The world has lost a true Portland icon.

Famed Portland master baker, artist, author, and teacher Stephen Lanzalotta has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Slab Sicilian Street Food announced the news on social media over the weekend. Stephen had been the head baker/chef and partner at Slab since its opening eight years ago. The news certainly strikes a major blow to Portland's culinary world.

Known as the "Sexy Baker" by friends and patrons, Stephen's master of doughs and Italian favorites made him a Portland favorite. His recipes had folks following him from his early days at Sophia's, then onto Micucci Grocery, and finally to Slab, where his mastery had matured to exceptional heights.

Stephen had a major hand in changing the pizza landscape in Portland. In a town that was best known for thin crust and bar-style pies, the hand "slab" brought the thick, chewy mound of goodness to the forefront. There's no backseat for the thicker style of pizza in this town.

This style was truly perfected at Slab Sicilian Street Food, where Stephen was able to truly show off his unique and creative creations. Even over the years with evolved recipes and newer pizza styles, one thing always stayed consistent: exceptional flavor.

Baking wasn't his only talent. Stephen was also an author, having published the book, "The Diet Code", which takes a look at the benefits of a Mediterranean diet while also utilizing the "Golden Ratio" mathematical equation in decision-making. The book has one of the most legendary taglines ever, "Eat Bread, Drink Wine, Lose Weight." I mean, it's go me hooked.

Stephen was an artist and woodworker, as well. He even helped with the interior design work of Slab's Preble Street restaurant. He also taught cooking classes for a spell. I can't imagine how incredible it would have been to hear him speak of his passions in a classroom setting.

There's no question this was a life very well-lived. It's sad to think how short it truly was.

While Stephen is no longer physically with us, his spirit and legacy will live on in Portland's culinary world and the community as a whole. My condolences to his family and friends.

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