Pizza, soft serve ice cream and espresso.
The hat trick anchoring Lazzari at 618 Congress Street should not be confused with an artisan atelier. Is this craft pizza? “Absolutely not,” said chef Rich Maggi, who will crank out up to 10 different kinds of pies, from margarita to pepperoni and mushrooms in Portland’s new wood-fired venue opening soon.
Next to Coffee By Design and across from The State Theatre, this key location (formerly Mesa Verde) has been lovingly restored, rebuffed and re-tooled from stem to stern. The bar alone, made of vintage wood repurposed from the bowling alley in the basement, is worth a visit.
Owner Tom Barr of Taco Escobarr and formerly Nosh has kept his newest concept under wraps since 2014. But when the paper comes off the windows and pizza, (thin-crust, simple, healthy) exit a copper, Maine-made, wood-fired oven all will be revealed. Still waiting on a liquor license, the venue will feature Neapolitan stye za, charcuterie, calzones, salads and olives.
“There will never be chicken or fruit on my pizza,” said Maggi, who has worked behind the scenes all fall and winter (even learning to dry wall) and can’t wait to show Portland what he can do. “Try my pizza, just try my pizza,” says the former Brooklyn baker with bravado.
Barr, a Portland native, gave the space the tender loving cash (and care) it needed to become a player on Portland’s competitive food scene. Woodworker Ted Morse, who customized the space, was blown away by Barr’s commitment to the project.
“No one in my life has ever paid me to take the time to do it right,” said Morse, who set up a workshop a few doors down to make tables, pillars and the epic bar with materials culled from the building. “We’ve taken 1920 and brought it back to 2017 and we have done it with style.”
And speaking of style, how does an affogato at lunch sound? A soft serve machine near the fully loaded espresso machine means Congress Street now has an ice cream option.
In keeping with the wood-fired theme, Speckled Ax coffee, a few blocks away, is the bean of choice at this casual spot that can seat up to 100.
If the Lazzari team can execute with the same intensity and dedication maintained during its three-year incubation it should win over fans fast and become the new answer to the old question …. “Where should I eat in Portland?”
UPDATE: Lazzari’s opening date is TBD. A soft opening planned for Friday was delayed.