By Samantha Spoto
Photos courtesy of Otto Pizza.
As someone born and raised in New York, it seems sinful to say the best pizza I have tasted to date wasn’t made in the Empire State. Instead, a five hour drive north to Otto Pizza in Portland, Maine led me to the mecca of comfort-food style pizza.
Otto Pizza is unmissable. Located on Portland’s Congress Street, this restaurant draws a crowd of people at all times. During my short stay in Maine, I didn’t actively seek out pizza, especially since I had the best seafood at my disposal. However, with one look–and whiff–of their indulgent creations, I knew I had to try it for myself.
While at Otto’s, I tried several different slices. First, I tasted their Mashed Potato, Bacon & Scallion slice. Usually, potatoes make dishes fairly heavy, but Otto’s seemed to have found the perfect ratio to keep their customers teetering the line of “still hungry” and “full.” I leaned towards the “still hungry” side of that line, so I reached for another slice. For those who are not fond of potatoes, but who are enticed by bacon, Otto’s menu features an entire section dedicated to Pies with Bacon.
However, the next slice I tried was a vegetarian slice, loaded with butternut squash, ricotta, and cranberries. Like potatoes, ricotta can overwhelm a dish, however Otto’s understands balance. Each bite was filled with all three flavors, each one working together instead of overpowering the others. For me, the combination of squash and cranberry is reminiscent of a warm Thanksgiving meal.
The last slice I tasted was the Roasted Chicken, Caramelized Pears, and Fontina Cheese. I am not generally one to reach for a slice of pizza with fruit on it, but this slice looked and smelled delicious. The caramelized pears were juicy and flavorful and paired well with the chicken and cheese.
Otto’s has an entire menu of other creations like these, including a Pulled Pork and Mango slice as well as Apple, Bacon, and Red Onion, and Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Herbs. For the traditional pizza lovers, Otto’s also offers a regular cheese and margherita pie.
Otto’s understands how to garner service both through drink and free food. If you order a beer or glass of wine during Otto’s happy hour (Monday-Friday , 4-6 pm), you also receive a free slice of their famous pizza. For a deal like this, some places may overcharge for their alcohol, but Otto’s keeps their prices tame. A draft beer during happy hour will run you four dollars, while a glass of wine will cost one dollar more.
I had a pleasant experience with the staff at Otto Pizza. Despite the business, my waiter maintained a warm and attentive rapport.
For those on the go, you can stop at Otto’s slice shop, where you order at a counter and take your pie to go. For those who have more time, Otto’s has a separate, cozy dining area. The interior seems fitting to Portland’s historic architecture. Inside, exposed brick mimics the streets of Maine, which helps to establish a sense of place and community.
Overall, Otto Pizza exceeded any expectation I had as a New Yorker in Maine. I enjoyed every bite and would have taken a pie back on the plane had it been passable through security. In the meantime, I’ll settle for New York pizza, but I would make a trip back north sometime soon simply for another slice from Otto’s.