SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The Getty sign is gone. Ditto the gas tanks.
But drivers still brake at the corner of Cottage Road and Highland Avenue. This time for pizza, not petrol.
Portland’s wildly popular OTTO Pizza opened across Casco Bay this week giving South Portland residents ready access to gourmet pies.
“This is wicked good,” said City Councilor Linda Cohen, grabbing a butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry slice at the soft opening Monday night.
Judging by the turnout, OTTO’s eighth store, in a renovated garage, and second new shop in two weeks, is in the right place at the right time.
“They wanted us here,” said co-owner Anthony Allen, mingling with customers and handing out free pizza. “It’s nice to be wanted.”
Besides Portland, Allen and partner Mike Keon have OTTOs in Boston, Cambridge and Lynnfield, Mass. Compared to those locations, South Portland has been a breeze, said Allen.
“Harvard Square wanted us, but nothing like the reception here,” he said.
OTTO turned an old gas station into a 35-seat pizzeria with retro windows, industrial lighting and garage doors that will open in the summer. But despite its retro-hip ambiance, “it’s always about the pizza,” said Allen.
Known for unusual toppings such as meatloaf, mashed potato and herbs, OTTO has long attracted a foodie fan base in southern Maine. And residents on the far side of Casco Bay Bridge no longer have to look enviously at their Portland neighbors.
“It’s so good,” said Natalie Perrino of Cape Elizabeth, enjoying a slice with her father, Philip. “It will really make the neighborhood and help stimulate the economy.”
Plus OTTO customers no longer have to schlep onto Congress Street and search for parking when a pizza craving hits. With plenty of parking and free delivery in South Portland, locals are happy. “We have some wonderful restaurants, but this is my favorite,” said Cohen.
Jon Jennings, assistant city manager, said South Portland did all it could to see this deal through. They sold Allen and Keon 1,500 square feet to square off their lot and increase parking.
“We were making sure that we helped them in every sense of the word,” said Jennings. “It was a real city effort.”
Though South Portland has not exactly lacked for dining options, the pizzeria brings excitement.
“OTTO has a fantastic brand with a regional presence in New England and Cambridge. It’s a great addition to the community. We are happy they are open,” said Jennings.
With Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill opening a mile away on Cottage Street and bakeries such as Little Bigs finding success in the city, “it’s a very exciting time for South Portland and the restaurant scene,” said Jennings. “I see South Portland growing every day in a positive direction.”