If I had a nickel for every time I said to my spouse, “Hey, I’m going to Terra Cotta, want anything?” we’d have enough nickels to buy firewood for the next 1,000 years or so.
This is because of all the go-to joints I’ve fallen in love with over the years of living in Maine, Terra Cotta Pasta Co. always hovers at the top of the list.
Are their fresh pastas and sauces always reliable and delicious? Absolutely. But I go there for other reasons, not the least of which is that, every time I walk in there, the entire staff is super friendly.
Then, there’s the fact that they often have tasty things out for sampling, like bits of baguette and olive oil. Meaning, there’s always something I can shove into my mouth immediately, because it’s rare that I don’t roll up to Terra Cotta not teetering on the edge of hangry.
About half the time, I make it home (which is less than 2 miles away) without tearing into my sandwich. Which brings me to the heart of the matter — the Terra Cotta Prosciutto Italian ($7.99). These are usually available on the counter, already made, but if you don’t see them, just ask for one.
What’s in it? I’m glad you asked, because I’m excited to tell you. First off, they use baguettes from Standard Baking Co., so this sandwich already has a leg up on others. Then there’s fresh mozzarella, local Maine tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, thinly-sliced aged prosciutto, extra virgin oil and salt and pepper. And there you have it: sandwich perfection.
If calories and nutrition weren’t a consideration, I could probably eat one of these every single day. In fact, my love for this sandwich is so powerful, it’s rare I try anything else from the Terra Cotta menu, but I can tell you that the Sicilian-style slab pizza ($3.50 per slab) is pure magic, as is the Stromboli ($7.99, there’s a daily meat and vegetable offering). If you order the Stromboli, you can either hang out and chat for the 15 or so minutes it takes to heat up or bring it home and warm it there. Either way, you win.
As for my spouse, she also doesn’t feel the need to mess with perfection and is a longtime fan of the Lemon Chicken Salad Roll Up ($4.29). I offered to treat her to one in exchange for writing me a few sentences about it for this review. She took the bait and reported back her notes on her lunch and, since she said it so well, I’m including her exact thoughts.
“This is almost like a half-sandwich. Perfect size, if paired with a bag of chips or one of their salads. Many mayo-based salads suffer from too much moisture. Somehow Terra Cotta has gotten the consistency perfect. No dripping, no sogginess, yet moist and flavorful. The walnuts are a pleasant surprise, as are the grapes — just enough without being overwhelming. I also like that I can always count on one of these being in the cooler. The one time they ran out, they made me one on the spot.”
At some point, I might get around trying one of the hot subs ($6.99), because they’ve got sweet Italian sausage, meatball, chicken and eggplant Parmesan. I keep thinking I’ll grow tired of the prosciutto Italian but it just hasn’t happened yet, though there may have been a recent visit that involved a slice of pizza and an Italian, but I’m not officially copping to that.
Terra Cotta Pasta Co. also has daily flatbreads, lobster rolls (seasonal), soups, salads, paninis and, of course, a world of cook-at-home pastas and sauces. Then there’s the baked good situation. Truth be told, I’ve been off sugar for a while now, but I can tell you that I’ve never had a better cookie than the one at Terra Cotta with pieces of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in it. For real. They also have made-to-order cannolis, tiramisu, sfogliatelle, Italian ricotta pie, Italian almond biscotti, gelato and sorbetto. I gaze at these things every time I go in there and am happy that they’re in the world even if I’m not eating them. Ti amo, Terra Cotta!
P.S. Terra Cotta also has a decent wine selection, and there’s almost always Standard Baking Co. baguettes for sale. There’s also a deli case with all sorts of delectables, like meatballs, manicotti, cheeses and other assorted edibles you didn’t know you needed when you walked through the door.
WHERE: 501 Cottage Road, South Portland. 799-9099; terracottapastacompany.com
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: Less than five minutes
Wheelchair access: Yes