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July 03, 2012

Alice Eats: Folino's Pizzeria

IMG_42996305 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne, 881-8822

It's shaping up to be the year of the pizza. Lately, when I haven't been dreaming of the chewy, charred crust at Pizzeria Verità, I've been trying to find time to try the pie at Folino's Pizzeria. On Sunday, I finally did.

The high-ceilinged Shelburne Road warehouse space that Folino's shares with Fiddlehead Brewing gets unpleasantly hot in the warm weather. But I wasn't staying anyway — the few indoor and outdoor tables were all full. I didn't mind retreating to my air-conditioned dinner table.

I watched as the pizzaioli crafted the pies and threw them in the 800-degreeIMG_4303 wood-burning oven. Minutes later, they emerged, ready for cutting and boxing. My salad came out of the fridge prepackaged, but my dessert, a special that day, took a little longer.

I didn't have high hopes for the prepackaged salad, but it quickly proved me wrong. The diverse mix made each bite unique. Daikon and parsley, meet cucumber and feta. A maple-balsamic vinaigrette gave the whole thing a lovely sweet-and-sour hit. The veggies were chopped so fine that, by the time I was done, some were practically pickled by the dressing, which lent a whole new taste and texture.

But the goal of the trip was pizza. First stop, Margherita.

IMG_4301The bubbly crust was slightly thicker than at Pizzeria Verità — more like the Sweet Tomato Pie at Three Tomatoes. Still, it had a lovely chew to it. At least when I ate a slice in the car. By the time I got home to South Burlington, the crust had hardened. It was still pleasant, but the real magic was gone.

The best thing about it after that was the basil. Though there was only about a leaf per slice, the herbaceous aroma exploded from the pie. It bolstered and improved the flavor of the tomato sauce, which I found oversweet and underseasoned. The bouncy, fresh mozzarella was nicely toasted, but that, too, would have benefited from a pinch of salt.

IMG_4302I tried the Buffalo chicken pizza entirely out of morbid curiosity. What would an artisan take taste like? The answer: chicken tikka masala.

The crust of the mozzarella-covered pie was slightly more burnt than charred, but I didn't mind. Somehow, the cubes of tangy, spicy chicken combined with the cheese and ranch dressing fused into a delicious, curry-like flavor. My only request next time would be more chicken. With only a chunk or two per slice, large expanses offered nothing but dough and cheese.

I don't think there's ever been a take-out dessert as pretty as the one I got at Folino's.

IMG_4305The rustic Italian delicacy was delightful in its simplicity. Just a sliced fig and raspberries resting on a mound of creamy ricotta. The cheese was not sweetened, and it didn't need to be; the lack of sugar contributed to the slightly savory overall result. So did an arrangement of basil leaves.

Aside from the figs, the sweetest part of the dish was a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Alone, it was fruity. When mixed with the cheese, it took on an almost chocolaty flavor.

As with the Buffalo chicken pizza, there was some alchemy involved in the combination of tastes here. I look forward to returning to taste what other unlikely flavors the Folino's team creates.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected].

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