When Pigs Fly Pizzeria
Although well known for its outlet stores, Kittery is more than a shopping destination. There is terrific food to be found from Wallingford Square to up Route 1, where When Pigs Fly Pizzeria is located. The company’s freshly baked bread is a staple in many New England supermarkets, but my first visit to the restaurant showed me what else the team is capable of. The dark grey building has a broad front porch, with a company store selling bread and condiments to the left and the restaurant to the right.
That’s where you’ll find chef Rob Martin running the kitchen, with a wealth of experience and talent. A great resume is one thing, but a taste of his food proved much more. He tells me of working at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, as well as No. 9 Park in Boston. He also spent a couple of seasons in Antarctica, cooking for a research team. But the years he worked in Milan, Italy were the most valuable, he tells me. “I learned about so much about food and also about how to give a great dining experience. It’s about much more than cooking.”
All these experiences are serving him well at When Pigs Fly. Martin has moved the restaurant away from strictly a pizzeria to more of a full menu, which offers excellent salads and sandwiches (on its own bread, of course), updated pub favorites, and entrée specials. “But pizza absolutely drives the business,” he says. It’s traditional Naples-style pizza, baked for just six minutes in a wood-fired oven. The dough is made just down the street at the When Pigs Fly bakery. “It’s not Americanized at all,” continues Martin. “It’s a thin, sourdough crust, not overloaded with cheese, and the sauce isn’t sweet. Recently, two guys actually from Naples were in here and they told me it was authentic.” When it comes out hot from the oven, it’s a beautiful pie. The chewy, outer crust has a slight, smoky char I find irresistible. Creative combinations of toppings set this pizza apart. Martin’s favorite is the Medjool date and soppressata, a perfect balance of sweet and salty, pulled together with a drizzle of hot honey, which I now want to put on everything. Fortunately, it’s available in the When Pigs Fly store next door. We also tried the special Autumn Pizza, a delightful combination of squash, thick bacon, goat cheese, fried kale, apples, garlic, and that same hot honey. “It’s fall in New England, on a pizza,” says the chef. “Everything but the goat cheese comes from no more than 60 miles from here.”
When Martin arrived at the restaurant two and a half years ago, he brought more seasonality and local food to the menu. A kale salad with roasted beets is all sourced from the area, too, except for the crunchy Marcona almonds. The lightly fried sunchokes on top are a nice touch, and the lemon-thyme vinaigrette is the perfect complement to the ingredients. Martin occasionally buys whole pigs from nearby Breezy Hill Farm, owned by the father of the restaurant’s previous chef. He butchers them himself and uses the meat in a variety of preparations, from capicola to porchetta, and in a pork schnitzel special with apple cider Dijon sauce and creamy mashed potatoes. “Specials keep things interesting,” he says. “It helps the newer cooks learn, too.” Portions are generous, with an eye towards sharing. As I look around, I notice several long, communal tables. “This is a community-oriented place,” Martin explains. “We encourage sharing, relaxing, talking over a meal. That’s what restaurants are for.” Dessert is definitely made for sharing. An ice cream sandwich arrives, a big chocolate toffee cookie filled with s’mores ice cream. And pumpkin cheesecake is served up with a crackly, bruléed top in a Mason jar, both desserts big enough to satisfy several dessert-lovers.
Beer is also a big draw at When Pigs Fly, with 20 on tap. Co-owner Ron Siegel chooses the beer, with both global and local options, including Kittery’s own Tributary Brewing Company. The list changes seasonally, with fall bringing many IPAs and some farmhouse style ales, while winter will include more stouts and porters. Eight wines are on tap as well, available by the glass, half-liter, and liter. I try a red sangria, too, not too sweet and a nice change with pizza. Cocktails often use house-made infusions to great effect, such as in the Blackberry Gin Fizz.
“We’re making improvements as we go,” Martin says. “I’m super proud of (owners) Ron and Andrew Siegel. They got things moving in the right direction, working 20-hour days when the place first started. Now they’ve been able to step back. It was nice to be handed the keys and continue to make it work.”
When Pigs Fly Pizzeria | 460 U.S. Route 1 | Kittery | 207.438.7036 | whenpigsflypizzeria.com