Slab in Portland has Stephen Lanzalotta’s iconic and addictive Sicilian slices, but there are other things to love there, too.
The much-anticipated Slab restaurant in Portland’s former Public Market building has been open for two months and signs point to a wild success story.
Quick background: Slab is the result of the separation between Micucci Grocery and Stephen Lanzalotta, the creator of the “Sicilian slab,” a large, pillowy slice of pizza that you must try if you haven’t yet. For years, these slabs were served on flimsy paper plates under heat lamps in the back corner of the Italian grocery store on India Street. Over the years, Lanzalotta built an impressive following.
“There are 20 beers on tap and while nearly every line is a local beer right now because of Beer Camp (Aug. 1), I will keep the lines extremely varied,” said co-owner and general manager Emily Kingsbury.
Kingsbury has spent the last eight years in the craft beer world, most recently serving and developing the beer programs at In’finiti and Novare Res.
“At least 12 to 15 beers will always be American beers and the remaining lines will come from overseas, like a good pilsner or a Belgian triple.”
Kingsbury also plans to keep Narragansett on tap for a lower price and will continue to serve Urban Farm Fermentory’s dry cider (made with pink peppercorn and sweet basil) on tap, which she uses for a $10 rum punch, made with In’finiti white rum.
Happy hour at Slab is from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and features $1 off house wines (the wine list is a small selection of Sicilian varietal wines), and a different $5 draught beer every night. Recently, the Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale was featured at this price.
The cocktail menu is a compact list of six rotating drinks — given how new Slab is, the bartenders are still collaborating on drink specials and house cocktails. Recently, the Fly Right was served as a special. Made with Luxardo, lemon juice, Art in the Age Sage (a sage liqueur), shaken with blueberries and then topped off with Kellerweis from Sierra Nevada, this “beer cocktail” is a bargain at $9.
“I’m really into beer, so I’ve been playing around more with beer cocktails,” Kingsbury said. “The other drinks on the menu are definitely more of a group effort.”
The staff at Slab is attentive but not all are terribly knowledgeable of the beers quite yet. Kingsbury admits that because Slab opened right as summer was kicking off, she hired servers primarily for their serving experience, but not necessarily for their beer knowledge.
“Before shifts, I encourage the staff to taste beers and I explain what is new,” Kingsbury said. “I believe the only way to learn about beer is to try it and smell it — ideally I’d like to do employee trips to the breweries.”
One of the best features of Slab — other than the slab itself — is the industrial (yet warm), modern decor that Lanzalotta designed and built mostly by hand. The look was an intentional Sicilian street theme with high ceilings, as if you might just be walking outside in a courtyard in Italy.
While there are cozier booths available, the bar might be the stiffest place to sit. The stools have backs but they aren’t entirely comfortable.
On a summer day or night, the beer garden is ideal. There’s space for 160 people to sit at 20 bright orange German beer hall tables the owners procured on Etsy.
And there’s a stage for music, which is occupied by local musicians on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and again on Saturdays starting at 2 p.m.
“It is definitely louder and busier on the weekends,” Kingsbury said. “This Friday (last Friday) we have Tigerman WOAH playing, which I am pretty excited about. We’ve been throwing around ideas for an end of the summer party on the deck as well as an Oktoberfest event.”
Expect new food and drink specials at Slab to be the norm. The co-owners are devoted to experimenting so as to keep their patrons coming back.
“In a few months we will transition into an expanded food menu,” Kingsbury said. “I can’t wait.”
WHERE: 25 Preble St. (the former Public Market building), Portland
HOURS: 11 to 1 a.m. Monday-Saturday
SPECIALS: Happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday offers $1 off house wine and a different $5 draught beer every night. Food and cocktail specials every night.
AMENITIES: Outdoor seating that will likely never be completely full; take out and delivery; 20 beer taps; bar stools with backs.
PARKING: Street parking; two parking garages nearby.
CAPACITY: 240 people
BOTTOM LINE: Slab’s menu is inspired by Sicilian street food. The interior and bar area is industrial but warm, and the beer garden, which seats 160, is equipped with 20 German beer hall tables found on Etsy. Twenty beers are on tap, which vary tremendously, from local to lesser-known brews. Cocktails are house-made and include “beer cocktails” or the rum punch made with local cider.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes