Portland Pie Co.
14 Railroad Square, Nashua
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-midnight; Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight
Major credit cards accepted
Portland Pie Co., as its name suggests, started in Portland, Maine, and has slowly expanded to Scarborough and Westbrook. But it wasn’t until two years ago that they moved into New Hampshire — first to Manchester and most recently, Nashua’s Railroad Square.
It doesn’t feel like a chain, however. Each restaurant is housed in a different historical urban location, and each has localized touches on the menu. It was a Nashua server who came up with the idea of a “Live Free or Pie” T-shirt, which is now sold in the New Hampshire locations.
The Nashua restaurant is in a former 19th-century railroad station that has been home to numerous businesses in the past century and a half, before it was condemned for structural problems three years ago.
The building renovation is stunning, and with its interior of brick and hardwood, feels historically correct, yet modern at the same time. It has an outdoor dining deck, which affords a great people-watching view onto downtown Nashua. But visitor beware: There is no real parking lot. You have to find street parking, though that usually isn’t all that difficult.
And FYI, the pie in the restaurant’s name does not refer to Boston cream or lemon meringue confections, but rather pizza, premium gourmet pizza with flavored dough that, while not the only offering on the menu, is definitely the restaurant’s heart and soul.
The restaurant also prides itself on seasonal and regional foods. So we started our recent meal with the lobster sliders ($14) — delightful little things made with huge chunks of fresh Maine lobster tossed in a mayo dressing (maybe a tad too much mayo) served on toasted, herb focaccia squares with slices of lettuce and tomato on the side. These would make a great, light meal in themselves, but our table ate them as appetizers.
In the past we’ve also indulged in the seafood-stuffed mushrooms ($10), which are by far the best we’ve ever had, with just a tad of breading and a healthy mouthful of lobster, scallop, and roasted red pepper as stuffing.
On to the star of the show — pizza. You can build your own pie, with a variety of fillings, but we went for Portland’s specialty pizzas, which are made with a choice of homemade basil, wheat, garlic, or beer dough.
And if you know someone who needs to eat gluten-free, Portland also offers pies made with gluten-free sweet basil dough for an additional $2. This is truly gluten-free, made nowhere near ingredients or with utensils used in flour crusts.
We chose to go with the restaurant’s specialty pizzas, all named after a Maine location or icon.
The vegetarian in our group chose the Great Diamond made with beer crust (10-inch $10.49, 12-inch $12, 14-inch thin $15, and 16-inch $18), a base of fresh garlic and olive oil with fresh tomatoes, feta, basil leaves, and a three-cheese blend. The beer crust was a little sweet and very crisp, and the fresh ingredients were able to shine.
We also tried the Bar Harbor on basil crust ($13/$15/$18/$21), with fresh scallops, smoked bacon, and scallions, mozzarella, and a base of Pernod alfredo sauce. Sounds weird, tastes amazing.
And our family’s all-time favorite is the red claws ($14/$17/$20/$23). Yes, this is a Maine lobster pizza with butter, fresh garlic, cheese, shaved Parmesan, and scallion. This tastes as great as it sounds. No. It tastes better than it sounds. If you have this once, you will crave it forever.
Portland Pie also offers calzones, pasta entrees, meal-sized salads like the steak and bleu ($9.49), and really good sandwiches like the Acadia ($8 small/$9.49 large) with smoked turkey breast, brie, greens, crisp Granny Smith apple slices, and smoked bacon.
And yes, Virginia, there are desserts. But these are not one-person-sized desserts. These are share-with-your-extended-family-sized desserts, especially our favorite — Rachel’s chocolate lasagna ($7), three layers of rich chocolate cake with a chocolate custard and white cream filling, topped with a toffee and chocolate glaze.
Our recent choice, Bay-to-Bay brownie sundae ($6), is made with a Ghirardelli chocolate brownie, Gifford’s vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.
Our one complaint was the alleged whipped cream, which tasted more like that stuff you get in a tub. It wasn’t worthy of the dish, so we scraped it off.
And if you want to keep with the Portland theme, there’s always the wild Maine blueberry pie a la mode ($6.49).