Last week, Fill The Steins waxed poetic about the late, great Pizza Dome in Old Town. And while we unquestionably loved and miss all the unique intricacies of the Dome, there is truly only one pizza place that Black Bear Nation calls home…Pat’s Pizza in Orono.
As Fill The Steins’ “Summer Session” rolls on, we thought it would be appropriate to follow up our Pizza Dome obituary with Keith Luhmann’s profile from earlier this year of the dining institution that is Pat’s Pizza. So get your pens, paper, and appetites ready, Fill The Steins Nation…Summer Session is back in class!
In 1931 Carl D. “Pat” Farnsworth bought a small ice cream parlor in “downtown” Orono for a good deal less than the price of your new Philosophy text book…over the next 20 years he transformed his new purchase from a cafe to a full service restaurant, eventually adding pizza in 1953 and starting a tradition unlike any other for hungry UMaine students.
Pat’s Pizza hasn’t changed much in 60 years…it hasn’t needed to. With the thin crust made from homemade dough and a sauce recipe developed in the Farnsworth family lab, Pat has managed to put a Maine approved stamp on the Italian-American classic which caters perfectly to the lucky residents our favorite college town. Pat’s standard pie is hard to classify; it’s definitely not New York or Chicago style but unique in a way that is instantly recognizable… Pat’s just tastes like home.
When patrons first enter from Mill St, the scene is that of a classic diner with warn out bar stools and rugged old wooden booths. In the back are always a giant pile of pizza boxes ready to go across the river to various dormitories and student housing. Year in and year out, the place never changes and it brings back a flood of memories each Homecoming visit. Downstairs is the Tap Room where patrons can get a little rowdy watching Hockey East on low definition TVs, enjoying pitchers of cold beer and maybe even a couple Supersonics (double vodka tonic…only for the wicked rugged) while sitting at tables long enough for your whole dorm wing. If there’s no game on, it’s just fun to watch the dumbwaiter delivering piping hot pies from the upstairs kitchen…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Re-looking at the menu, there are so many delights that give a UMaine alum plenty of fuel for reminiscing. The garlic bread loaded with melted mozzarella; Zingers – chicken fingers with a their spicy red pepper sauce and blue cheese (take that Buffalo); the Bert’s Special pizza with feta, fresh tomatoes, and spinach (personal admission: to this day, I still don’t know who the Hell Bert is); and the coup de grace for your hunger: Taco pizza smothered in salsa, onion, green peppers, hamburg, tomatoes, chips, and lettuce…I know Margaritas is next door…just don’t tell them…
I still remember when the Class of 1997 returned for it’s sophomore year to find out that Pat’s had made an arrangement with the university so that students could use their Maine Cards (i.e. their meal plans) to order Pat’s delivery…for at least one glorious month yours truly made an epic pact with fellow Steinsmen Matty G and Double J (along with our long lost friend Darius…not of the Country Singer variety) to take turns buying pizza and breadsticks for Oxford Hall 3 North Movie Night…nothing more entertaining than Sling Blade and double dough pepperoni pizza for Wednesday night entertainment! Later in my UMaine career, I thoroughly enjoyed doing half of my Senior Chem-E project in the Tap Room and I believe, in fact, that my team did our best work while two pitchers deep in the academic-enhancing Pat’s basement…or maybe not. Regardless, I graduated and lived to return to Pat’s in official alum status. Thanks Pat’s!