Flying Saucer Pizza Co. in Salem takes its theme into orbit. It is funky hipster chic by way of the USS Enterprise. A life-size model of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” watches over customers from the host stand, while the walls are lined with photos of Klingons and E.T.
“You know the old Italian restaurants in New York, you go in, and they have the wall of all the different famous Italians that have been there? We kind of thought, this is a space-themed place, all the aliens would have to come visit,” says owner Steve Feldmann. “So they’re all autographed. Yoda’s been by, Chewbacca’s been there, a bunch of the ‘Star Trek’ aliens, and, of course, Richard Nixon was an alien so he popped by and signed one.”
Like Gulu-Gulu Cafe, the restaurant and hip music venue directly next door that Feldmann has run for the last five years, Flying Saucer allows him to display his collectibles. “I’m kind of a nerd, my superhero toys are lined all over Gulu. This is just another place I can put my stuff, because my wife won’t let me keep it at home,” says Feldmann, who opened the pizzeria in August on the site of a former Upper Crust.
Wife Marie actually helped concoct the name and theme behind Flying Saucer, mentioning that old Ed Wood movies used pizza trays as UFOs. The pizzas follow the sci-fi motif, with pies named Face of Boe (“Dr. Who”), Beldar (“Coneheads”), and Mustafar (“Star Wars”). And while it would be a cheap joke – and hyperbole – to call them “out of this world,” these stone-baked, New York-style pizzas are still pretty tasty.
Camilla ($12 small; $21 large), a white pizza named after the chicken girlfriend of the alien on “The Muppets,” is the most popular pie, with blackened chicken, caramelized onions, pesto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and asiago. The pesto, made in-house, substitutes for red sauce and peeks through quite a bit, turning the cheese a forest green color. But another white pizza, Picard ($12 small; $21 large), steals its thunder. It’s a simple pie with mozzarella and asiago topped with thinly sliced potatoes and Canadian bacon, seasoned with rosemary, garlic, Parmesan, and some olive oil on the crust. Despite being a plain pizza, it’s the best one we try.
Two red sauce pizzas make good impressions by offering a lot, Morpheus and Moya (both $12 small; $21 large). Morpheus is absolutely packed with barbecue chicken, black and green olives, red peppers, asparagus, barbecue sauce, scallions, mozzarella, and asiago. Moya is a hearty vegetarian pie with mozzarella, asiago, broccoli, green peppers, big slices of tomato, red onion, scallions, and portobello mushrooms.
The salads are named after planets, and they don’t skimp on toppings. Mercury ($8), smoky with grilled chicken, rich with bacon slices, avocado, green apples, radishes, and feta is overpowered by the cheese.
Flying Saucer also offers dessert pizzas, like Tribble ($7 small; $12 large), a cinnamon-streusel-topped round with Cortland apples and vanilla icing. It’s too bready and somewhat mild, but not bad as a finale.
Like at Gulu-Gulu, Feldmann keeps it local, using high-quality nearby ingredients when possible and serving only New England beers on draft. The white and wheat dough is made on-site daily, and if you’re lucky, every so often you can catch beer dough made with stouts and porters. Before he opened, Feldmann says he researched the business model and took inspiration from Flatbread Pizza Co., which started in Amesbury in 1998.
“Not only is their pizza great, just their whole persona,” he says. “They’re an eco-conscious company, they use the freshest ingredients, they try to do things for people who have gluten intolerances or do vegan pizzas. Obviously, our pizza tastes very different, but by and large, we’re doing things where we’re using the freshest ingredients we can find, our meat has no growth hormones, we have gluten-free pizza crust. We’re here and we’re offering something that people can’t get at your ordinary Greek pizza shop.”