolone, peperoncini and green olives, and dressed with red pepper sauce and olive oil.

The other option I've tried is an Italian made with baked ham, provolone, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, onion and olive oil, also served on peasant bread. Both sandwiches were large and as fresh as it gets, and cost just $4.99.

If it's dinner you're after and you've arrived after the pizza stops coming out (usually mid-afternoon), you can now grab a frozen pizza from the freezer for $8.99 and go home and bake it yourself.

While the Sicilian slabs are thick rectangles of fluffy, tomato-ey goodness, the frozen pizza comes in round form, and I wasn't sure at first if it would be the same. But I took one home and followed the simple instructions, with great results -- and yes, it tastes the same as the pizza that comes from the window.

I dare anyone to leave Micucci's without some kind of dessert. The store has always offered cannoli and tiramisu, but now there seems to be scads of other budget-friendly options available that range from $2.59 to $2.99. I may have just missed some of them on previous visits, but the store has definitely upped its game in the decadent dessert department.

Some of the options available include gluten-free chocolate fudge cake and pumpkin cheesecake, a custardy creation called a toasted almond cup that should be illegal, a limoncello mascarpone torta, and Sophia's apple streudel, with ingredients that include golden delicious apples, cranberries and orange marmalade.

If you'd rather go for a healthier dessert after downing one of those sandwiches or a slab of pizza, Micucci's understands and offers apples for 59 cents.

But I'd be willing to gamble you'll choose the apple another day.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.

 

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