I first went to and reviewed Slab a couple years ago, not too long after they opened. The Preble St. Sicilian slab specialist was just getting its footing, ready to offer its own style of pie to Portland. Since that first trip, I’ve been to the pizza purveyor a number of times. It seems that every time, they’ve had an updated menu. Those new menus always keep the core items, but do the switcheroo with some of the other sides, salads, and such. It’s a good opportunity for returning customers like myself to try something different and still keep ordering some of what they’ve grown to love.
This trip to Slab, I was prepared for something new, but also craving the old favorites. Of course, the slab was still there front and center. Even better, we arrived during happy hour on Thursday so it was half price. Mrs. Portlandeater snagged a glass of wine while I sipped ice water and looked for something promising besides their specialty. There were a number of items that looked enticing. I considered a Spicy Meat Wedge or Mushroom Wedge, but those would be repeats. Then after talking to myself about it for a minute, I said “The hell with this, I need to stop being a weenie and try something else. I owe it to my readers!”
Looking through the menu, I wrestled with words I couldn’t pronounce and finally returned to something I could – My Big Fat Greek Wedge – roasted red pepper, roasted tomato, Moroccan olives, red onion, mozzarella, Sicilian feta, Greek spices, and honey. It had a goofy name and was meatless, but it also had vegetables I really liked and was billed at a whopping 22 ounces. That was a full-figured slice…I figured. From there I had to pick a starter. I wanted something meaty to go with my veggie slice, but in the end I decided on Crocche – deep fried potato croquettes with lemon marjoram aioli.
When the waitress came to take our orders I told her what I wanted, ordering the wedge and then repeating “crocche” with multiple pronunciations, none of which were right and some of which were objectionable. My better half settled on their showpiece – The Hand Slab – 1 lb. individual hand slab with Steve’s original tomato, mozzarella, provolone Sicilian pie. She also satisfied her inner rabbit with the Slab Salad – romaine spears, arugula, red onion, fresh oregano leaves with tangy sweet lime anise vinaigrette. We got ready for our food by gathering napkins and wooden utensils from the holder on the table. I really liked that everything was biodegradable. I looked lovingly at the wooden fork, thanking the tree it came from for helping me avoid eating hot food with my bare hands.
Before long, our salad and crocche came out and we got to feeding. I started by taking one of the croquettes out of my basket. There were two, but I set a single one of them upon an empty container, also adding my lemon marjoram aioli to it. My fried roll was shaped like and weighed about as much as a potato. The solid outer coating was browned. I surgically sliced it open and tried a bite. Hmm…full of diced potato, cheesy, and seasoned. The shell was crispy. It was unlike anything I’d ever had and the melting cheese definitely stood out. I tried another piece with the aioli. The combination of the seasoning and aioli gave me a bit of a sour citrus ranch flavor. The more bites I had, the more I liked it.
As I was indulging in tater, my sidekick slid head first into her salad, wasting no time in nibbling the lettuce laden mix. She ate a good portion of it and pushed the rest over to me once I was done with my potato project. I dug into the greens so as not to waste any food. I’m not sure if I didn’t believe the menu when it indicated romaine spears, but I was surprised not to see full leaves of the stuff. Instead, it was truly just the spears in there. That was a smooth move though as it gave the salad a significant crunch. The onion, oregano, and dressing threw in some flavor. The mildly sweet vinaigrette was stunning with the lime. It reminded me how much I loved citrus in salads. The acids in the dressing, tempered ever-so-slightly by the other flavors, were a perfect match with the vegetable combination.
Eventually, I finished all of our starters. Then I remembered I was about to get a very large piece of pizza. I wasn’t worried. I was hungry and knew my capabilities to consume large amounts of food would play well into my dinner order. Our slices arrived as I was stretching my mouth to be sure everything would fit in. My wedge was the gargantuan, video-game-boss-sized slice I anticipated and my wife’s was what I was used to. I didn’t have my pizza scale handy, but I imagined the slices could potentially weigh the 22 and 16 ounces they were advertised to be.
Breathing deeply, I eyed my pie like a psychopath staring down his next victim. The monstrosity was chock full of toppings. I went to wedge-town, taking a large bite, and though I didn’t get any veg, I got plenty of mozz and feta with a hint of the honey in there somewhere. More bites led to delicious peppers and tomatoes, salty olives, some onions, and a spicy duo of pepperoncini. This was a Greek salad, sub crust for lettuce, and it was stellar. I didn’t care that it was ten times the calories of a salad, because I needed the energy anyway.
My wife worked on the hand slab, but she tapped out about half way through. I did the honors and took it upon myself to finish. The doughy bread crust, sweet sauce, and only a smattering of cheese in certain areas with a heavier smothering of it in others, went down smoothly. As I was eating it, I thought about smooshing it down into a dense pizza patty and eating it like that. I suspect that would have satisfied my inner 12 year old, but my wife probably would have given me a look that said “don’t do that.” I avoided exhibiting any childish behavior and continued my path toward food excess and certain fullness. Before long, I was done and there was nothing left to consume.
Even though we saw dessert going to other patrons, I was sure the massive amount of dough and everything else I ate was enough. I had to stop eating at some point and had hit my limit. I had Mrs. Portlandeater pick up the tab because food is cheaper when someone else pays. I didn’t see the receipt, but some simple math told me our grand total came to a measly $38 before tax and tip. That included our happy hour savings and a couple glasses of wine.
So what it is about Slab that keeps me going back? For the price, they serve up a whole lot of food. Nothing is particularly complicated, but the food is good, a little outside the box, and as for pizza, they have their own niche. I’ve heard from some that don’t particularly like their Sicilian style, but Slab seems to have a crowd that enjoys it as much as I do. I’ve seen them packed a number of times and they appear to sell their signature specialty very quickly. If you’re not into their famous slice, don’t worry, they’ve got other great stuff. I recommend the meatball sandwich or the spicy meat wedge. Yes, the meat wedge is still pizza, but it’s a different animal than the slab. Regardless of what you think you might like, I suggest you head on over and try something soon. I know I’ll be returning before long.
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