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June 21, 2011

Alice Eats: Uncle Tony's Pizza

360 Dorset Street, South Burlington, 864-5222

Smell is often the first indicator of what to expect when trying a new restaurant. When I reviewed bevo a few weeks ago, the odor of smoking pork and French fries was a good indicator. Given that, I was a little worried about take-out and delivery-only Uncle Tony's Pizza.

IMG_2424 When I picked up my dinner from its South Burlington location, my car took on an unmistakable, and very familiar, smell. When we were first together, my boyfriend worked at Domino's, suddenly, the car once again took on the doughy, slightly sweet aroma that continued to fill his car for months after he left the pizza biz.

Was I in for something like the chain pizza? Fortunately not, I learned as soon as I got home and actually saw the food. The irregular shape of my pie betrayed that it was hand-tossed. The sauce was homemade, too, and full of oregano.

The crust was advertised as "New York style." I found that it fell somewhere between that and the fluffy dough that I call "Vermont style." My pie was the Flaming Chicken, topped with jalapeños, bacon, garlic and chicken. The peppers were cooked beautifully — slightly crisp but yielding. The bacon was crunchy. The chicken, unfortunately, tasted as if it had not been seasoned. At all. Just a shake of salt and pepper would have greatly improved my pizza-eating experience that night.

IMG_2425 The flavor of the gigantic meatball sub was more satisfying. If I had an Italian grandmother, I could probably only dream that her meatballs were so light and delicious as these. Admittedly, it's not much to look at, but the fact that it resembled Jabba the Hutt somehow only improved my feelings for the jolie laide sandwich.

A fat pile of melted provolone, with oven-crisped corners, didn't hurt, either. The same herbaceous marinara sauce from the pizza also dressed the sandwich, along with bits of crunchy onion that I could have done without. The bread was nice and crunchy when I started eating, but by the time I was done, parts of it were soaked with sauce. I didn't mind that it was a little soggy — that's flavor.

IMG_2428 I was excited to order cinnamon-caramel monkey bread. I don't think I've ever seen monkey bread on a menu before. I was a little less jazzed about the reality. Though the doughy, almost undercooked texture was just how I like it, something starchy in the mix coated my mouth with an odd, dry feeling. This might have been helped with a bit more caramel. Instead of sauce, there was a sticky glaze that stuck to the bottom of the paper receptacle in which it was baked.

The cannoli, on the other hand, was a slam dunk I was not expecting. I don't generally like cannoli, but I liked this. High-quality ingredients were probably responsible for its startling  IMG_2426 success.

There were only four components in the cheese-based filling, including Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery mascarpone and ricotta. The mixture was airy, soft and not-too-sweet. Best of all, lightly salted pistachios and rich-tasting bitterseet chocolate chips made it a party at either end of the flaky pastry sheath.

What can I say? Uncle Tony's may have made me a cannoli convert.

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