I have been having second thoughts about pressing the “publish” button on this post. Do I really want to encourage everyone to visit the temple of pizza that exists in the back room at Micucci’s Grocery in Portland, Maine? Right now, I feel like the cool kid who knows the secret handshake. I mean, you have to know that the pizza is past the maze of the enormous cans of San Marzano tomatoes and Il Riso Beretta Carnoroli arborio rice. If you didn’t, you might pass by the understated storefront that is Micucci’s in favor of a more upscale looking establishment, of which Portland has a bevy to choose from.
Me, I’m sticking with Micucci’s. The Sicilian style pizza is so good that I’m struggling for words that can adequately describe it. To say that it is the best pizza in the whole world makes me sound like some cheesy tag line for Domino’s. So I won’t. I will say that it is the most sublime pizza experience I have ever had. It is all that you would hope that a great slice would be. Except that to call this a slice might be a bit misleading. It’s more of a slab than a slice. I don’t think that a slice would weigh a full pound and require its own personal pizza box. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not criticizing its size. I ate it all. When it was gone, I found myself wondering if I could find a reason to go back for more. In the end, I decided that having a slab for lunch and bringing a second home for dinner was probably sufficient.
The crust is crisp on the exterior while somehow remaining soft and incredibly doughy on the interior. The sauce is simply tomato. It is slightly sweet, but not overly so. It perfectly compliments the rich, chewy crust without overpowering it. All that is left to discuss is the cheese and the relative lack thereof. Instead of the cheese drowned slices of the Americanized variety, this pizza has been topped with a very light hand. There is just enough cheese to perfectly complete the flavor. Usually, a slice of pizza that consists of crust, tomato sauce, and cheese would be called cheese pizza. The pizza at Micucci’s can’t honestly be described that way because the cheese is the least important component on your plate.
Speaking of the plate, if you eat at Micucci’s, you’ll have to wait at the window for your slab and hope not to find the paper plate folded in half. If you do, you’ll notice that someone has written ”5 minutes” on it using a simple black marker. Five minutes can seem like a lifetime when you’re left to stand there staring at an empty stainless steel shelf smelling pizza this good. Once the slabs hit the window, you’ll notice that they come on simple, white paper plates. You can either box each slab up to take home or walk it back through the maze of grocery items to the cashier. Once you’ve paid for your slab, you can return to the back room and sit at one of the two patio tables and finally dig in with your plastic knife and fork. Welcome to pizza nirvana. Now you know the secret handshake.
I’m not the only one who feels like this pizza is incredible. In fact, when I did a search for “Micucci’s Pizza” a wide variety of diner’s comments and ratings all had one thing in common: they all raved about how great it was. I also found articles in The Boston Globe and The Portland Press Herald written about the pizza slabs from the back room. I can’t blame them. Afterall, I’m sitting here writing about it now. It’s one thing for me to write about it, but quite another to share it with the world. Should I really publish? I don’t have a choice. Food this good can’t be kept a secret no matter the consequences.
What if you all go running to Portland for the world’s best pizza and I’m left staring at the folded paper plate in the window? I’ve stood there before. Trying to look as if I’m not ready to pounce on the first corner slab like a starved jungle cat. Somehow I survived, but it wasn’t easy. It’s not like sitting at a restaurant table and waiting for your entrée while eating your appetizer or drinking your cocktail. There are no distractions here. And then there’s the haunting smell of something wonderful baking in the oven.
Now, if I’m lucky, I’ll find an excuse to get myself to Portland soon. I’ll wait for my pizza if I have to. I’ll drive home and try to ignore the heavenly smell radiating from the pizza box. This pizza gracing my dinner table alone will make the meal a special occasion. For you oenophiles, I can simply say this: my husband and I recently brought home two slices for dinner. We also picked up a bottle of wine. The wine? None other than Chateau Montelena 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Old Port Wine Merchants. You might call it overkill. I call it a well deserved reward for buying a delicious date night’s dinner for less than ten dollars.