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March 23, 2012

Grazing: Flatbread & Fiddlehead in Shelburne

Folinos_1When I first met John Koerner this winter, he was covered in dust from a day of work on Folino's, the wood-fired pizzeria he was busy building next to the adjacent Fiddlehead Brewing (Koerner is actually Fiddlehead's landlord). Outside, the words "Beer and Pizza" adorned the front of the building; inside, the future Folino's was still all rubble and tools with a foil-covered stone oven in its midst. Chairs and tables had yet to materialize.

The kinetic Koerner, who used to own the Bagel in Shelburne, fretted about turning out the perfect crust. On the one hand, he mused, “You just throw it in there; it puffs up and looks perfect." But even up until a few days ago, Koerner worried that the test pies he and his staff were turning out weren't up to snuff. Fiddlehead opened in January, but by mid-March, Koerner was still putting the finishing touches on his business.

Finally, the Fiddlehead boys next door advised him to "let the public decide," and this week, Koerner & co. fired up the oven, and Folino's was in business.

PizzaZoning restrictions limit Folino's to only 18 seats, so the 2,000-square-foot space feels cavernous. Despite Koerner's self-deprecating attitude, it's apparent that he put a lot of thought into his menu. In addition to standard cheese, margherita and pepperoni pies, he's also dreamed up some imaginative and sometimes kooky cheese combos: bacon and leeks; curry shrimp and Italian lettuce; and scallops, bacon, and lemon zest.

As a pizza purist, I went with a $13 margherita pie that emerged blistered and bubbling from the oven in about three minutes. He needn't have worried about the crust; it has a great pull and flavor. Even though I wished for a few more dots of cheese and fresh basil, the smear of herbaceous, bright red sauce across the chewy crust was pretty damned tasty — even more so when chased with sips of porter from next door. (Koerner's vision for Folino's was "BYOF" — bring your own Fiddlehead growler — and as such, Koerner keeps his fridge stocked with chilled glasses).

Koerner and his family also run a nonprofit, the 52 Kids Foundation, which assists orphaned and at-risk children in Uganda. Service is minimal at Folinos, and Koerner encourages diners to direct the tips they would give servers to the charity. Also unconventional: Customers can buy a $20 "gift certifistick," which they redeem for pizza and the pleasure of watching their stick burn up in the oven. 

It's a vortex of pizza and beer, and Shelburne will never quite be the same.

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