2017-04-28 / Front Page

Biddeford pizza favorite voted best in Maine

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By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — It’s been a Biddeford staple for 57 years, and now Pizza By Alex can add another plaque to its wall as one popular website has dubbed its personal pan pizzas the best in Maine.

Spoon University, a food website comprised of articles by and for college students across the nation, on April 13 listed Alex’s Pizza as the best of Maine in its article, “Where To Find the Best Pizza in Every State of America.”

But the designation came as no surprise to owner Andy Mantis, who’s been at the helm of Pizza By Alex since 1985. 

“We get cited quite often as one of the better pizza houses in the state or the area. And all we have is pizza, we don’t deliver,” said Mantis whose uncle, Alex, opened the original pizza house in 1960. “Something’s working right.”

“The only thing we do is pizza, so if we can’t do this right, we’re out of business,” Mantis said Thursday. “We use the finest ingredients we can buy. … I won’t serve pizza I won’t eat.”

Behind every one of the store’s pizzas is hand-ground Wisconsin cheddar, purchased in 40-pound blocks, and a robust tomato sauce made daily. The dough is crafted with care, risen until just ready yet still supple. And don’t forget about the pepperoni, sliced in-house by the bucketful.

“Everything I can do in-house, I do,” Mantis said.

Whether enjoying the classic cheese, the Hawaiian, the Yaya’s Greek or their most popular pie, simple pepperoni, Alex’s Pizza has been named a venerable stop along Biddeford’s Alfred Street for the past 57 years.

Just go on Facebook, read the comments, and you’ll understand why.

“We are Mainers living in Arizona, and every year when we return to Maine, Alex Pizza is our first stop,” wrote Sharon Weeman on the pizza shop’s facebook page.

“Been going there forever. Love Alex Pizza, especially when cooked in the old oven. Nothing else comes even close,” Linda Hoitt wrote about the shop’s three — out of six original — conventional ovens still used to bake the pizza.

Those ovens cook more evenly than the newer oven out front, which features a conveyor belt, Mantis said, and some of the older clientele prefer their pizza cooked in them.

But Mantis isn’t surprised when people say they’ll travel the distance just to grab a slice — he’s used to it. The secret, he said, is consistency.

“We’ve been voted in the top three to five consistently throughout the state and 14 years as number one in the city,” according to some surveys, he said. “Any businessman who continually gets recognized in the top of his field makes him feel pretty proud about his business. Since we’re going on our 58th year, and we’re still getting raves about our pizza, it makes us feel good we’re so consistent.”

That consistency can be attributed to the fact the Mantis family hasn’t changed its recipe since its 1960 opening — with one exception, the removal of monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

“If I could bottle the recipe I’d put all other pizza houses in Maine out of business,” he said.

And while Mantis declined to say how many pizzas the small shop serves each day — calling the number a “trade secret” — hundreds of personal pies could be seen stacked in the store’s kitchen Thursday.

Mantis did say he has about 28 people working at the shop, although not all at the same time.

But what truly makes Pizza By Alex so great, Mantis said, is the connections he and the staff make with their patrons.

“You get to know your customers after a number of years,” he said. "When I walk down the street, I can tell what their order is — even if I don’t know their name — by their face.”

Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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