by Alice Levitt
Shelburne Bay Plaza, 2989 Shelburne Road, Shelburne 985-3303
I wasn't sure what to expect of Flatbread Factory and Taproom. Tales of inconsistent food and service gave me pause, but ultimately, I wanted a Pear & Prosciutto pie.
There were pluses and minuses when I entered the main dining room. It was brightly lit and had antique signs for Orange Crush and a diner whose name had long since faded away. Behind the bar, a wall-sized blackboard was decorated with photorealistic illustrations by UVM student Callie Richardson, of cows, Percherons and spilling beer. The chalkboard also listed the beers currently on tap. The day of my visit, those included Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout, Dogfish Head 60 Minute and Penny Wize Ale, along with seven others. These were all pluses. A single minus: It was swarming with kids. Noisy ones.
Fortunately, the family-friendly restaurant had a playroom with a blackboard wall and TV of its own with plenty of toys. I wish families with fussy babies didn't take that as a cue to just let them cry while others tried to eat. The catering to kids made me kind of jealous. Every dish from the kids' menu came in a brightly-colored metal lunchbox with Teddy Grahams on the side. My kind of meal.
Sadly, my flatbread would not have fit. The menu says that each pizza serves two and they mean it. I was able to make two meals of my Pear & Prosciutto ($16.99 — pictured).
Not that I wouldn't have liked to eat the whole thing right then and there. The matzo-like crust delivered, with fresh, juicy pears, crisp, salty prosciutto and tangy Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery chèvre. It was the surprises that truly made the pie, though. Drizzles of garlic-infused olive oil gave a rich, slightly spicy zip of flavor. It received a wonderful foil in the form of splashes of honey. I was impressed.
The meatball sub ($9.99) also proved delightful. Meatballs were made from Vermont Smoke & Cure sweet Italian sausage, making for a tender, fatty prize. They were stewed in homemade tomato sauce full of garlic and caramelized onions. A combination of provolone and mozzarella melted into a spackle that held it all together on the crusty ciabatta. My favorite part of the plate, however, was the fries. It's not easy to find steak fries in Vermont. These were squared-off hunks roughly the same size and shape as Lincoln Logs. They were mashed potato-creamy inside and crisp outside. Who could ask for more from a spud?