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Maine pizza makers brace for ‘Red Roof Wednesday,’ Thanksgiving weekend business boom

A pizza waits to be cut at the Portland House of Pizza Tuesday. The day before Thanksgiving is a busy day for purveyors of the pie.
A pizza waits to be cut at the Portland House of Pizza Tuesday. The day before Thanksgiving is a busy day for purveyors of the pie. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 26, 2013, at 5:24 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 27, 2013, at 5:59 a.m.

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Jason Cote, general manager at the Portland House of Pizza, puts two pies in the oven Tuesday. “The day before Thanksgiving is always a nice, busy day for us,” he said.
Jason Cote, general manager at the Portland House of Pizza, puts two pies in the oven Tuesday. “The day before Thanksgiving is always a nice, busy day for us,” he said. Buy Photo
Jason Cote, general manager at the Portland House of Pizza, sprinkles cheese on two pies Tuesday. “The day before Thanksgiving is always a nice, busy day for us,” he said.
Jason Cote, general manager at the Portland House of Pizza, sprinkles cheese on two pies Tuesday. “The day before Thanksgiving is always a nice, busy day for us,” he said. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — When people think of food on Thanksgiving week, they most likely first think of turkey, stuffing, squash and maybe pumpkin pie.

But perhaps just as ubiquitous on dining tables across America this week are pizzas.

While the day after Thanksgiving has earned the name “Black Friday” because of the mob scene at shopping malls and retailers, the day before the holiday is the one pizzerias mark on their calendars.

National chain Pizza Hut, which has 24 locations in Maine and expects to sell 1.2 million pies the day before Turkey Day, has taken to using the term “Red Roof Wednesday” to highlight the pre-Thanksgiving rush on pizzas.

Translated to more traditional Thanksgiving metrics, Pizza Hut claims the nearly 1,500 tons of pizza it will sell Wednesday equates to more than 1.3 billion cranberries. And at 1.4 million feet, the pizza dough that will pass through the chain’s ovens nationwide that day could cover the pilgrims’ storied ship, the Mayflower, more than 12,700 times over.

“The day before Thanksgiving is always a nice, busy day for us,” agreed Jason Cote, manager of the Portland House of Pizza on Washington Avenue. “Usually old friends get into town and they grab a few pizzas before they go out onto the town.”

According to local pizza makers, the run on pizzas continues on the Friday after Thanksgiving and through the weekend as well. By Monday, Mainers may have consumed more pizza than turkey, although nobody’s keeping a strict score.

Chris Tyll, owner of the Pat’s Pizza in Portland’s Old Port, said he already has begun filling up his reservation book for Friday. There are 13 Pat’s Pizza restaurants across the state.

“We have quite a few families planning to come in,” he said. “Maybe they just don’t want to have to deal with cooking a big meal two days in a row.

“By the time Sunday rolls around, we’ll have a big delivery day,” Tyll continued. “Sundays are our big day for deliveries, and Sundays after holidays even more so. People at that point are on their third day of leftovers.”

Peter Koffler is the manager of the Amato’s on St. John Street in Portland under the restaurant’s corporate office. There are 30 Amato’s full-size or so-called “Xpress” locations throughout Maine.

Koffler said for many people, pizzas carry just as much holiday nostalgia as the turkey and stuffing do.

“Amato’s is a family-owned restaurant and it attracts a lot of families,” Koffler said. “Kids when they’re young come to us, and when they get older, they want to bring their kids here.

“People don’t want to cook when they know they’re going to cook on Thanksgiving,” he continued. “They want to take that day off and they want to come into an establishment that has great products.”

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