Bonobo – Pizza by fire

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There aren’t many wood-fired pizza joints in Portland or the surrounding areas, but Bonobo is one of the few. Throwing down that hot, hot heat on the corner of Brackett and Pine in the West End, the retauraunt focuses heavily on their specialty pizzas, but also offers a duo of salads and soups, and a nice selection of beer and wine. I hadn’t been there in a long while, but the menu proved to be pretty much the same with the exception of some specials which were on the front of the double-ring-bound menu.

I knew before I even arrived that I wanted a House Salad with romaine, spinach, arugula, and endive leaves with pickled cukes and house made lemon vinaigrette. My wife agreed with that starter and decided she wanted one too. That was a quick decision, but the pizza was a little more to ponder. With about 15 “regular” specialty pies plus a couple specials and a create your own option, there were more than enough to pick from. Fortunately, they only offerer a single size, so that was one less thing to worry about.

My initial choice was the Marley – jerk chicken, roasted red peppers, pickled hot peppers, cheddar, scallions, mozz, and red sauce. That’s the one I tend to go for, but in the end, I decided on the Firecracker – pesto, pepperoni, jalapeno, light cheddar, mozz, and oregano. That one seemed the right direction for the day. Mrs. Portlandeater chose the Greek – kalamata olives, spinach, tomatoes, basil and garlic, feta, mozz, and red sauce, though she held the olives.

When I got my veg plate, it appeared larger than I remembered. It probably wasn’t, but it did seem fuller, more robust. I went right to work on the dish – let’s call it Sally…Sally the salad…and it brought back memories of old. There’s something about it that makes it one of the best in town. Is it the mixture of lettuce? Maybe those insanely tasty cukes? Probably both, but the number one, Family Feud top answer for what make it so delicious is the light, elegant, slightly salty and mildly acidic dressing that just pets the palate with the most gentle and calming rub imaginable.

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It was the starter that really excited me for my coming pie. My wife and I both worked the greens into our empty pits of hunger and after finishing, we filled our time by speaking to the ghosts of pizza past, present, and future. Like clockwork, the just as the discussion turned to pizza future, it became pizza present and we had two pies sitting in front of us looking somewhat glorious and just slightly nervous about being eaten.

The Greek pizza was closer to my face and was full of leaves and large slices of tomato. Spinach on pizza isn’t something I go for, but it certainly did look appealing. My spinach-free saucer had a solid assortment of the pepperoni and jalapeno in particular, and the pesto – not always my favorite – didn’t appear to be overdone. I tried a bite and was pleased. The main flavor component was certainly the pepp, but everything else added just the right amount of each part.

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One of the aspects of Bonobo’s pizza that makes it special is the wood fire. From the slight pleasant odor in the restaurant, to the mild flavor it adds to the pizza, to the way it cooks evenly and to the right degree, I like what it creates. My pizza was no different in that it had all those characteristics that make that type of cooking unique and an enjoyable fare in which to partake.

With both of our pizzas half consumed, I continued eating as my wife watched patiently. It was good pie, and though I wasn’t overly hungry, I did feel some sort of commitment – or maybe obligation – to finish mine. Once done, my hunger was satiated and I knew it was time to wrap it up and head home. My wife got the rest of hers to go and we paid and left.

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The one issue I have with Bobobo doesn’t really involve their food – that is consistently good. It’s their prices. Our two “more or less 13 inch” pizzas and two salads came to about $60 after tip and that did seem pricey. Still, we continue to go on occasion because they have something a bit different and there’s something about that which transcends the prices to some extent. Yes, I’ll be there again at some point, because I like it, so I guess that’s saying something and it’s probably that Bonobo makes some good pizza.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife ā€“ Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start Peterpeterportlandeater.com where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.