George

It’s a great combination: Enjoying a tasty meal at Grand Central Cafe in Waterville, then strolling across the parking lot to see a movie at Railroad Square Cinema.

We did just that after reading J.P. Devine’s review of “La La Land,” and the movie was everything he said it was. Simply put: fabulous. Railroad Square is our favorite movie theater, and after visiting the cafe for the first time, we’ll plan more eat and treat afternoons now.

Elise Rich-Coltan’s cafe is a real family enterprise. Her nephew Jaden joins her at the cooking station. It takes special talent to cook in a wood-fired oven, and Elise and Jaden have mastered it.

Elise’s Mom does the baking and her aunt does the books. Elise worked here when she was in high school, and after graduating from culinary school, she returned and took over the cafe eight and a half years ago.

The cafe is a comfortable, cozy place with beautiful wood walls, photos and art work, books and magazines for kids and adults, and table tops painted by local artists. We were delighted to sit at a gorgeous table painted by our friend Iver Lofving, a Skowhegan teacher. We got to know Iver and his wife, Maili Bailey, who manages Waterville’s soup kitchen, during our visits to Swan’s Island where they spend their summers.

After glancing at the menu provided by our friendly server Julia, I told Elise that her prices are low. I like their focus on fast food for those who seek that at lunch. You could pop in here Thursday through Saturday, grab a few pieces of pizza, and eat lunch in just minutes. Forget Burger King. This is much better and just as fast.

Linda and I lingered to make sure we got a good sampling of the food and also because we enjoyed visiting with Elise. I loved everything we tried, starting with a delicious cup of vegetarian chili with beans, corn and lots of cheese. It tasted Tex-Mex to me.

I ate far too many pieces of our delicious pizza ($9.95). There are so many choices that I allowed Linda to choose, and she surprised me by ordering one with pepperoni. But then she ordered a sandwich with no meat — and surprise! I really liked it.

The cafe’s selection of Maine microbrews is excellent, including my favorites from Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan. On this day, I opted for one of my very favorite beers, Cadillac Mountain Stout ($3.75), from Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor, which came with an ice-cold glass.

Linda

I had to smile when I entered Grand Central Cafe. It is a very eclectic space filled with funky decorations and interesting art. The big wood-fired oven is sure to catch your eye, for it will probably be emitting heavenly smells as the pizzas and breads cook.

Julia came over with a plate of their Grand Bread, topped with garlic and finished off with oil and kosher salt, accompanied with an herb oil for dipping. This is one of my favorite ways to begin a meal, and wood-fired oven bread is just amazing. One could get carried away with bread that delicious, but I reined it in and brought home the leftovers. Oh, and I purchased an entire one-pound round of it for home. They sell foccacia style breads with different toppings here too.

The pizzas come in 10-inch and large. (Small pizzas are $9.95 and large are $17.95). There is a lengthy list to choose from, including those with marinara sauce, pesto sauce and no sauce. There are vegetarian specialty pizzas, and, of course, those for carnivores too. Two interesting ones that stood out were the Scampi — no sauce, shrimp, onion, garlic, mozzerella and provolone — and the Chunky Baby Elephant — eggplant, red onion, button mushrooms and cheddar cheese.

They don’t skimp on toppings and offer different cheese combinations that make these pizzas stand out. We had a small Pepperoni Express — described as “wall-to-wall pepperoni” with cheddar, smoked gouda and shaved parmesan cheese atop red sauce. It came piping hot, and that crust was off the charts. It was hands-down the best pepperoni pizza I have ever eaten. A nice amount of shaved pieces of parmesan made it outstanding.

For our vegetarian option (they also offer gluten-free options) I was excited to try the eggplant parmesan sandwich. You can get it as a wrap, but we went with Grand Bread ($7.95). The crispy bread held the eggplant cutlet, onions, green peppers and marinara sauce. Provolone, mozzarella and parmesan finished it off. This was a large sandwich. It was hearty, and we needed a fork and knife to tackle it, but wow, it was good.

If anyone in your party is a vegetarian, they will love you forever for introducing them to this place. I can’t wait to try one of their veggie pizza specialties the next time we go. And undoubtably there will be more Grand Bread coming home. We are really late coming to this party, but intend to be back very soon.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.