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Flatbread Company
72 Commercial Street

4 Plates  
Flatbread Company Reviewed: Summer, 2000

Down on the water in the Old Port, in an extremely out of the way place, is new casual style restaurant called the Flatbread Company. Since it just opened a few weeks ago, I decided to check it out with a few friends. If you can find it, and searching up and down Commercial is well worth the trip, you'll discover an incredible space with one of the best restaurant water views in Portland and some delicious all-natural gourmet wood-fired pizzas.

We passed the place several times before noticing the spray painted "72" in the window of the old fish packing warehouse that serves as the front of the space on Commercial Street. It was not until we walked around the corner of the building that we saw the makeshift "open" sign guiding us towards the restaurant. We walked in to find a spacious restaurant with enormous high ceilings and hand written prose, odes to food and tributes to Portland, on wall hangings, decorating the foyer. From reading the interesting stories we learned about the Vermont origins of the restaurant and how they came to be in Portland. I vaguely remembered eating a Flatbread at the Clifford Ball festival in Plattsburgh, New York and I also recalled passing a place of similar name somewhere near Sugarbush, VT. As I discovered, they are in fact all one and the same. Thinking back about the delicious appetite quenching pizza, from that long hot day dancing in the sun up in Plattsburgh, sparked my taste buds once again and I eagerly rushed to the host stand. We were immediately greeted by two very friendly hosts who tried to seat us simultaneously.

As we were guided to our table, the wonderful aroma of the wood-stoves overwhelmed me. It reminded me of winter in Maine, lighting the fireplace after a day of cold snowboarding at Sunday River and of sitting around a campfire in the summertime. The restaurant is one huge room full of chunky wooden tables and booths. The back wall is lined with sprawling glass windows allowing for a perfect view of the harbor and the piers on either side. A deck in progress stretching along the outer water edge of the restaurant was still covered in plastic but definitely holds wonderful potential upon its completion. There were a few beer-drinking patrons perched at the bar just to the left as we walked in. In the back, behind the bar area, was a comfortable lounge filled with soft plush couches and bean bags. We were seated at one of the many empty tables, in the center of the restaurant, with a great view of the water and the two giant clay ovens in which the pizzas are cooked. One of the ovens, which I assume is reserved for take out orders was situated in the corner behind a big brick counter and the other was in plain view for all to see.

We perused the beer and wine menu, which listed New England beers on draught and a few other bottled beers along with a fairly extensive selection of wines both by the bottle and glass. I ordered an Allaghash White while everyone else chose a beer to his individual liking. One friend decided to be adventurous and try Kaliber, a beer he had never heard of, which turned out to be non-alcoholic. Apparently this is a fairly well-known beverage but regardless, there was no mention of this on the menu. Along with beer and wine, there was a decent selection of sodas including the tasty Mad River Sodas straight from the infamous Mad River Glen in Vermont.

The "daily" menu (from June 9th even though we were there much later in the month than that) listed eight very tempting Flatbread choices, an organic mesclun and sweet leaf lettuce salad tossed with organic celery and carrots, toasted sesame seeds, arame seaweed and homemade ginger tamari vinaigrette ($4.75), and a dessert, Barbara's homemade brownies topped with Annabelle's all natural chocolate or vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream ($5.00). Knowing that every dining patron was bound to ask, they put a note at the top of the menu explaining that one Flatbread feeds two people. It took us quite a while to decide since, in past experience, when a restaurant says something like one serving serves two, it's usually way not enough for our starving stomachs, but we ended up ordering two Flatbreads as they suggested amongst the four of us. We chose the Homemade Sausage Flatbread with nitrate-free maple-fennel sausage baked with sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, organic mushrooms, cheeses and herbs ($14.00) and the Punctuated Equilibrium Flatbread which had calamati olives, fresh rosemary, red onions, goat cheese, and garlic with oven roasted sweet peppers, cheese and herbs ($13.50). Also incredibly tempting and difficult to pass by on this particular menu was a Cheese and Herb Flatbread topped with premium mozzarella and Vermont farmhouse asiago baked with garlic oil and herbs for $10.25, a nitrate-free Pepperoni Flatbread with mushrooms, cheeses, herbs and their wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce ($14.00), and the simple Jay's Heart Flatbread with cheeses and herbs ($11.25).

After ordering, we took some time to look around the restaurant. We watched as our order was submitted and the young chefs, dressed completely casually in their street clothes, suddenly came to life, stretched out the dough and topped our pizzas right out in front of the open oven. Hanging on the walls and from the ceilings around the room were various banners depicting some of the all-natural ingredients featured in the Flatbreads such as "Fresh Mushrooms", "Pure Water", and "Whole Milk Mozzarella" drawn in a remarkably similar artistic style to the Ben & Jerry's packages. Amongst these decorations was also a banner for a Surfrider Benefit, a string of Buddhist prayer flags over the big oven, and a giant stack of wood along one wall all giving the impression that we were outside in some wonderful place in the Vermont wilderness. As we waited, a ferry pulled into port just outside the windows by our table and we watched as it spun around and docked right there. I turned my head back towards the oven just a one of the cooks took the longest wooden pizza paddle I have ever seen and drew our fresh piping hot Flatbreads from the oven.

Our waiter delivered a wire frame double-decker pizza stand to our table seconds before both the Flatbreads which he stacked one above the other on the stand. Each Flatbread was oblong shaped and cut into square shaped slices rather than triangle pie shaped slices as pizza usually is. The crust was perfect, slightly charred on a couple of edges and took on the unique flavors of being cooked over an open fire. All the toppings were very fresh and delicious. The nitrate-free sausage on the Homemade Sausage Flatbread was not as flavorful as regular sausage yet it was obvious that it was of the freshest quality. Each Flatbread had just the right amount of each ingredient to blend nicely, no one flavor stood out over the others. We ate every piece of both Flatbreads and were completely satiated.

wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections  
most credit cards accepted
We definitely plan to return soon to the Flatbread Company and are very much looking forward not only to the deck being fully opened but to see what kinds of new concoctions they create in their amazing wood fired clay ovens. We found an extremely relaxing environment with beautiful views and delicious casual Flatbread pizzas. All they need is a bigger sign so people can find the place!  back to the top

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









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