Central Maine Morning sentinel - May 1st, 2011

Reporter Scott Monroe and Photographer David Leaming came for PizzAmore - this is what they had to say:

Retired postmaster Doug Spalding devoted to brick-oven pies, good times

By Scott Monroe
Staff Writer

ST. ALBANS -- From the scorching flames comes a heart-shaped pizza, topped with green pesto sauce, shredded cheese, and chicken tenders marinated in lime, Italian dressing and honey wine.

click image to enlarge

HOMEMADE: Michael Wiers slices homemade pizza on top of a table made by homeowner Doug Spalding, center, at his home in St. Albans last week. Waiting to eat are, from left, Libby Wiers, Marian Spalding, and Linda and Jim Miller. Doug Spalding also built the brick oven and building, background, with walls made from stacked and cemented wine bottles.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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SLICE OF LIFE: Doug Spalding selects home-grown ingredients for a pizza as another pizza cooks in the wood-fired brick oven at his home in St. Albans.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Here’s what Doug Spalding served to his guests during one of his PizzAmore gatherings last week.

Appetizer: Multi-grain, sun-dried tomato sourdough flatbread with choice of toppings — goat cheese, smoked salmon or pesto.

Pizza dough: Spinach-infused pizza crust from homemade eight-grain flour, freshly milled. Most of the pizzas are topped by freshly shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella.

Several oven-baked pizzas:
• MARGARITA CHICKEN. topped with pesto, chicken tenders marinated in lime, Italian dressing and honey mead wine.
• BARBECUE PULLED PORK. Pork loin, slow cooked and smoked, on top of Beal Street BBQ sauce from Bath, and fresh chives from the
• SHRIMP SCAMPI. Maine shrimp scampi with asparagus and garlic.
• HAMBURGER. Ground beef with plain tomato sauce.
• CRANBERRY MUSTARD. Chicken tenders over a homemade sauce of fresh mustard mixed with Maine cranberries.
• MARMALADE. Pulled pork over homemade marmalade — grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime.
• COMBINATION. Half chicken and half pulled pork over barbecue sauce.

Dessert: Homemade brownies with vanilla ice cream.


Although Doug Spalding’s PizzAmore gatherings are not open to the general public, Spalding said he’s always willing to invite new people to experience the food and fellowship. He said anyone is welcome to email him through his website,, and inquire about attending a gathering.

"The first one!" a voice cries out, followed by the metallic din of a bell.

Around noon Tuesday, the feasting among a small group of friends has begun in this improbable setting: the remote home of a retired postmaster, beside his homemade wood-fired oven and a small shelter with three walls made of stacked wine bottles.

All of the ingredients are fresh, and the pizzas spend just a minute or two on the fire brick before they're ready for serving.

"This is what I do for fun now," says the host and head cook, Doug Spalding. "I don't cook from recipes. Everything I do is from today's urge."

Spalding and his friends call this ritual PizzAmore and it's held every couple of weeks year-round at the home of Doug and Marian Spalding off Pond Road. The gatherings are as much about fellowship with friends and strangers as they are about trying the most inventive and freshest pizza creations imaginable.

Spalding, 64, has been retired for seven years now, having spent the 19 previous years as the St. Albans postmaster, and before that, at other post offices, a sawmill and the tannery in Hartland. Now, Spalding has a photography and framing business.

His idea for the brick oven pizzas sprung from the bread-making conference he attended in Skowhegan in the summer of 2007. Spalding went to a seminar on how to build a wood-fired oven from about 500 bricks and no mortar. Inspired by the possibilities, Spalding went ahead and began construction of his oven, finishing it in 2008.

The brick oven gets extremely hot: between 850 and 1,000 degrees. When pizzas are cooked in most commercial ovens, he said, they take much longer because the temperature doesn't get hotter than 650 degrees.

Spalding's brick oven saturates the pizza with intense radiant heat that's coming from all four sides, resulting in an evenly-cooked, crisp pie.

He also built the "bottle house," a shelter that partially encloses the oven and provides a space for him to prepare the pizza and for guests to eat and mingle. Spalding said he got the idea for the shelter while he and his wife were traveling on Prince Edward Island and came across a small village that had been made from old bottles.

Three walls of Spalding's shelter are made of stacked wine bottles held together by cement. The recycled bottles are from the Bartlett winery in Gouldsboro.

Late Tuesday morning, light rain gave way to partial sun as a handful of friends began arriving at the bottle house.

To Spalding's knowledge, no one else uses his signature spinach-infused, eight-grain sourdough for pizza crust.

Matt Wiers arrived wearing a Scottish kilt -- he finds them comfortable -- and he is Spalding's right-hand man at the oven. Spalding jokingly refers to Wiers as his "ski patrol and apprentice turner," referring to how Wiers once located a woman lost on Spalding's ski trails and how Wiers turns the pizzas in the oven when Spalding isn't.

His parents, Mike and Libby Wiers, arrive a short time later, as do Jim and Linda Miller, of Newport.

For Spalding, using fresh, local food is more than a fad; it's a way of life. If he isn't growing the food and spices in his garden or canning them in his stacked pantry, he's buying it all from local farms.

First up is the appetizer: sun-dried tomato sourdough flatbread with choice of toppings -- goat cheese, smoked salmon or pesto.

On the table in the bottle house, Spalding flattens the dough with a rolling pin and pours on olive oil, a process that's repeated for all of the pizzas. He doesn't toss the dough to stretch it because it does not contain gluten, which gives the dough elasticity.

Once in the oven, the flatbread is bubbling within 30 seconds and done a minute later.

"You can't find this anywhere else," Jim Miller says after biting into the tomato flatbread, topped with pesto. "I make bread myself, but there's something about baking in this oven that makes it real special."

Gesturing at the bottle house and brick oven, Marian Spalding jokes that she asked for a garden gate, "and this is what I got."

Spalding is methodical when he embarks on his multiple-pizza journey, immediately starting on the next pizza when the last one is pulled from the oven. Several toppings are cooked in a cast-iron skillet within the oven before they're placed on the pizza dough.

The pizzas he makes over the next two hours or so are Margarita chicken; barbecue pulled pork; Maine shrimp scampi with asparagus; ground beef with plain tomato sauce; cranberry mustard with chicken tenders; pulled pork over homemade marmalade; and chicken and pork over barbecue sauce.

"Friends will tell you on one of the most exciting things about coming here is they never know what they're going to have," Marian Spalding said.

Doug Spalding encourages friends he invites to bring along people they know.

"A lot of the time I don't know who they are," Spalding said. "I ask them to bring someone interesting."

The eclectic mix of guests has included four-star generals, an ExxonMobil executive and a sheriff from Missouri.

Has Spalding thought about turning his informal gatherings into a business?

"Every once in a while, I do," Spalding concedes, "but then I smarten up. I don't think I could produce the same quality, because I would have to do this every day and it would take the fun out of it. This is my fun."

Scott Monroe -- 861-9239



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