October 29, 2013

Fired Portland pizza maestro slices new plan

The Portland baker famous for his Sicilian slab pizza is opening a new restaurant called Slab in the old Portland Public Market building.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Stephen Lanzalotta poses Monday in front of the former Portland Public Market, where he and four business partners will open a 75-seat restaurant next spring.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Portrait of Stephen Lanzalotta, the popular baker who was fired from Micucci’s, in front of old Portland Public Market building where he is opening his own restaurant/bar called Slab with help of financier and business partner, Jason Loring, right, and three other partners.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Lanzalotta will also introducing a sfinciuni, a true Sicilian pizza sold in a smaller piece than a slab. He calls it “hard-core Sicilian street food.”

“That’s basically cheeseless,” Lanzalotta said. “It will have a grating of a special cheese from Sicily, but it’s prepared with a totally different sauce, a long-simmered sauce. A slab is (made with) a quicker sauce, so it’s fresher tasting and very red. This other long-simmered sauce is actually called casalinga, or housewife-style. The sauce takes a couple of hours to make. It has other vegetables, like carrots and onions, to sweeten it and it’s developed over a long time. There’s anchovies in there, which gives it saltiness.”

Vegans will be happy with his fifth selection, pizza with crust made from chickpea flour and topped with almond cheese or vegetables such as broccoli rabe. It’s so thin, it’s almost like a crepe and can be folded and eaten like a taco.

“That’s something I haven’t done since Sophia’s,” Lanzalotta said, referring to the bakery he owned on Market Street.

A typical sandwich at Slab will be a “meatloaf meatball sub.”

“It really tastes a lot like a meatloaf because it has diced peppers and fresh Luna bread crumbs in it, so it’s really a very light kind of meatball, very ethereal,” Lanzalotta said. “But then pack that into a Luna bread and toast it with cheese and sauce so it’s a really substantial meat lovers’ sub.”

As for desserts, Lanzalotta said he’ll bring back favorite sweets from Sophia’s such as orange-caramel “girelle” puff pastry spirals – Italy’s answer to morning buns – and the flourless, wheat-free, nut-based cookies that made USA Today name the bakery one of the top 10 cookie stops in America. Also look for “opulent ricotta-creme desserts.”

As for the recipes, well, the partners have been hammering it all out in legal contracts over the past four months.

“The recipes will belong to Slab,” Loring said, “and if he leaves they will still belong to Slab.”

The chef said it’s impossible to run a restaurant and have the recipes be kept secret. But he said that if Lanzalotta ever decides to leave, he won’t stand in the way of the baker using them elsewhere.

“I have no interest in stopping him from progressing,” Loring said. “Even if I hated him and everything (fell apart), I’m just not the kind of person who’s going to be, like, ‘You shouldn’t be allowed to do anything like this ever again.’ That’s just ridiculous, as far as I’m concerned.”

In return for the recipes, Lanzalotta was made an equal partner in the venture. There is also the promise of much more to come. Loring would like to bring some of Lanzalotta’s cookies and other baked goods to the wholesale market. And if the restaurant is successful, the partners will consider opening smaller versions in Portland suburbs.

For Lanzalotta, the deal was sealed when he had some issues in negotiations and Loring told him to just speak his mind and keep communicating. Lanzalotta said it made him feel like he was joining “a brotherhood.”

“We’ve always reached resolution, so it builds stronger and stronger,” he said. “They’ve given me that sense of security, that I can really trust somebody again.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:mgoad@pressherald.com

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