I spent a delightful hour today with a slice of Luca Pizzuti’s “Grandma” pizza, a bottle of water, and my Kindle. I’d walked a mile to the Old Orchard Beach pier from Ocean Park all bundled up against the wind and cold. Inside Roma Pizza at 38 Old Orchard Street it was warm and sunny, just right for hanging out before my walk back to the cottage.
As I left, I asked Luca if I could take some photos. He said he came to the U.S. from Italy seven years ago on a vacation and has never left. He opened up the pizza shop last May when his son and daughter expressed their disappointment at the pizza selection in town. Luca’s shop is on winter hours now – Friday through Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. – but will gear up for another busy summer in May.
The family posed next to the pizza oven – Luca and his wife Fotini, son Luca Jr., 3, and Argianna, who is 6. For much of my time at Roma Pizza today, I was the only customer, so the kids were playing in the shop, and Fotini was reading at a table. I was surprised to receive a call on my iPhone from my daughter, who was using Skype to check in from Antigua, so I had a chance to talk to my grandson, who turns 5 tomorrow. We compared beach weather and decided it would be difficult to imagine a bigger contrast than Maine and the Caribbean this time of year.
As for my “Grandma” pizza, it was delicious. Luca gave me a crispy corner piece. The crust was light, and the ingredients were fresh – mozzarella, marinara sauce and basil. Once the season starts, Fotini said, they will be adding pasta. And – good news – they will have my favorite sauce, bolognese. The other slices on the menu today were named El Greco, Sicilian, Margherita, Buffalo Chicken, All Dress, Roma, and Rustica.
The best pizza in Old Orchard Beach? I think that’s a safe bet. This historic seaside gathering place is more known for scary rides and fried dough than for haute cuisine, though there are some excellent restaurants, including Joseph’s By the Sea and the The Landmark. When it comes to pizza and traditional Italian fare, I’m rooting for the Pizzuti family to do very well indeed.