Stephen "Sexy Baker" Lanzalotta's Luna bread serves as the bottom layer of the tremendous, $4 "Sicilian slabs" of pizza that have turned the India Street Italian grocer Micucci's into an unlikely lunch destination. The heap's an interesting contrast with most of the area's better pizza — it's thick and chewy, but flavorful and not at all heavy.
Lanzalotta sells the bread on its own too, in $2 semi-circles the size of large, thick pita pockets. Dusted in flour, they're aptly labeled "soft pillows of Calabrese [a region in southern Italy] white bread," made with 80 percent water and no extra filler (just flour, salt, and yeast). To eat the bread is one of those hackneyed religious food experiences. It (sigh, swoon) tastes like a cloud: it's light, ephemeral, pure, and, er, perfectly salted. Until recently, Phoenix writers had never successfully made it home with anything more than a paper bag with orts of flour at the bottom. No mere vessel for sandwiches, this was our perfect, useless bread. Why sully it with spreads, oils, or cheeses?
On a recent Saturday, we bought a few extra loaves (apparently a common occurrence; the cashier didn't bat an eye) and attempted to disprove our pejorative superlative. It didn't start well. The bread overwhelmed a favorite soft cheese (the triple-cream Saint Andre) but was better with a hard, nutty Italian cheese.
Thereafter, the revelations came fast and furious. The secret to cooking with Luna bread is to stuff or drown it with ingredients that overpower it. Some olive and artichoke spread started to one-up that savory flavor. A Luna bread breakfast sandwich — egg, oyster mushroom, onion, shallot, Gruyère — was great (adding sausage would kick it up to the sublime).
A simple chocolate Luna bread pudding, though, was the pièce de résistance. The bread's airy delights turned one of the world's densest and stupidest desserts into something decadent but subtle, an unimposing death by chocolate. Even if we're right in assuming that Lanzalotta's Luna bread is what the clouds taste like in heaven, we're glad to know his loaves would still make for a fine last meal.
Micucci Grocery | 45 India St, Portland | 207.775.1854 | micucci.com