ELLSWORTH — The secret to a good pizza, says Harry Luhrs, co-owner with his wife, Ashley, of the soon-to-be-open DragonFire pizza restaurant in the Mill Mall Plaza, isn’t the dough.
“It’s the oven,” he said.
So the Luhrs sought out the best they could find: a gas and wood-fired behemoth that can cook up to 247 pizzas in an hour and operate at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas will give temperature consistency, while the wood provides a smoky flavor, Harry said.
Slated to open July 2, the husband and wife team plan to serve up soup, salads, calzones, stromboli, French fries and, of course, pizza.
“It’s Harry’s big dream,” said Ashley, who was raised in Belfast, “and I wanted to be there to support him.”
Ashley also has roots in food service, having spent three years preparing food for fellow airmen in Arizona during her time in the Air Force. The couple’s two young children will help with the restaurant and maybe even take over one day, Ashley said, adding that they hoped it would become a “family business.”
“We want to bring the Ellsworth community into our ‘pizza family,’” she said.
The pizza will be what Bar Harbor-born Harry calls “neo-Neopolitan” style, “crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.”
“The motto is ‘In God we crust’,” Ashley added.
As for toppings?
“I don’t do basic,” said Harry. “My favorite is with two toppings, pepperoni and pineapple. It’s sweet and spicy. It’s amazing.”
There will be pizzas for meat lovers (such as the King Dragon, with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and hamburger) and veggie lovers (the Stone Dragon, with spinach, tomato, onion, garlic, mushroom and pesto) alike. For the adventurous, there’s the Dragonfly (chicken, onion, jalapeño, pineapple and barbecue sauce), or diners can build their own, with a variety of sauces, veggies and meats available.
The Luhrs don’t do basic with French fries either. DragonFire will feature a full “French fry menu” with options for poutine (Canadian-style fries with cheese curds and gravy), nacho (fries with nacho toppings) and barbecue with bacon and cheese, among others.
“That way you’re not bored with regular fries,” Harry said.
There will be a monthly speciality, something that Harry did in the past as manager at Finelli’s Pizza.
“I had people who would wait an entire year for certain pizza,” he added.
But the theme won’t be limited to pizza.
“One month might be Cajun theme,” says Luhrs, “with Cajun French fry, soup and pizza.”
DragonFire also will serve craft beer and wine, including local brews from Fogtown Brewing Co.
Luhrs has been working in the restaurant business since he was 14, when he started washing dishes at Epi’s Pizza in Bar Harbor.
“By the time I made it to pizza,” said Luhrs, “I said ‘I think I want to do this for the rest of my life.’”
He got his nickname, “Pizza Slayer” while working at Finelli’s, for his dexterity on the bench.
“You are fast, you slay those pizzas,” Luhrs said his manager told him.
Despite the tight labor market in the area, Luhrs said he had little trouble finding workers.
“I thought that was going to be the hardest thing for me to find,” said Luhrs, “especially in June, when everyone is looking.” But with $40 and a Facebook account, the Luhrs were able to pay to boost a post and reach the market they were looking for.
“Within three days I had 30 applications and I only needed seven,” said Luhrs.
DragonFire is set to open July 2 (check the Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/PizzaSlayer207/) and is located in the former U.S. Cellular building in the Mill Mall Plaza at 248 State St. Hours will be Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.