The Munjoy Hill neighborhood of Maine’s largest city has enjoyed a bit of a dining renaissance over the past few years. Several nice eateries have opened along Congress Street, bringing traffic up the hill from the Old Port and downtown.

But locals know well that the best dining bargain on Munjoy Hill still rests with Colucci’s Hilltop Market, 135 Congress St., just across from the Portland Observatory.

The neighborhood take-out market offers what oftentimes seems like an endless menu of old-fashioned comfort food, with a heavy emphasis on pasta dishes and what I like to refer to as bulkie food — meatloaf, pot roast and country chicken dinners served with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a veggie side.

The menu also includes hot and cold sandwiches, a large selection of Italian sandwiches, pizza, salads and an array of grilled food.

On two recent visits, I tried a dinner-sized portion of chop suey ($5.95) and a super-generous serving of chicken alfredo with broccoli ($6.95). Both were very good.

The chicken alfredo is not a regular menu item. It comes and goes at random. But what a great dinner it was. Served with a side salad and dinner roll, the alfredo was creamy, and the broccoli fresh and crunchy. The chicken was hot and tender, and quite moist.

I managed to down it all in one sitting at lunch, and frankly, I shouldn’t have. I enjoyed every bite, but felt bloated the rest of the day. I should have taken leftovers home for dinner.

The chop suey portion wasn’t quite as large, though it still filled a plastic to-go container to overflowing. Chop suey (they call it goulash in the Midwest) is a pasta dish served with a tangy tomato-and-meat sauce, all mixed together.

At Colucci’s, I also detected small bits of green peppers, though they were not plentiful in the mix. Instead of using elbows, which is common, Colucci’s uses shells, which I prefer because they are large enough to cradle the meat sauce.

The variety at Colucci’s makes it easy to become a return patron. I could stop in once a week and work my way down the menu and find something I like without repeating it for weeks or months on end.

The pulled-pork sandwich ($4.29 small; $5.99 large) is high on the must-try list, right in front of the chicken Parmesan sandwich ($4.29 small; $6.49 large).

Pizza is available both by the slice and by the pie. There are homemade calzones and a very appealing display of freshly made salads.

Colucci’s is also affordable. Pizza aside, the most expensive item on the take-out menu is a nine-piece chicken tender basket for $11.49. Otherwise, all the sandwiches cost between $3 and $8, and most are in the $4 to $7 range. The dinners are all less than $7.

It’s the best value on the hill.


The Features staff of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.