192 Boxwood Street, Williston, 857-2200
I have an off-menu secret for you this week. We food writers eat out enough that we get to know these things. Sometimes the little surprises are enough to get me to a restaurant again and again. Such is the case at Three Tomatoes, where I go with some regularity.
If you've been to any of the four locations of the wood-fired local franchise, you're familiar with the dishes of olive oil, filled with spicy chopped garlic that accompany baskets of warm, crusty Red Hen Baking Company bread. Dipping that bread in the flavorful oil is great, right? My boyfriend didn't think so. That's why, about a year ago, he asked if the server could provide butter.
I was a little embarrassed. So was James. After we tasted it, we weren't anymore. The salty Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery butter is warmed to the brink of melting and mixed with local honey. I am not a serious butter aficionado, but this stuff blows my mind. As much as we enjoy the other food at Three Tomatoes, I would be lying if I said we didn't head there for dinner saying, "Let's go have some butter." It is that good.
But even before we learned the secret of the butter, I was addicted to the Sweet Tomato Pie. The thin-crust personal pizza was one of the first things I ate in Burlington, back in the mid-’90. At the time, ultra-thin crusts were all the rage in my Connecticut hometown. The Sweet Tomato Pie's crust stood apart with its perfect balance of chewy middle and crispy "bones."
I've tried various toppings on the pies at Three Tomatoes, but I always go back to the Sweet Tomato — other versions take away from the pure pleasure of salty, fresh mozzarella, ribbons of basil and gloriously tangy sauce.
James has a standard order, too. Though he sometimes also chooses something else, he is always happiest with the pasta Amatriciana. It's deceptively simple: just linguine or penne bathed in garlicky tomato-basil sauce. Vermont Smoke & Cure bacon adds a strong note of smoke, while red onions sweeten the deal. There's also enough black pepper to create a hint of spice.
In some restaurants, I order something new and different every time I go. There are always appealing specials at Three Tomatoes, but when I head there I already have my meal mapped out. Just as importantly, it's one of my favorite places for comfort food. That, and butter.