For the past two years The Lisbon House of Pizza has been beckoning seductively to my son, its crisp blue sign shining out onto Route 196 as we pass on the way to our hockey obligations. He asks and I, dreading the thick, carb-laden crust and oddball, non-mozzarella topping that so often defines the inland Maine pizzeria, come up with some excuse. Every Tuesday on the way back from hockey practice in Lewiston. Every Saturday on the way back from a hockey game in Auburn. Plus every other Wednesday and some Sundays too.
But bright lights in a small town are hard to steadfastly ignore and last weekend, on a particularly chilly night where there was no dinner waiting at home, I caved.
We ordered two items, a small pizza for him, with pepperoni on half and just cheese on the other. I picked a calzone, with three “toppings” (let’s call them innards), sausage and black olives and spinach, to make me feel less disgusted with myself about my unhealthy dinner. The black olives were a nod to the pizzas of my youth, before I moved to California and became a consumer of, say, artichoke heart pizzas with a drizzle of truffle oil, or roasted fennel. You know, uppity pizza.
The true Maine pizza is never uppity.
The cordial young woman at the counter said they’d be ready in under 10 minutes. We sat in a standard fast-food style booth – some molded white material – and looked out at Route 196, a road I have come to resent for its traffic, lack of scenic highlights and what always seems to be a longer drive than I remembered the last time I was on it, even if the last time was only a day ago. But the Lisbon House of Pizza, which really ought to be called the Lisbon Falls House of Pizza since that is technically the town it is in, was cozy enough, and the server at the counter was right; we might have waited nine minutes for our dinner.
The crusts were fat, as feared, and by that I don’t mean in the style of deep dish pizza, but rather, in the style of Maine pizza, where, let’s be honest, the maker is generally trying to give good value (his pizza was $6.70, my calzone was $9.10). It’s supposed to be, if nothing else, filling. My son had just raced around the ice at the Norway Savings Bank Arena for an hour; he ate all but half the last slice on the plate. I consider him a rather liberal judge of what’s a good pizza since his main requirements are that it be at least tepid, round in shape and pose no threats like truffle oil or artichoke hearts. Even prosciutto on a pizza troubles this bacon lover. Even bacon on a pizza troubles me.
But I considered myself a bit of a tough sell for that calzone. I sat there looking down at the greasy-looking lace coverlet of cheese melted on top and thought about my Maine childhood, when this kind of meal came with glee, not guilt, and therefore seemed unequivocally delicious. Or college, when I wolfed down stuff like this for dinner all the time, with a side of Coke and a chaser of Haagen Daz and still didn’t weigh enough to give blood.
But this was dinner and I hadn’t cooked it; surely I could get over myself.
How beautifully it oozed with cheese. How nicely the tomato sauce and sausage and olive turned the spinach into something that seemed hardly virtuous at all. The crust was even comforting. I ate half, felt fully satisfied and boxed up the rest. The leftovers immediately scented the car with that smutty smell that hangs about all things prepared in an establishment where there are pickled peppers, olive oil and onions. I could have looked the other way and allowed the dog to ravage the box, the way he so often does, but I did not because I wanted those leftovers.
“We finally went to the Lisbon House of Pizza,” my son said.
“Yep,” I said, steering back onto Route 196. “We’ll have to do this again.”
WHERE: 668 Lisbon St., right off Route 196 in Lisbon Falls; lisbonhouseofpizza.com; 207-353-6114 or 207-353-9983
HOURS: Open 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. except Friday when it is open until 10 p.m.
WAIT: Almost none
PARKING: A few spaces out front, a few more in the back.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: There’s a ramp, but double doors at the entry may make access harder.