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Ricetta's
29 Western Ave.
South Portland
775-7400

 
Three and 1/2 Plates  
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Ricetta's Reviewed: Fall, 2000

I have a friend who I would consider an avid pizza connoisseur. He recently moved back from the West Coast, and, considering that pizza out there is in no way comparable to pizza here, had been immensely craving East Coast pizza ever since his return. I have never seen anyone able to eat so much pizza, so fast, indulge and savor every last bite and then talk about it for years to come. He can confidently discuss the merits and faults of every kind of pizza from Freshcetta's to homemade to The Hut and the Domino's Dominator. The other day he asked us if we had ever been to Ricetta's and when we replied that we had not yet had the opportunity, he insisted that we schedule a lunch the very next day because Ricetta's pizza is not to be missed.

Our lunch date was set for 1:00 on Sunday. We drove down to South Portland to find the restaurant quite crowded due to the All You Can Eat Pizza Buffet ($8.25). We took the last space in the parking lot and squeezed in the door through the waiting customers to put in our name. They told us it would be about a fifteen-minute wait, we briefly considered the bright open bar area for a quick beer, but decided to find ourselves a spot in the small waiting area next to the buffet instead. It was no more than five minutes before we were seated among thirty or so tables in the main dining room. The hostess left us with four menus, napkins and silverware.

As we waited for our server, we glanced around the room, peering through the plexiglass divider to see the chefs nimbly cranking out pizza after pizza from the giant wood fired ovens. We wondered if they sometimes work so fast that they just toss on whatever toppings might be within reach, creating new masterpieces by the minute. Seeing as though they were quite busy, our very friendly waitress ran over to see if we were ordering from the menu or choosing the Pizza Bar. Although the menu is very tempting with its wide selection of salads, soups, appetizers, pizzas and calzones, we all opted for the buffet, we couldn't pass up that deal. She told us to go ahead and help ourselves and she would come back later for our beverage orders so we didn't have to wait any longer.

I have never seen such a spread of different pizzas before! At least twenty different pizzas tiered along the buffet table with a very large turnover so each slice is still piping hot when it reaches your plate. Not only was there an immense selection of pizzas, but three different green salads, pasta salad, two different soups, pasta with red sauce, and desserts as well. Although I wanted to pile on the pizza, I thought I should at least start with some salad, even if it was pasta salad. There was no line over there so I quickly served myself a small helping and jumped back into the pizza line. I could not decide, and considering there was a line of hungry customers behind me full of as much anticipation as I to see in detail what wondrous combinations of toppings were laid out before our eyes, I chose the first two pizzas in the row. Some of the slices weren't quite cut all the way through so I had to use the dull server to saw away at it, taking even longer, and arousing some very impatient glares from the people in the waiting queue. I hurried back to my seat where the waitress was patiently smiling and waiting with the rest of my party to take my beverage order. We all ordered refillable sodas and waters which arrived within seconds.

I dove into my pasta first, still grasping onto the notion that I should fill up on "salad", even if it is covered in mayo, before indulging in the delicious looking pizza. The pasta salad was excellent, something you don't normally find in a buffet. The cold al dente rotini was mixed with fresh crispy green bell peppers, red onion bits, scallions, and a few small tomato wedges all dressed in a creamy mayonnaise based sauce. A delightful change from the expected. After I finished my salad, I cut into the first slice of awaiting pizza. Yes, I occasionally use a fork and knife to eat pizza. Due to the pressure of the buffet line and the overwhelming choices, I didn't really know what I had until I sat down. I was excited to see that I had chosen a slice of the house specialty Ricetta pizza covered in an abundance of prosciutto, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, tomato slices and scallions. It was a great combination. The ricotta, lending a terrific creamy sensation to each bite, was piped onto the pizza in perfect florets and the prosciutto was placed just so amongst the cheese that it was crispy on the edges and still soft and salty on the inside. The crust was ok, not the most flavorful I've ever had, very fresh and doughy, allowing the toppings to be the main focus of the pie. My second slice turned out to be a sample of their Abbondanza pizza, covered in mozzarella, big morsels of spicy ground sausage, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions. Yet another excellent union of ingredients.

Before I even started on my second piece, my friends, whose first plates were piled high with more pizza than I could even think of eating, were up at the buffet again for round two. Our very efficient waitress brought us several refills before we even realized we needed them. I watched as the line to the buffet diminished slightly before venturing back for more. This time I allowed myself a more leisurely visit so I could check out every kind of pizza. There was chicken, pesto, pepperoni, sausage, all kinds of veggie pizzas, four-cheese, Greek, a wide spread of options. I boldly took three delicious looking slices but was only able to eat two of them before I was totally stuffed. I tried a slice of Pepperoni and Cheese and one of Pesto, Mozzarella and Roasted Red Peppers, both living up to my expectations. The Pepperoni and Cheese pizza, in lieu of pizza sauce, had simply crushed tomatoes in between the crust and abundance of mozzarella. The Pesto slice had fresh basil pesto full of whole pine nuts instead of tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella and a few bits of peppers. My third slice, which I passed onto my friend, was covered in black olives and sundried tomatoes. I'll just have to return another time to sample that one among the many others. I never did make it to the dessert end of the buffet which included an immense platter of homemade Cannoli and an interesting looking sweet Apple Pizza.

parking
reservations  
wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections  
beer
wine
liquor
most credit cards accepted
I definitely think the Pizza Bar is the best deal at Ricetta's but they also serve a wide variety of other menu items, all reasonably priced. If you're in the mood for a starter you can choose from Baked Stuffed Mushrooms ($4.95), a blend of sauteed vegetables combined with four cheeses and packed into white mushrooms, then baked in the brick oven, Hot Artichoke Dip ($7.25), tender artichoke hearts pureed with garlic, cheese and various seasonings and baked in the brick oven served with fresh foccacia bread, Calamari Fra Diavolo ($6.95), Antipasto Platter either meat-filled or meat-free ($7.25), or a variety of garlic breads and bruschettas. Ricetta's also has several salads and soups, 18 specialty pizzas, most of which we encountered at the Pizza Bar, several Calzones and Pasta Entrees including Lasagne ($10.25) baked in the brick oven, Shrimp Scampi ($11.95) and Cheese Ravioli ($10.25) to choose from. You can also make your own pizza choosing from an immense list of over 40 different cheese, meat, and vegetable toppings. Ricetta's also delivers within a three mile radius of the restaurant.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30-10:00, Friday-Sunday 11:00-11:00

All You Can Eat Pizza Buffet: Monday-Thursday 11:30-1:30, Friday 11:00-1:30, Saturday 11:00-3:00, Sundays & Holidays 11:30-3:00  back to the top

      Tracy B. Wheeler is a classical flutist and freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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