STURBRIDGE - When it comes to pizza, Nicole Alicea believes anything is possible.
"There's so many different things that you can do on it. You can put a pasta on a pizza, or you can make a taco on a pizza. You could put seafood on a pizza. You could make a pizza into any meal possible."
At Enrico's in Sturbridge, they are doing all that and more. Situated in a strip mall on Route 20, Enrico's Brick Oven Pizzeria is a family friendly spot serving up some of the best pizza around. In fact, Nicole loved the pizza at Enrico's so much, that after being an employee here for years, she decided to take over.
"Pizza is one of my absolutely favorite foods of all times. So I just decided to make the business venture and learn as much as I could by serving, and bartending, and waiting on tables."
Not only is Nicole a longtime fan of Enrico's pizza, just about everyone is, which is why they have - not one - but two wood fired ovens to keep up with demand. It's all a beautiful and tasty dance that happens right where the customers can see it.
"It starts out with the stretcher. They hand-stretch out the dough to about 14 inches. Then it gets put on a pizza peel. They send it over to the pizza maker. And then it goes to the oven guy, who then drops the pizza in the oven. And then they give it over to the pizza cutter, and then they send it on out."
Pizzas run the gamut from simple, to simply over the top. There is a Meat Lover's pizza loaded up with pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, hamburg and bacon; or Nicole's go-to, the Margherita - a classic topped with imported buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil.
"It's honestly one of my favorite pizzas because it's cheesy, it's garlicky, you have your tomato and then the fresh basil. It's like the basic pizza, but it's got a lot going on."
For something different, try the Mama Mia, layered with sautéed shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, and ricotta cheese. There is an Asian inspired pizza topped with shredded chicken, crispy chow mein noodles, and a drizzle of hoisin sauce. For a unique slice that will definitely fill you up, get the Baked Ziti Pie - a pile up of pasta and meatballs on a pizza.
"It's very, very hearty meal," Nicole said. "The pizza slices come up super thick. It's like two meals combined into one."
The menu at Enrico's goes way beyond pizza, including all of the classic Italian comfort foods like bruschetta made on housemade focaccia bread, and super stringy housemade mozzarella sticks served with tangy marinara. There are ultra-fresh PEI Mussels swimming in an addictive white wine broth that you will want to mop up with housemade garlic bread. For another taste of that brick oven, get the wood-fired chicken wings, cooked at a high temperature to lock in the flavor.
"They're not like your normal chicken wings where your fingers are all covered in sauce. They come out really crispy and the hot sauce gets trapped into the chicken when it's in the oven," Nicole described. "So it's like a crispy, smoky hot wing."
Nicole's favorite chicken is the Parm. This plate of parmesan perfection features a hand cut chicken cutlet, breaded, fried and blistered in the oven so the cheese is a perfect golden brown. While the dish is big in flavor, it's even bigger in size.
"It's so big that there are times that I can eat [the leftovers] almost all week long," Nicole said. "I'll go home the next day and I'll eat it for breakfast in the morning, and then I'll eat it for lunch later on. Then after the third day, I'm like, all right, I should probably get another one."
Other Italian favorites include the Meatball and Mozzarella Panini and the Ziti al Forno, baked in the brick oven for added flavor.
"It's ziti tossed with marinara and ricotta, topped with mozzarella cheese. It goes in this little tin bowl, and then that bowl actually goes into the oven. So you get the blistered cheese from the fire in the oven and the smokiness from it," Nicole described. "It makes a basic dish like that taste different than what you would expect it to."
With portions this big, the prices are not what you would expect, making Enrico's Brick Oven Pizzeria one Phan-tastic Meal Deal.
You can find Enrico's at 500 Main Street in Sturbridge, and online at enricosbrickovenpizzeria.com.
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