I shijshem . . .
. . . means “delicious” in Albanian, and is one of the many ways to describe the offerings at the new Antigoni’s Pizza in Lewiston across from Marden's.
At Antigoni’s, named for restaurateur Antigoni Papagjika, “we take pride in our pizza.” It’s “something we do from scratch, starting with the dough and about 150 pounds of flour every day.”
That said, Antigoni’s is so much more than one of the newest pizza joints in town.
Born and raised in Albania, Papagjika spent time cooking in Germany and then in Athens, Greece. She immigrated to the United States in September of 1999 when her husband, Kastriot Xhollo, won a “green card lottery.” They chose to live in Maine because a cousin lived here. In 2004, along with her husband, Papagjika became a U.S. citizen.
In 2003, Papagjika opened the doors of the original Antigoni’s Pizza in Turner (pronounced "an ti GO knees"). She recently sold that business, and although it still carries the same name and same food, and “I help them anytime they need me,” it is no longer owned or operated by Papagjika.
The new Antigoni’s at 757 Main St. opened in October 2012 and, by her own admission, Papagjika and her crew were not prepared for the instant popularity. “We didn’t eat for three days!” she says, but “the crew is the best” and they acclimated quickly to the new routines.
What sets Antigoni’s Pizza apart from many restaurants is the large variety of specialty pizzas they offer. Its most popular pizzas include its Greek and its primavera versions. The primavera is made with fresh spinach, feta cheese, fresh tomato and grilled chicken; the Greek pizza is made with garlic sauce, spinach, tomato, Greek olives and feta. “We go though boxes of fresh spinach every week,” says Papagjika.
In addition to traditional pizzas featuring pepperoni, ham, mushroom and green pepper, Antigoni’s menu includes the "Tri-Colori" (with spinach, garlic, goat cheese and fire-roasted red peppers) and the "Diesel" (made with BBQ sauce and buffalo chicken tenders). Their taco pizza is loaded with hot peppers, tomato, onion, green peppers, black olives, hamburger, lettuce and taco chips, while the grilled chicken Caesar pizza has garlic sauce, pecorino romano cheese, grilled chicken and romaine lettuce and “is like a salad on a pizza,” according to Papagjika.
Antigoni's also offers a gluten-free pizza, although they don’t yet make it themselves.
Antigoni’s menu also carries an array of salads, pastas, casseroles and submarine sandwiches. “Our salads are beautiful and very healthy,” says Papagjika, and they are big enough to “make a whole meal.”
Salad choices range from antipasto and Cobb to buffalo salad (with buffalo chicken tenders), grilled chicken Caesar salad and the popular "Roma Salad" with artichoke hearts, egg, grilled mushrooms, broccoli, fried mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.
Casseroles and pastas include traditional macaroni and cheese, eggplant parmesan, alfredos and spaghetti with homemade meatballs and sauce.
Vegetarian options, hot subs and grinders, gyros and just about every variety of Italian (a local favorite) are also available.
In the mood for appetizers? Antigoni’s offers a host of them. And be sure to ask about Antigoni’s special Greek fries. Similar to French fries but with a definite Greek flair, they are seasoned with oregano and goat cheese, and served with tzatziki. Tzatziki is a popular Greek sauce made with yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, fresh dill and other spices. It often goes into gyro sandwiches and is also used as a “a fresh and healthy dip that can be served with veggies, French fries and meat,” Papagjika said.
The new restaurant kept some things as it transitioned from the old location. The restaurant is still a family operation. “This is my kitchen,” says Papagjika, and “I try to see every dish that leaves my kitchen.” Her husband, stepdaughter Haruli and son Vangjel work alongside her, and cook Josh Hutchinson “has been with me for 10 years.”
She adds, “We still cut out own steaks and shred our own cheeses.”
Antigoni’s seats about 72 people and has a corner set aside for children. They also can host in-house functions and parties, and are presently developing a new catering menu. They deliver to area businesses for free with orders of more than $50, requesting one-day advance notice on large orders.
To reach them, visit their soon-to-be website at antigonispizza.com or call 330-4978.