For a lesson in the history of American pizza joints, head to Pizza By Alex in downtown Biddeford.
Opened in 1960, the place has an eye-catching red and aquamarine neon sign that looks like it was plucked from the set of “American Graffiti.”
When you walk in, you see the wooden chairs and tables and wooden paneling, which can also be seen in 1960s-era photos of the place online. Little League team photos line the walls, and there’s a stack of Sports Illustrateds, among other magazines, to read while dining. There are old-school metal ovens beyond the counters.
It’s a place where you step up to the counter to order, then come back up when they call. The menu, on two signs behind the counter, is great for people who have a hard time making choices. It just lists one item – pizza – and one size: a personal 10-inch.
But the menu is kind enough to show the prices for a pizza with each of a dozen or more toppings: $7.40 for green pepper, $7.65 for ham or bacon, etc. Then additional toppings are $1.15 to about $1.70 more each, depending on what you get.
The most expensive pie is Alex’s Special, with onions, green peppers, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms and Greek olives for $10.50.
At Pizza By Alex, the pizza crust is buttery on the bottom, a little crisp but very tender on the inside and not at all chewy. The red sauce is tangy and fresh tasting, and the toppings don’t need much explanation: peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, etc. The most exotic things on the menu are Greek olives and feta cheese.
When I went on a recent lunch hour, I got the Hawaiian, with pineapple and ham, for $8.55. I got it because the place reminded me of the pizza joints of my youth, circa the late ’60s to early ’70s. Back then, Hawaiian was the most exotic type of pizza I encountered. Exotic to me, anyway.
The pizza was loaded with chunks of browned ham and sweet pineapple. The cheese was scattered all over the pie, including on the crust, and was soft and not stringy. The pie was cut into eight little slices and served on cardboard plates.
On the counter, there were condiments you could grab to liven up your pie, including shakers of oregano, Parmesan cheese, celery salt (I think) and red pepper flakes.
The menu also offered some options I hadn’t seen before but that just make good old-fashioned sense. For example, you can specify the amount of cheese on your pizza: no cheese, light cheese (a sprinkling), less cheese (about half the normal amount) or extra cheese, for an additional $1.30.
The sauce options are regular, no sauce, light sauce or extra sauce. And they even let you pick how well-done you want it: half-cooked, light, medium or well-done crispy.
And, according to the menu, you can ask that your pizza be baked in the “old” oven. Which would make your pizza history lesson complete.
Not to mention tasty.
WHERE: 93 Alfred St., Biddeford
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
WAIT: About five to 10 minutes
HANDICAPPED ACCESS: Yes
INFO: pizzabyalexmaine.com; 283-0002