Perfect place for a pitcher and a slice: The bar room at Pizza Villa in Portland. Photos by Ray Routhier

There was something comforting to me, on a rainy Thursday afternoon, seeing several patrons of Pizza Villa on Congress Street in Portland drinking Budweiser out of a bottle with their pies.

It was a pizza and beer moment at its finest, full of nostalgia for me. Before mainstream America pizza was wood-fired or had truffle-infused crust, it was best served with a Bud in a bar. Or maybe a Miller High Life.

Pizza Villa in Portland has been a local institution for more than 50 years.

Pizza Villa has been in business for more than 50 years. Its perfectly prepared pub pizza and cozy neighborhood bar vibe has made the place a local landmark. So much so that another local landmark, Maine Medical Center, recently bought the building it’s in. The business itself is run by members of the Minervino family, who took over this winter. The Minervinos  also run several other neighborhood eateries around Portland, including Samuel’s Bar & Grill on Forest Avenue and Tomaso’s Canteen on Hampshire Street.

When I went into Pizza Villa on a recent lunch hour, I walked through the front room lined with booths and tables and picked up one of the conveniently concise menus on the counter. It’s the size of a large bookmark, and the first item is “10 inch pizza, $7.95.” Perfect, I thought. I ordered one with mushrooms and sausage, because I heard the sausage was homemade. With two toppings, the pizza came to $9.35.

After I ordered, I asked the young man behind the counter if it mattered where I sat. He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll find you.” I peered into the bar area, a few steps down from the front room, and decided that was the place for me.

Along one wall is the bar itself. There are neon lights – one in the shape of a martini glass – plus a classic pinball machine and all sorts of funky wall hangings, including a toboggan. Music played the entire time I was there, mostly oldies from folks like Jackie Wilson and the Box Tops. Several TVs were tuned to the sports report on ESPN and a bank of windows looked out on Congress Street.

My pizza had a nice crispy and rich crust, with a uniform golden color. The chunks of mushroom were definitely fresh, and the homemade sausage was browned and had a spicy, peppery flavor. The cheese was pleasantly stringy, but not too much so. I ate just about the whole thing.

Mushroom and sausage pizza at Pizza Villa in Portland.

Other toppings available on the pizzas include pepperoni, hamburg, green peppers, Greek olives, onion, jalapenos, black olives, salami, garlic and oil, pineapple, bacon, spinach, anchovy, feta and ham. The menu also has calzones, $9.75 for one with three fillings.

The place has salads, soups, a few pasta dishes, chicken wings and other appetizers, plus about two dozen sandwiches. There are six kinds of chicken sandwiches alone, including Parmesan, cordon bleu, club, Cajun and buffalo. Besides the regular menu items, Pizza Villa lists daily specials on its Facebook page.

While I was happy to see the Bud bottles, I did not have one. I was even happier to see the bar has a big selection of Portland and Maine brews, which I will sample the next time I go there for dinner. For pizza and beer, of course.

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